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Northern Wildflower: Women’s rights have much further to go

In my last semester of law school I am enrolled in a feminist law class and it’s bringing up a lot of thoughts around equality for women.

In my last semester of law school I am enrolled in a feminist law class and it’s bringing up a lot of thoughts around equality for women.

Being a woman in this day and age is one thing, but being a mother is a full-time job and then some. Life doesn’t stop at motherhood. Many of us mothers still work around the clock. This can cause us to become resentful with our partners, who often get to put their feet up when they get in the door from work.

Many men have very strenuously physical jobs and they are tired after a long day. I’m not going to lie, my partner is one of those men, but even though most of my time is spent sitting in my living room on Zoom I am still using a lot of my mental brain capacity to do my job and sometimes don’t see the equality, even in our relationship. Does this mean I’m the brain and he’s the brawn? The one thing I can’t do on my own is lift heavy things, so thankfully my partner is capable of helping out in that way, I suppose, but does this mean I am making excuses for him?

Historically, women didn’t leave the house to go to work — they stayed home, cooked, cleaned and raised the kids. Today many women have full-time jobs outside of the house yet we are still expected to cook and clean and take care of the kids when we get home, so essentially we are doing around-the-clock services. Unless you have a wonderful partner that picks up half of the workload around the house, you are going to eventually come to a breaking point. Mothers don’t get enough recognition for all that we do. We are expected to balance the demands of everyday life without much of a break unless we go on a vacation once a year, if we are lucky.

My daughter is currently writing an essay for school about the women’s workforce prior to the Second World War, highlighting the movement that occurred when it came to women’s rights during and after the war. During the war, the doors opened for women to work in male-dominated industries, filling vacant jobs in mechanics, aviation, carpentry and other non-traditional occupations. This sparked a shift in society at a time when women had very few rights to begin with. However, we are still a long way from being respected by men and thought of as equal as hard as we try to eliminate stereotypes. To put it into perspective, we are in the year 2023 and only now have we finally seen the first Indigenous woman astronaut go into space: Nicole Aunapu Mann. Indigenous women and girls are the most vulnerable group in every demographic. So, on the one hand we have discrimination against women and mothers but on the other hand we have the downright gross mistreatment of Indigenous woman and girls around the world, which spells the need for calls to action, like the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry.

Underlying fear

When women do go out and get the jobs we want and demand equal pay to men, we are often labelled as difficult to the point of being forced out of jobs when using our voice to create change while working in an unfair environment. Or when we do show our femininity, we are thought of as weak and emotional, even though it is actually a strength. The two types of women that society seems to accept are the homemakers and the objects of attraction, and with the ever-prevailing normalization of unethical pornography at the click of a button, there is no in-between. Society doesn’t know what to do with strong, independent women. I think it’s the underlying fear of us being in charge that scares most men who are not confident in their masculinity. Throughout history, women have been burned at the stake quite literally for being witches. Then the Indian Act came along and oppressed us even more because it was created by a white man who believed himself to be dominant over not only the sexes but over entire races. We see it in religion, where even the depiction of God is glorified as being a man. It will take another 100 years to break down these false pretenses and understand that women are so much more than we are made out to be.

As someone who has worked in the non-profit world for some time now, I’m always surprised at how much schmoozing goes on behind the scenes with government officials in order to get approval and resources for furthering our projects. It really comes down to who you know. Heck, even lawyers are chosen to be judges based on who they know in the community. What gets me every time is the fact that I am told I need to play nice with government officials who are mostly older, white, privileged men with big wallets. There was a time when I was informed by my boss that it would be helpful if I went to the bar after hours to schmooze with politicians to build my network. As a single mother, I had no time or desire to be hanging out in bars after work. I ignored the insinuating invite to sell myself. Having to look and act a certain way in rooms filled with the privileged opposite sex was not my idea of gainful employment.

This brings me to my feminist theory class where I’ve argued that we are not just talking about women’s rights, we are talking about motherhood and all of the laws, discrimination and judgment that comes along with being a mother. We have come a long way from the time when I was shamed for breastfeeding my baby in public, but we haven’t come a long way from men being hailed as wonderful dads for merely giving their child a bottle in public.

For far too long, men have been creating the narrative of how women should act, think and feel. Being a feminist does not mean I am a man hater, it means that I am pointing out the inequality that still exists in our society today, an inequality that starts at a young age all the way into motherhood. It is a rerun advertisement that plays out in society to make us think we are less than when, in fact, we are far greater than anyone could ever imagine and can achieve anything we put our minds to.