Friday, October 30, 2015

#ILoveMenButHatePatriarchy Is Counterproductive, And Here's Why

Actors Emma Watson and Laverne Cox came up with a new hashtag to try and spread awareness about feminism among the twitter community. Although the idea of #ILoveMenButHate Patriarchy appears to be an attempt to counter the idea that feminists hate men, it takes the same approach as Watson's other forays into feminist discourse in that it continues to buy in to the rhetoric that feminists need to convince men that we don't hate them in order to be relevant  or accepted as a movement. This is simply the wrong approach and there needs to be a shift in attitudes towards one that prioritizes the needs of women, rather than being afraid to tell the truth for fear of male backlash or being seen as a "bitch".

This new kind of feminism has been shaped by decades of the movement being undermined and attacked on all sides in the media and elsewhere. Suddenly it has become taboo to be up front and say "I stand up for women" without having to cushion it somehow in order to protect the feelings of men. Not unlike how women are constantly having to watch what they say in the workplace or daily life so as not to be labelled "bitchy" or "uncooperative" or "hysterical". It's the same mindset that tells girls that they have to think about boys first, and themselves second. It's been going on forever, and it needs to stop.

The reality is that we shouldn't have to cater our message to men in order to be taken seriously. We shouldn't have to make appeals like "What if this was your daughter" to get men listening. Men should just be listening. If they want in, they should buy into the movement as it is, instead of expecting us to cater to their needs, like women are always expected to do.

The critical reason that we cannot give into this mindset is that men get away with saying and doing absolutely heinous things to women and never face pressure to explain why they do not, in fact, hate women. I should not have to coddle a man by reassuring him that I do not hate him  just because I believe that women should be equal, and should not have to put up with all of the pervasive violence and brick walls of oppression that keep women from having safe, happy, and fulfilled lives.

Women should not have to alter the truth of their lives and experiences in order for men to feel better about themselves. When we talk about violence and harassment and racism, we should not have to perform back flips so as to make sure that some guy isn't going to be threatened by what we say and send us death threats and rape threats over the internet. Male anger and male violence should not be what decides if our voices are heard or not.

If men can only handle feminist ideas if they are watered down and served in a golden chalice to them, then we don't want these men in the movement. We don't need them. If they cannot understand or appreciate what we have to say unfiltered and not catered to them, then no matter what is done they will never understand. Why should we be wasting our energy and resources trying to get people like this on board instead of trying to tell the real stories of women everywhere, and being unapologetic about it?

Men are not my concern as a feminist. Men should enter feminist spaces if they are willing to listen and willing to do something tangible to help women, like backing up their female coworkers who are fighting to get paid fairly or claim maternity benefits, or telling off their friends who are harassing women in public. They should come to the fold if they actually are interested in our ideas and our experiences. Otherwise, I do not see a need to silence myself as a shield against violence and threats.

#ILoveMenButHatePatriarchy is not part of my vocabulary.

*  twitter: @poliitcal_toast   Tumblr: political toaster 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Election 2015: Post Mortem

The election of 2015 taught us many things. The Liberal victory was an overwhelming rejection of Stephen Harper's negative politics, and the way in which the country has been run for the past 4 years. Justin Trudeau as Canada's new Prime Minister is certainly a change from Mr. Harper. It seems that he is already starting to work on some of his commitments, such as consulting with the premiers and taking them with him to the climate summit next month. As Trudeau said, Canada is back.

The election result was not surprising. The Conservative base stayed steady at 30%, and the NDP vote collapsed under the weight of those who saw the Liberals as having the best chance to get rid of Harper. What I found disheartening was the loss of many excellent NDP MPs, and I certainly hope that we will see more of them in the future in other roles. I was also disheartened that the Conservative base never faltered even slightly from the beginning of the campaign, and because of that the only way to ensure a Harper defeat was the decimate one of the progressive parties.

Trudeau ran the strongest campaign. He ran to the left, promised accountability and honesty, and he won. The NDPs trek to the middle resulted in a UK Labour like defeat. This should be a strong message to all progressive parties. Progressives want to vote for progressive values and policies. The NDP made a strategic mistake by having Mulcair agree with Harper more often than not, and attacking Trudeau even when their platforms were essentially quite similar. The NDP also failed the economic test with their costing document, which was simply not detailed enough. Should Mulcair stay on? I am not sure. I think the NDP would be served better by a leader who will not drag the party to the centre just to try and get elected. NDP voters want to vote for NDP policies, otherwise they will just vote Liberal instead, which they did en masse.

