- The Effects of Feminism on Society
- By Barbara Kay
- REAL Women of Canada 25th Anniversary Conference Ottawa, Ontario, Can
- Contributed by: Reverser ( 3 articles in 2008 )
REAL Women of Canada
25th Anniversary Conference
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
20 September 2008
Speech (2:15 3:00 pm)
The Effect of Feminism on Canadian Society
By Barbara Kay, Columnist
An attendee at an academic conference a few years ago was in conversation with a woman who happened to mention a book called Fat is a Feminist Issue.
He starts to say, "Can you give me an example..." and the woman eagerly breaks in, "...of why fat is a feminist issue?" "No," he says, "I was going to ask for an example of something that is NOT a feminist issue."
I know just how he feels. Some days it seems everything I read or see offers fresh evidence of society’s obsession with the health and self-realization of women. There seems to be no public issue that isn't linked to concern over its impact on girls and women. Concern for men and
boys? Not so much...
This is the second time in a space of five months that I have been privileged to share a conference platform with Gwen (Landolt). In May we both attended an ideas forum of which we are members, and sat on a panel entitled "Men: The new Second Sex?"
The question was rhetorical. We share the belief that the pendulum of feminism, which began as a reform movement to redress iniquities in our social and legal environments, passed the centre long ago and has swung way too far in the wrong direction. We also share the belief that many of our present social ills can be traced not only to the breakdown of the traditional family, but to a methodical breakdown of respect for the idea of the traditional family - which in turn can be traced back to the
My talk today will be critical of feminism as an ideology, so I had better begin by saying the obvious. The patriarchy existed, and from the standpoint of political and legal rights, yes, it was unfair to women. But let’s keep a sense of perspective. In 1963 when Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique lit the fuse of the feminist revolution, the measures usually cited to establish a group’s well-being - freedom, income, status,
family situation - would have ranked the women of that decade one standard deviation above any female population in all of previous human history. I was there. I had young children and stayed home to care for them. My life
was not a “comfortable concentration camp” as Friedan described it.
This isn’t the forum to examine the sociology of the patriarchy, but one thing it is important to say is that the patriarchy was not about men’s hatred or contempt for women. Men never considered women to be their enemy.
At least not in our Judeo-Christian culture. The Taliban are a product of their culture, not their DNA.
Conversely, in feminists’ zeal to redress past imbalances, men became the collective enemy in a gender war individual men have no wish to engage in, and never really fought. As a result, their sex as a whole - heterosexual men, that is - has become the target of free-floating suspicion and resentment, a phenomenon that has called forth a new word to describe it: misandry.
I would not define misandry as a hatred of men, although it is true that some radical feminists do hate men, and it is true that the effects of misandry sometimes seem inspired by hatred. But in the general population
misandry is a more nuanced prejudice, which is why most women are unaware they have absorbed it by osmosis.
I would describe misandry as a gendered worldview, a kind of photographic negative of feminist philo-gyny, in which the positive aspects of manliness vis-a-vis women - man as devoted father, responsible provider and risk-taking protector, the traits displayed by most men - will be
acknowledged in individual men - my husband treats me with respect, ours was a good father, those firefighters are brave, your son looks out for his sister.
But negative aspects of manliness vis a vis women exhibited by a minority of individual men - sexual aggression, brutality and territoriality - are
portrayed as the masculine default: genetically inherent, resistant to modification, and culturally significant in a negative way.
In this misandric worldview, the reverse holds true for women. Positive womanly traits - nurturance, empathy, peace-making - are assumed to be the rule, while discordant behaviours - say, child abuse (70% of child abuse is perpetrated by women) intimate partner violence or indeed any brutal behaviour exhibited by women at all - are treated as exceptional or excusable (post-partum depression, “legacy of the patriarchy”) and culturally insignificant.
And I would add one other characteristic of misandry: a penchant for many half-truths about men’s lives that amount in the end to a lie. How many times have we heard the expression the “glass ceiling”? Why do we never
hear about the dirt floor, below which most men’s working lives take place.
