Saturday, July 24, 2004

Everything makes me mad... including me

I’ve had a bee buzzing around in my bonnet this week, and as another 52nd'th of this year wends its way to a close, the buzzing, far from abating, is getting louder.
     The Mess in the U.S. (say it like: ‘The Killer in Manila’) just gets murkier as the 9/11 Commission Report is released. Long it is, and detailed it may be, but placing responsibility it certainly is not, as the official line muddies the waters by criticizing both Clinton and Bush administrations.
     I can just hear the Sunday spin now (though I can’t see who’s wielding the stick with which the press will be encouraged to roll through the hoop): Bush has made America safer from terrorism because though mistakes were made, they were made by the previous administration; we will be asked to imagine how much WORSE things would have been had W not been there to clean up after the evil, wicked, stupid, lazy, unpatriotic, venal (and so on) Democrats who were. Mark my words, Clinton will be making an appearance at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, but not in person; rather as the potentially fatal distraction the Kerry/Edwards ticket cannot afford. Like most political contretemps, for the incumbent the goal is not losing – winning can wait for Election Day.
     But as sour as my puss is at the gathering southern storm, I’m just as distressed as what’s going on up here; and what’s going on up here has been going on for centuries,  as it has everywhere else. It’s just that I had higher hopes for here – higher hopes that women might be able to make those few extra strides in government – that the Prime Minister (or PM PM as wags would have him) would have made good on his promise to draw more women into the centre of the political universe.
     But no. Though he has appointed some good and true gals to cabinet (yay Carolyn Bennett! My personal MP and role model) those numbers are far outweighed by other Prime Ministerial priorities that focused far more on geographical balance than on achieving representation for a group that can somehow manage to be described as both 52% of the voting population and at the same time as a minority. That’s some trick. But that’s women – versatile don’t you know.   
    But why the surprise oh fellow bonnet wearers? With the exception of Belinda Stronach (and please don’t make me describe how a pretty blonde billionairess with absolutely zero political experience parachuting into first a leadership and then a national election, garnering much media attention – though possibly more on the fashion and gossip pages, than on the national and editorial ones – is NOT a positive sign for the women’s political movement… unless there are some other pretty blonde billionairesses with a yen for public office massing somewhere out there) no other female was seriously considered for a leadership role either here or south of the border. 
     So when in today’s paper, story after story just seemed to leap out at me screaming (in a high pitched girly whine no doubt) the ongoing inequities, I just felt this rant building inside.
    Item: ‘Sex abuse allegations spur probe by RCMP’. Seems a chummy little group of polygamists in the charmingly named Bountiful British Columbia who go by the name of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, have since the 1940’s (with the ongoing knowledge of police and government) been forcing teenage girls within the creepy sect to marry much older and much married men (who must take three or more wives and have as many children as possible in order to enter heaven - no word on what it takes or even whether women can get there) within their community. B.C’s education ministry has been paying nonstop about $500,000 a year to Bountiful schools, despite charges that the schools teach both racism and white supremacy. The RCMP were involved in an investigation that urged charges be brought, but the province looked the other way. Scratch the surface and we’re not just talking about multiple marriages – we’re taking about sexual abuse, exploitation and betrayal on a colossal scale – and this is going on not in some banana republic or sultan’s tent, or even God forbid, in Utah, but right here in beautiful Bountiful British Columbia. Canada. The province should be ashamed of itself, and can only hope that once the cult has been charged and the allegations are proven in court, all they’ll have to do is provide homes and counseling and psychiatric help to women and girls abused since birth, by birth, and not have to pay out millions upon millions of dollars to people who were allowed to be so abused for so long with the full knowledge – and it must be assumed, consent – of those whose job it was to protect them.  Ask yourself: would such a situation be allowed to continue if men and boys were being so cruelly subjugated by women? (You can ask after you pull yourself off the floor where you no doubt fell, unbalanced by paroxysms of hysterical laughter imagining that such a situation could ever occur. Just take a deep breath, count to ten, and try not to break down again.)
