Wouldn’t it be great if the Globe and Mail ran a regular column that responded to Margaret Wente? They don’t and I’m not a journalist, but I will respond here to her article published on March 8th. The Globe does not like people linking directly to their articles, so I’ll just note the title, “A Legacy of Success.”
In Margaret Wente’s world, women are white and have lots of class, education, and other privilege. I’m not sure where she lives, but it is not the reality that I see on campus at the University of Victoria or one that I am completely familiar with in San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties in Southern California. My reality or familiarity with women’s realities varies. See here I use the plural as we cannot use the singular, since it doesn’t speak to the varied ways that women live their lives in the West.
It is no doubt that the 20th and 21st centuries have held some of the largest gains for women in the West. We do have more women completing school and attending college. However, our social mores and social policies have not changed quite as quickly to aid families with these changes. We still see women doing more care work in and outside of the home. We see that the economic Gender Gap between women and men has increased. And, this is only looking at women and men and not disaggregating the numbers for different racial and ethnic groups, as the gap is wider. Women might live longer, but more apt to work in the Pink Collar Ghetto. Thanks to this we see that the feminization of poverty continues. More women are poor or vulnerable.
We might have some of the most educated women in the West ever–according to Wente, however, if the economic Gender Gap is increasing and so few women are leaders of Fortune 500 companies one might surmise that there is more work to be done. Right? Then, if we look to the criminal justice system. We see that Aboriginal women constitute some 20-25% of the incarcerated federally, yet Aboriginal people as whole constitute only 4% of the population in Canada. Thus, Aboriginal women are over-represented in prisons in Canada. If we were to look at racialized or women of color in the US, we would also see that they are over-represented in prisons. Angela Davis and Julia Sudbury have each spoken to the problems of racism and the Prison Industrial Complex. The struggle is not over.
When we look at primary and secondary education, we also see that working class and working poor are less likely to graduate from high school. This, of course, influences college enrollment numbers. So, we don’t see equal numbers of enrollment across the board for all women of different socioeconomic classes and racial backgrounds. It’s too easy to compare Canada’s overall drop out rates at 10.9% (not disaggregated for sex or gender) compared to the US 12.3%. Canada fares better, but don’t we want more? Shouldn’t the US want more, too, as a Western nation, as the global hegemon? The struggle is not over. (Data pulled from OECD 2002 study).
Aboriginal women might want to “gripe” at Wente, since the war has not been won. Tell this to the families of the more than 600 missing or murdered women. Tell this to the families of women living on reserves without clean, safe, running water. Tell this to the families of children connected to the foster system or who are waiting for bursaries. Tell this to the Aboriginal students on college campuses who feel like trespassers on their peoples’ own lands. No, Ms. Wente, the struggle is not over. The war continues. And because of this we have to acknowledge that more work needs to be done.
I have to give you this, Ms. Wente, you make me mad, you make me think. You make me want to yell. I can hope that you are more contrary in your column and that maybe in your heart you realize that the struggle continues.
I could belabor each of the points that Wente makes and counter them. But, I feel that I’ve made a good dent here. I have to add a big thanks to Stephanie Nolen for her article in the Globe on the same day, “A Long Way to Go.” Progress has been made, but there is more to do.