There is a reason we now call a chairman a chairperson, but never refer to a manhole cover as a personhole cover. It is because women aspire to become, and have become, the chairs of any number of committees. But when
was the last time you heard a woman express an interest in sewer work? It is difficult to take seriously a revolution for equality that demands air-conditioning and power suits for its “victims,” but balks not only at
assuming the physical risks and unpleasantness that real equality with men implies, but even balks at expressing gratitude for the fact that only men volunteer for the high-risk and physically demanding work upon which
society depends to function at the most basic level. The privileges of manliness are relentlessly publicized. The sacrifices and hardships remain literally and figuratively out of sight.
Culturally, misandry is what I would call the most troubling fallout from the feminist revolution, because it seeks to suppress exactly those qualities - trust, the instinct for collaboration and mutual gratitude for
the sacrifices and strengths of the other sex - that a healthy society demands for civility and confidence.
For laws can change where there is a political will to change them, but a political will for change can only come about in an informed society.
There’s the rub. When irrational prejudice, amounting to contempt for an identifiable group of people and indifference to their pain, whether another race, religion, tribe, nation, linguistic group or sex, is part of the cultural air we breathe, accurate information has a hard time breaking through.
Once entrenched, prejudice is extremely difficult to uproot. Because it is not perceived by the population as discrimination or iniquity by those who practice it. The opposite. The application of the prejudice is perceived as
beneficial to society.
In this case I am speaking of a prejudice that is not only tolerated but naively, guiltlessly, even proudly consulted: by governments in assigning public money to women’s groups or for academic research on women’s issues;
by judges in handing down mother-friendly family law decisions; by school boards in designing men-bashing domestic violence material in their curricula, illogically based in the Montreal Massacre, a freak tragedy perpetuated by a lone psychopath with neither precedent nor sequel, materials that inculcate negative perceptions of men’s natures in youngsters; by umbrella charities like the United Way in allocating funds
for women’s programs, never for men; by hospitals in creating outreach programs to discover past histories of sexual abuse, in which girls are pro-actively questioned about abuse in order to provide treatment, but boys
(statistically equally abused in childhood) are not; by social services in providing sympathetic counsel and resources to women, virtually none to men; by police in automatically ascribing blame to men in cases of intimate
partner violence; and of course by marketing firms and media in providing advertising and entertainment, in which women are portrayed as competent, smart and attractive - men as crude, ineffectual and infantile.
All of these examples reflect topics I have written about. I take no pride, rather it troubles me to say that I am one of the few opinion columnists in the mainstream media who are preoccupied with the marginalization of men’s rights and the denigration of their character. The
disenfranchisement of men in our culture is an orphan subject in the media.
Thus misandry flies beneath most people’s radar, because with only one side of the story dominating the public forum, we have become compliant in the acceptance of theories that have nothing to do with reality, and compliant in the speech codes that accompany that tendency.
It is fitting that in the anecdote I mentioned the book the woman was talking about was Fat is a Feminist Issue. The ideology of feminism - in fact of all reform movements that go on to become utopian revolutions - can
be likened to an overweight woman struggling to lose weight by conventional methods, who finds herself impatient with her steady but very slow loss of weight through healthy eating and exercise. She is suddenly afflicted by extreme anorexia. At first, the effects are exhilarating. The disease strips away all the weight she was better off without: legal inequality, the old boy network, educational and career opportunity obstacles,
paternalism, sexual double standards, etc.
But just when she looks wholesome and attractive, she begins to distrust the mirror. She still believes she is overweight. Even as people are averting their eyes from her cadaverous frame and sunken face, she longs to
We have arrived in theory at the moment when the feminist revolution has become a spent force. All revolutions run a course and peter out as reason reasserts itself. The population has wearied of feminism in its revolutionary form, it is true. They see that women are now in the majority in university classrooms, will soon become the majority of lawyers and doctors, are already the majority of journalists.
But as with all utopian revolutions, even when the masses are satisfied, the revolutionaries themselves, for whom on principle the battle can never be said to be won, won't take yes for an answer.
So, even though Women's Studies classes are emptying out, the anorexics have 'captured the culture' by means of the 'the long march through the institutions,' as Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci recommended for advancing
the communist agenda. Primarily academia.
