maclean’s magazine and the war on feminism


March/April 2006

AN OLD BUTTON HAS reappeared recently among young feminists at the University of Saskatchewan. “This is what a feminist looks like,” it reads. This button illustrates at least two concepts that are key to understanding the current state of feminism in Canada. First, feminists are diverse. Feminists don’t all look the same and don’t all agree about everything. Second, it demonstrates that feminism is alive and well, and is still being proudly worn on the sleeves of people of all ages, races, classes, orientations, and abilities.

Feminism has undergone a number of developments since the turn of the millennium. Although some feminist organizations have closed up shop (the National Action Committee on the Status of Women), and others are struggling to reinvent themselves (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund), other feminist organizations such as the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) have gathered momentum and have broadened the focus of feminist education and organizing in a number of important directions. And feminists in Canada are increasingly approaching their struggles with a global analysis, joining with others in cross-border campaigns to secure and maintain basic human rights for women around the world.

Moreover, young feminists in particular have turned to electronic organizing, femblogging, ‘zine publication, creative protest, and other decentralized and autonomous projects that offer new venues and approaches for challenging patriarchy. Feminists and their allies in related communities of struggle (anti-racism, anti-capitalism, queer activism, etc.) are increasingly bringing a fluidity to their organizing that eschews strict gender roles, taking the first hesitant steps in building a society in which gender difference is no longer an index of hierarchy.

That’s a lot of new growth for a movement pronounced dead again and again by the mainstream media! Feminism gets bad press not because it’s dead, but because it’s dangerous. Fortunately for all those anxious patriarchs, however, Maclean’s magazine recently stepped up to soothe the confused with a poisoned cup of misogyny, with a twist of Islamophobia.

“Feminism gets bad press not because it’s dead, but because it’s dangerous.”

On January 9th, in a Maclean’s essay entitled “The War on Terror is the Real Women’s Issue,” Mark Steyn asserts in short order that the Western male has, at the hands of feminists, become a weak and emasculated sissy; that feminism has “won pretty much every battle in every sphere of modern Western life;” and that “Canada long ago had the hormone treatments and a couple of snips and crossed over to the Venusian side of the street,” joining Old Europe in the camp of the effete cowards who lacked the huevos to join the attack on Iraq.

With his extreme (and rather wacky) worldview firmly established, Steyn then goes on to point out that mass murderer Marc Lepine’s name at birth was Gamil Gharbi, and that he was “the son of an Algerian Muslim wife-beater. “From there it’s but a small leap to Steyn’s main point: that Islamist fundamentalist barbarians are not just pounding at the gates of the West (which is helpless to respond, remember, because it’s already been castrated by feminists); but ‘they’re’ also breeding rapidly in ‘those French—-and Belgian, and Scandinavian, and maybe even Canadian—-suburbs.”

So, Steyn’s argument concludes, you feminists had better quit your “whining,” express your gratitude for the “liberation” of Afghanistan, and start making babies before the demographic trends that are presently “delivering western Europe into the hands” of radical Islam overwhelm us all.

That’s right: feminists and terrorists, hand-in-hand, working to bring down Western civilization. In Canada. We are not making this up.

But no need to take our word for it: type “macleans war on feminism” into a search engine and see what comes up first.

Oh, and in case you missed it: Canadians recently elected a party that (if given the chance, and enough seats) would roll back affirmative action programs, fertility rights, and same-sex marriage, and halt in its tracks any effort towards pay equity or subsidized daycare. This precarious electoral disfunction, combined with the media hostility evidenced by the widely-read ravings of big daddy Mac, tells us feminists will need every ounce of creativity, energy, and determination for the struggle ahead.