// Claire Vulliamy and Mike Bastien

Claire V. – Globally, Canada is a pretty decent place to be a woman, ranking 17th in the list of top 20 countries in terms of gender equality, according to the Global Gender Gap Index report put out by the World Economic Forum. The index measures discrepancies between genders in availability of resources and opportunities, such as labour force participation, equal pay for equal work, literacy rate, educational enrolment, life expectancy, participation in politics, and more.
However, not even the number one spot on the list has achieved total balance. Based on the findings of the report, no one can argue accurately that there isn’t a status difference between women and men in Canada.

Mike B. – While that is true, it's also important to focus on our society's successes when striving for equality. Consider the implementation of political correctness. Using “man” or “he” as an encompassing term for all people is no longer commonplace. Sexist and demeaning terminology leads to the notion that sexist behaviour is also OK. Although perceivable as catalysing minimal change, efforts like these help snuff out minority discrimination by taking oppressive terms out of the common lexicon, in turn allowing perception and openness to evolve.

Claire V. – These efforts will do little to address the real and current issue at the root of the gender imbalance, our societal structure. For example, working women of today exist within a system that was designed, primarily, by men. When women participate, there is pressure to liken themselves to masculine archetypes. Otherwise, in professions that are typically an older “boys club”, such as the police force, the dynamics become divided severely along gender lines.

For example, in light of the Pickton case, reports have been coming out from female members of the RCMP speaking of a culture of misogyny. As reported in Macleans magazine, former member of the RCMP Bonnie Reilly Schmidt testified, “'There was everything from mild sexual comments or jokes about your breasts to overt sexual touching.’ Shaking it off was part of proving you were tough enough to be a cop.”

Mike B. – If we can agree that as a society we are advocating for tolerance, although it may take time, personal efforts to be more politically correct will change the global community's view of what is acceptable from our institutions. It will take longer to make inroads into traditionally male-dominated professions such as policing and military, but no mainstream sect will operate against the status quo.
As for women in the workplace, at least where middle class white women are concerned, progress is being made as well. World War II played a significant role in the battle for equality as it forced many women to work out of necessity. The amount of women in the work force has steadily increased in Canada over the past 20 years. It is now common to see females in jobs that were once considered only for men, such as military personnel, professors, and politicians.
As married women are receiving higher paying jobs, men are afforded the option of filling different roles, such as staying home and looking after children. These “stay at home” fathers are gradually increasing in numbers and accessing parenting benefits, communities and services formerly targeted toward mothers. Gender equality goes both ways, and these advancements are both recent and substantial.

Claire V. – It is true that the amount of women in the workforce in Canada is up ten per cent since 1976; however, these improvements have triggered backlashes. Some regard the rising power of women as a threat, claiming that the tables have already turned – for the worse.
Recent surveys of university students in North America show that in the majority of cases, less than 50 per cent of those queried identify as feminist. The lack of young women who identify with the title, based on the stereotypes of feminist women, are disowning the movement before it even reaches its apex. In truth, feminism represents a huge spectrum of ideologies that concern themselves with the status of women and gender equality. So, if you’re a woman or a man who believes that your gender should not limit your position in life, you are participating in feminist thought. Despite our recent successes, no idea lasts without people to support it.

//Claire Vulliamy and Mike Bastien, Writers
//Illustration by Katie So

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