The anorexics are still teaching that women are victims of a patriarchy that has in fact become a matriarchy. More important, they still have the power to hire their ideological clones.
So in academia the beat goes on, and those whose research leads them down politically incorrect paths continue at their career peril.
Those the anorexics have been teaching for thirty years are now family law lawyers, or staffing the Status of women Council or briefing premiers on women’s issues, using deliberately falsified statistics and data, or
sitting on the Supreme Court, or chairing boards of education or running the registered nurses associations or working as family therapists.
Or writing high school curricula. I learned just the other day that the secondary school materials for a new compulsory course, ostensibly on Ethics and Religion, to be taught in all Quebec schools contains six pages
on Catholicism and 40 pages on feminism.
These are the women - and some fellow-travelling men - who believe in their
hearts they are doing women good by perpetuating the idea that men are
inherently violent, but women never are except in self-defense, who truly
believe that mothers, but not fathers, are all children really need, and
that violence against women is a subject of national urgency, but that
unprovoked abuse of men by women is a myth.
Domestic violence is worth lingering over because it is the single most
effective propaganda tool feminists have found for entrenching misandry in
the general population. The truth is that domestic violence affects perhaps
7% of the population, is initiated in near-equal proportion by men and
women and results in Canada in about 70 intimate partner deaths a year
yes, more women are killed than men, but the overall figure is so nugatory
in a country of 35 million people that clearly individual dysfunction
accounts for all of it, and no possible generalization about the nature of
one sex or the other can be drawn from it.
But this is exactly the kind of information that can’t get past our
cultural gatekeepers. Indeed, the foremost authority on domestic violence
in our country, Prof Don Dutton, in 25 years of impeccable researching and
writing peer-reviewed articles on the subject, which unfortunately arrives
at conclusions displeasing to feminists, has never once been asked by a
government agency to consult on a task force or make recommendations.
Or for that matter to speak at conferences specializing in the subject of
Roma Balzer of New Zealand was one of 800 delegates who attended the first
World Conference of Women's Shelters, held in Edmonton two weeks ago. In
her speech she deplored exactly the kind of research Prof Dutton does,
because his findings point to relationship dysfunction as the problem. She
called for more politicization of the subject, more insistence that the
reason for domestic violence lies in men’s nature and the patriarchy. She
openly warned against allowing any talk of relationship factors being the
cause of DV.
I know this because Roma Balzer was featured on a CBC radio program and I
heard her lies, instead of Prof Dutton, who would have told the truth.
No talk on feminism in September 2008 would be complete without a reference
to the electrifying entry onto the political stage of Republican V-P
candidate, Sarah Palin.
After her galvanizing speech at the Republican convention, Palin
subsequently became the focus of a media frenzy, which included
near-hysterical wrath from clearly threatened feminist observers. I cannot
remember witnessing such intense media obsession with a public figure since
the death of Princess Diana. It was clear in retrospect that Palin’s
convention speech had been more than the sum of its parts, and that what
Sarah Palin represented might result in significant cultural reverberations.
As I noted in a column the week after the speech, perhaps over-optimistically:
"But win or lose the election, Sarah Palin has already altered the
cultural landscape of America, possibly of the Western world. In years to
come, social archaeologists will mark her speech as the official beginning
of an end to the gender wars, and, one hopes, a return to trust and
collaboration between the sexes.
"Palin represents what would have happened to American women without a
feminist revolution. For legal and social equity for women was bound to
arise organically through political and cultural reform, as more and more
women entered university and the work force, a process well underway before
feminism became an organized movement."
After all, from 1940 to 1970 the number of female college graduates in
America more than tripled (to about 5 million). With or without a movement,
such education would have created a labour market whose momentum could not
be stopped. And as a significant number of women entered the market, they
would have changed the working environments they entered in large numbers
in a natural way.
And that’s what I find so culturally tantalizing about Palin’s successful
bypass of the feminist movement: She seems to represent an idea of what
might have happened to women if women’s legal and social rights had been
brought into alignment with men through an organic process and a win-win
model rather than through politically aroused animosity and an adversarial
model of ‘if men win, women lose.’
