Battle of the sexes on into the 21st century

By Pat Watson Wednesday September 19 2012 in Opinion
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A scientist speaking on a recent radio program on computer-created music concluded that computers could produce such remarkable music – even better than humans – that humans need not bother.


Another scientist interviewed on the topic opined, in contrast, that a computer music program is a tool, like “a pencil” that humans can use to create their own spontaneous sounds, and moreover, that a computer would have no innate appreciation of the music created.


Any guesses which scientist is female and which is male?


Female and male biological impulses are often at odds, and as a subsequence, the cultures of our two distinct genders are worlds apart at times. Take a look at pictures of the protests now taking place across the Muslim world in reaction to that provocative anti-Islam film making the news and notice that the crowds, in their fury, are male.


But this is only part of a much bigger paradigm, for the prevailing masculine culture of governments, as we know it today, channel the course of world customs away from gender equity. Male politicians have the final say – often without malice, yet from their gender perspective – on many decisions that directly disadvantage women.


As such, the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s has been the most recent concerted push back to try to balance the gender scale.


Young women today take for granted many of the gains fought for and won during that period at the height of our modern-era human liberation movement. But any rights and freedoms that have to be fought for also have to be guarded.


We are in an era where, if we are not vigilant, freedoms advanced by women will recede, although it would be masked by what appears to be some realization of the equal worth of women. In fact, there have always been women leaders – Harriet Tubman, Nanny, Joan of Arc, Oprah Winfrey – women politicians and women heads of government, although not enough to balance the scales.


The very fact that female rights and freedoms have to be fought for informs us that some would deem themselves better served by withholding those rights, those human rights.


We can look at Arab countries with their patriarchal suppression of women and say, “Well, at least we are not like that.” Yet just six short years ago, the Conservative government that now decides policy for this country cut funding for Status of Women Canada so severely that 12 of its 16 regional offices had to close. This government also did away with the Court Challenges Program, which had a mandate to fund court challenges to discriminatory laws affecting women, immigrants and gays and lesbians.


Then ahead of the 2010 G8 summit, in a key power issue that holds more consequence for women, the Conservatives announced foreign policy funding decisions that would leave out birth control for women beyond our borders.


It took the strong objection of non-government women’s organizations to get the Conservatives to step away from that decision. Even so, the Conservatives were inflexible on withholding Canadian funding from clinics that provide abortions in developing countries. The government also cut funding to a number of organizations here that support or advocate internationally this aspect of female health.


Now as Parliament comes back in session, the matter of abortion rights will be revisited with a motion introduced by a male politician, Kitchener MP Stephen Woodworth, which, if adopted, would set up a committee to look into granting rights to the fetus equal to the rights of a female in pregnancy. It was just over a generation ago, in 1991, that this matter last came up in Parliament as a Conservative bill; it was narrowly defeated in the Senate.


At the same time, in an example of lip service, foreign affairs minister John Baird has declared as a “priority” advocacy for the “participation of women at all levels of society…in countries seeking progress, freedom and dignity” as an antidote to “extremist governments”.


“Extremist” being a matter of perspective, the irony cannot be missed.


A note on being true to one’s passion…


If Rob Ford, the current Mayor of Toronto, feels so much passion for his volunteer job as a football coach, yet so taxed by the tedium of managing Canada’s sixth largest government – a public post for which he campaigned with much energy to be elected to – then he would be prudent to reconsider his tenure as mayor. The youth he coaches and this city would surely understand.




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