     Item: ‘Rape: A deadly weapon of war’.  Well no kidding. And it seems the weapon of choice not just in Eastern Europe, or the Middle East, but right here in the west, where somewhere in the 9/11 Commission Report is not doubt some small and smudgy paragraphs detailing the abuses of prisoners by American soldiers. Though it’s probably best not to dwell.
     This article however, deals with the international tribunal of the Hague declaring sexual assault a war crime. (Finally, she said, with absolutely no irony at all.) In Africa specifically, the new problem associated with it is the possible extra charge of murder, as the victims are often raped by abusers knowingly afflicted with AIDS. But to be honest, this almost  seems the least of it, as besides the darkest shame attached to being raped in that part of the world (still grappling with the notion of victim as victim, as compared to victim as filthy dirty pig who brought it on herself) witnesses report the not uncommon sight of pregnant women raped, then killed as their bellies are sliced open and their children murdered. The endless litany of kidnappings, gang rapings and worse. “…girls as young as 8 years old were kept. Five to six men would rape us in rounds, one after the other, for hours during those six days, every night.” Disgusting, evil and wicked as all war is, remember, these are civilians, and the most vulnerable civilians of all.  Oh, and PS, in virtually every circumstance, not a single attacker has been charged or arrested. I’m not for a moment suggesting that innocent men have not been captured, kidnapped, tortured and killed everywhere from the Sudan to the Sahara in the name of unholy war, just that it’s more often the ones burdened down with children and infants and the food and water they have to carry, and even the clothes they are forced by their societies to wear (so as not to tempt helpless men) who are the ones most victimized by the difficulty in simply running away.
     I could go on. (And on and on.) I could rant on once again about the average woman still stuck (depending on region) to somewhere between 69 and 75 cents to a man’s dollar. I could, really, I could.  I’d want to rail against the notion that because there are a few women in high profile positions (the ultimate tokenism, but you go girl… at least you’ve got a hope) the problem of the glass ceiling and equality in the workplace is long gone. Situation resolved. Problem solved. (You have to wonder how long Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi are going to be able to remain part of any argument on how fair and open are the minds of voters, how the obstacles to power and equality have been removed. As the decades with few other examples roll by, I mean.)
     Believe me: I do know I’m writing all this sitting as I am in the middle of middle class luxury in Canada, having the had the sense to be born white (not to mention middle class)  and Canadian in order to achieve it, and remembering with a certain searing amount of shame how contemptuous I once was of women who complained about their poor lot in life.  I mean there I was, 23, cute, coming from a rich family (who could and would have bailed me out of anything approaching the slightest discomfort for me) working four hours a day as a disc jockey, working in a time when cute young girls were the flavour of the minute, making more money than I was worth, and being taken out to dinner paid for by cute boys and wondering why the whiners didn’t just get off their asses and do the same as I was doing. I’m mortified just writing it down.
     And even now I’m doing just fine – better than fine by virtually anybody’s standards – but I’ve seen a little more. Read a little more. Heard a little more. And the thing that’s hardest to hear, and sometimes hardest to counter simply because of my own great good fortune, is how equality – at least in North America - has been achieved.
     And then there’s this item: ‘Bureaucrat seeks pension re-dress’. The story of the guy who’s got his panties in a bunch over some perceived inequality over his ability to retire at the same age as women once were able… all that has been equalized now (though women are still struggling with how to halt a career to bear children, then get back in and have any hopes of building up anything like a raise or a pension or anything that will help them care for and educate those children down the line, never mind organize their old age) but he’s as mad as a wet hen, wearing a skirt (re-dress – get it?!) to work to protest how unfair his life is and how marvelous it would be if he were a woman.
     Actually, I support his desire to achieve equality in compensation; I just think that attacking women to achieve that goal is pretty cheap. I should know – I’ve done it.

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