As an example of the win-win organic process model, I would adduce an
example very close to home. In my own lifetime I have seen Jews go from
being discriminated against in public institutions, in education, in social
life and career opportunities to become fully integrated peers with
non-Jews in every walk of life.
Not all that long ago, universities had quotas for Jews, hospitals would
not admit Jewish doctors, law firms would not admit Jewish lawyers and so
Jews lobbied for reform, but there was no demand for affirmative action,
simply for equal opportunity. Jews did not take to the streets or organize
demonstrations or denounce their enemies. Instead, they opened their own
hospitals, started their own law firms, built their own golf and social
clubs. It became clear that if Canadian universities persisted in quotas,
Jews would take their high marks and ambition elsewhere, if gentile firms
didn't hire Jewish lawyers they would lose business, that if hospitals
didn't accept Jewish doctors, they were denying themselves badly-needed
talent, and if social clubs excluded Jews they were missing out on a lot of
If Jews had followed the revolutionary feminist model, they would have
said, well the legacy of anti-Semitism shows us that Jews have a right to
be bitter and angry, the right to demand special entitlements, and the
right to proclaim our superiority to gentiles. After all, since we have
suffered so much under non-Jewish regimes, it must be true that all
non-Jews are intrinsically racist and hateful people, and that our battle
for equality can never truly be said to be won.
Obviously that didn't happen, and as a Jew I would be horrified if it had,
which is precisely why I am so embarrassed for my sex when I see and hear
feminist diatribes perpetrated in my name against men today because of the
In a healthy society in which all citizens may vote, desirable reforms are
worth fighting for in democratic ways, but revolutions are never necessary.
The resolution of past grievances should result in what Jews do rejoice in
and women should rejoice in: a normalization of relations, in which
collaboration and trust are the standard between the formerly privileged
and the formerly disenfranchised group, not, as happens with revolutions, a
reversal of roles, not a situation in which the previously disadvantaged
group seizes the moment of potential normalization to establish a new
imbalance of power, far harsher and more consciously punitive than what had
fomented the push for change, as we saw in the French, Russian and Chinese
Nothing is more illustrative of the punitive character of feminist excesses
than family court. Here is where misandry in its most open, cynical and
pernicious form is found. Over 85% of contested custody suits end with
mothers receiving sole custody over children. The remaining 15% divide
children between other family members, agencies and fathers, so in fact
fathers arrive at sole custody about 7% of the time.
Only an extreme systemic contempt for the value of a father’s role in the
life of a child can explain such a disparity, and only an extreme prejudice
against men in general can explain that contempt, and nobody pretends
Indeed, one of the more chilling statements I have ever read, one that
captures the casual acceptance of democracy’s fall from grace in family
court was this from the National Association of Women and the Law: "Courts
may treat parents unequally and deny them basic civil liberties and rights,
as long as their motives are good."
Here we are truly in George Orwell country. In simple words this statement
means “The end justifies the means” and there is not a totalitarian regime
in the world that does not espouse that exact excuse for their seizure of
entitlements for one group at the expense of another. In totalitarian
societies, some people are more equal than others, and in the totalitarian
world of family court, it is mothers who are more equal than fathers.
I hear from many fathers whose lives have been ruined by the iniquities of
misandric courts. One wrote me that after awarding sole custody of his
children to the mother, the judge, noting his distress, offered “solace”
with the words, “Don't feel bad. You’re still young enough to have children
of your own...”
Family Court is the visible shame, the Berlin Wall, erected by feminism,
that stands between men and their human rights. It must come down.
Ten years ago, Senator Anne Cools and MP Roger Galloway wrote a landmark
report, For the Sake of the Children, recommending equal parenting as the
post-divorce default for child custody, only to see it tossed into the
oubliette of history. Every healthy individual knows that children want,
and have a right to, the love of both their parents in equal measure. It is
time - past time - to entrench this principle in law.
For if women continue to privilege their own autonomy more than their
children’s need for a father, sooner or later men will learn to preserve
their sanity by distancing themselves from women. And then, as journalist
Kathleen Parker put it so eloquently in her book, “Save the Males”:
“When women no longer care about children, and men no longer care about
women, we will have accomplished what millions of radical jihadists could
only dream about: cultural suicide and an unraveling of the civilizing
forces that millions of men perished to preserve.”