The biggest challenge for the Conservatives out of this election will be deciding which direction they want to take their party in, and I think that their decision on a new leader will be the biggest determinate of that. Judging from some post-election interviews, it seems that the Conservatives do not believe that their policies were the problem, and blamed government fatigue and the desire for change. What they need to do is really look at the culture of the party and choose a leader who is capable of keeping the fringe right at bay. If they cannot do that, they will end up shut out of the big chair like the Republicans have been in the US for the indefinite future. The Conservatives if they want to get elected again any time soon, are going to have to stop marketing only to their base. I am not sure that their defeat was big enough to actually get them to change strategies though.

The new Prime Minister is going to have a massive job on his hand in the next 4 years, but it appears that he is up to the task, and is doing what Canadians wanted him to do when they elected him; be open and collaborative. What remains to be seen is if Trudeau will be a classic Liberal who will run to the left and govern to the right, or if he will actually keep all of the more progressive promises he made. The first big task is making a good cabinet filled with strong and capable people. Unlike the past 10 years, we finally have some very impressive and properly qualified people in our government who will make great cabinet ministers. I look forward to seeing who is chosen.

Finally, after such a long and at times very disappointing campaign, it is great to see such a positive outcome. Canadians are feeling optimistic again. I sincerely hope that this attitude will remain for some time. I also hope that our new Prime Minister will be as ambitious as he claimed he wants to be.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Election 2015: The Final Days

Well it has been a very interesting campaign. This being the longest Canadian campaign in living memory, we have naturally seen many twists and turns. We have seen some of the very worst and lowest political discourse, but also some very compelling and good discussions like the Munk Debate. Overall the length of this campaign I think has been a benefit to Justin Trudeau and the Liberals and a real disadvantage to the Conservatives and the NDP who came into the race expecting Trudeau to flop. Trudeau had time to grow, and the others had time to fall.

This campaign for the Conservatives has been a total disaster from start to finish, and it frankly shocks me that with such a poorly constructed and delivered campaign that they are still enjoying the support of 30% of the electorate, which has been basically unchanged from the start. It seems that there are people who will vote for Harper no matter what, and this baked in 30% will remain with the Conservatives into the future, and because of this the choice for the next Conservative leader will be an interesting race. Harper managed to keep the fringe right mostly at bay, but the next leader could decide to go the Republican route and focus their policies entirely on the base, which will essentially make them undetectable in a general election, just like the Republicans.

Now looking back on the campaign, it started out quite well for the NDP, but what probably caused them the greatest damage was not proposing a platform that would appeal to Quebecers. I am not sure the niqab was the only issue that hurt the NDPs chances. The main problem was that the NDP platform was making many promises, while at the same not admitting that they would have to go into deficit to fund them. They also made the critical mistake of backing away from their progressive roots and moving too far to the centre. Progressive parties have to learn that voters who vote progressive actually want progressive policies, not Conservative light, or Liberal policies. Toward the end of the Campaign Mulcair started to hammer away at the issues that progressive care about more (like C51 and TPP), but it was a bit too late. He tried to go for the middle, and ended up being smacked down by disappointed progressives, and was unable to convince the "anyone but Harper" crowd that he could form government, so they headed over to the Trudeau camp, and are poised to put him into office on Monday.

The Liberals have run a very impressive and disciplined campaign. Trudeau performed well at the debates, and was able to capitalize on Mulcair's mistake and position himself as the agent of progressive change. Whether he will actually govern progressively is another matter, but his tactic of out left-ing the NDP worked. The dark spot was the corruption allegations that came out in the last week of the campaign, that had they had time to percolate could likely have cost the Liberals more than they are probably going to lose because of it. The old Liberal party is still there, and that was a very unfortunate blot on an otherwise very well run campaign. I suspect that people who are worried about Liberal corruption will probably weigh that with the fact that the Liberals look to be the best choice to replace Harper and will overlook it.

Now as for predictions of the outcome it is hard to say. I suspect that by the time Ontario votes are mostly in we will have  Liberal minority, and I think a strong one. I think there is a possibility of a majority as the Liberals have been polling at 38% in some polls, but that support is mostly concentrated in Ontario, and unless Quebec goes red in a bigger way than the polls are currently showing it will not be a majority. the Conservatives will hold on to the rural and western base but they will get around 28 to 30%. The NDP will probably fall to around 23-25%, and will lose a good chunk of Quebec seats to the Bloc and Liberals. Harper will step down, and if the NDP does much worse than 25% Mulcair will too. If there is a closer minority then Mulcair will likely stay on.

This campaign has been a real test for Canadians, and the main question has been not so much about Harper, but about how Canadians see themselves, what role they want Canada to play on the world stage, and the direction they want to see their country go in. I am hopeful that the negative rhetoric and Islamophobia that was being propagated by both the CPC and the Bloc during this campaign will not sway voters toward them. I am hopeful that Canadians will see that for what it is and vote against it. I am hopeful for Canada for the first time in a long time. Canadians have a real choice on Monday. I hope everyone who can vote, does vote.