Welcome to REAL Women's 25th Anniversary Conference
Barbara Kay has a degree in English Literature from McGill University. She
taught English Literature and Composition, both at Concordia University in
Montreal and in the Quebec CEGEP system (community college). She was a
frequent contributor and sat on the board of Cite Libre. Since 2003,
Barbara has been a regular columnist for the Comments section of the
National Post, where she writes on cultural, political and lifestyle
topics. In her articles, Barbara has been unafraid to confront the
National Post (Canada)
24 September 2008
Who are the real 'ideologues'?
By Barbara Kay, National Post
It was just the teeniest bit naughty of the Post last Saturday to accompany
a story about the 25th anniversary of REAL Women of Canada ("Muffins and
family values") with a picture of a 1950-era homemaker in an apron, smiling
seraphically at her kitchen appliances. One might almost form the
impression that the Post's editors consider the conservative group to be
out of touch with women's issues.
As it happens, I was one of the speakers at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa
for the conference that marked the occasion. Indeed, I was the one whose
subject, mentioned in the article, was "the effect of feminism on Canadian
The stereotypical image of a woman frozen in time is misleading. It plays
into the received feminism-inspired wisdom that a traditionally womanly
woman -- think Sarah Palin or REAL Women founder Gwen Landolt, both of whom
have five children and very little time for doctrinaire feminism -- is
"inauthentic" and even something of a joke.
Why should we care any more what superannuated revolutionaries think?
Feminist doyenne Gloria Steinem dismisses Palin as inauthentic in the same
way the Soviets called anti-communists mentally ill. But Gloria Steinem is
two years older than John McCain, and she is the one frozen in
revolutionary amber. Where's her young and dazzling "vice-president" and
What has always been so irritating about feminists -- we saw it on full
display with Palin, and it was the reason Landolt felt called to action in
the first place -- is their assumption that there is only one correct way
to think about women, and that all other women are blinded by the
Marxiststyle "false consciousness" they have inherited from the patriarchy.
Canada's Judy Rebick, who's made a name for herself leading women's
organizations on the public dime (unlike REAL Women, which thrives without
government support through dues from its 55,000 members), has been
disdainful of REAL Women from the beginning. "They represent a certain
current in Canadian society that is the religious right -- who have opposed
a changing role for women from day one," she told the Post. "They'll never
change, they don't change. They're ideologues."
That's pretty rich coming from the spokesman for an ossified ideology. (Sue
me, Judy: When they start calling manhole covers "personhole covers"
because of all the women trying to break through that dirt floor to be
"equal" with men in the sewers, I'll say "spokesperson.")
REAL Women are not women who don't personally grow and change to engage in
today's world. And you don't have to be a member of the religious right --
I am certainly not that -- to believe the timeless family -- father,
mother, children -- remains the cornerstone of a healthy society, and that
the deliberate subversion of traditional family structures, the cornerstone
of the feminist ideology, is the source of many of our current social ills.
Gwen Landolt, the most visible public face of REAL Women, personifies the
group's viewpoint. A lawyer, Landolt started REAL Women because radical
feminists had been so successful in capturing the culture by means of "the
long march through the institutions," that they had crowded out the
concerns and opinions of, well, real women like herself -- in the media,
government and courts.
Until REAL Women began, no one in Canada questioned the feminist claim that
all women shared a commonality of experience, even though it should have
been obvious that feminist activists were mainly speaking for an elite,
urban, liberal enclave of women from the same socio-economic background as
>From day one of its existence, feminists portrayed REAL Women as Stepford
wives, intellectual hicks in thrall to the patriarchy. Yet, in the course
of its work, REAL Women carried out groundbreaking research that, amongst
other successes here and internationally, led to the happy demise of the
federal government's odiously discriminatory Court Challenges Program in 2006.
When Landolt attended a Law Reform Commission in 1989 (the one and only
time she was ever invited), a feminist said to her, "I'm wondering what
went wrong with you when you were growing up that you have rejected feminism."
REAL Women wonder what went wrong with feminists when they were growing up
that they never grew up.