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Friday, October 20, 2006

Persons' Day

Every year, the Sudbury branch of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) organizes a Persons' Day Breakfast in celebration of the anniversary of October 18th, 1929, the day on which Canadian women were deemed "persons" by the British Privy Council. I don't normally get up at 5am, but I did this morning, because I think the Persons' Day Breakfast (even if held a couple days late) is a cause worthy of my full support.

Over yogourt, muffins and cold coffee, I listened to journalist and human rights advocate Sally Armstrong speak about her experiences in Afghanistan covering the plight of women. It was an inspiring speech, sorrowful at times but ultimately uplifting. Despite my personal feelings about the war, I cannot help but celebrate the fact that life is improving for women and girls in that part of the world.

I was also planning on celebrating how far Canada has come as a society with regards to women's rights. I should be celebrating the fact that women in my generation no longer have to endure the sexist, degrading workplace comments that women in my mother's generation endured. Instead, I'm reading this. To say I'm not celebrating is an understatement.

Peter MacKay, quite simply, is a bad person. He's a bad person not because he espouses bad policies or because he's shown bad political judgment. Peter MacKay is a bad person because he disrespects women. I cannot believe that in the year 2006, someone would actually think that referring to a woman as a dog is funny. I cannot believe that MacKay (Canada's chief diplomat, no less) refuses to acknowledge he said what he said, even in the face of irrefutable evidence. I guess I should believe it, though. Peter MacKay has a history of chauvinism. He once told a female colleague to "stick to her knitting" when she had the audacity to disagree with him on the radio. Sad, but true.

Belinda Stronach has demanded an apology. Knowing Peter MacKay's character, I wouldn't hold my breath.

The media's reaction has also been sad. I'm watching Global TV right now. I cannot believe what I am seeing. I've just heard the MacKay incident described as a "lover's quarrel" and a "soap opera." Radio host and Global commentator Bill Carroll doesn't believe this whole incident was offensive at all, and even suggested Belinda Stronach owes Peter MacKay an apology. Global's journalists are laughing about this. Reporters are giving viewers advice on "how to deal with a breakup." Absolutely shameful.

This isn't about a breakup. This isn't a soap opera. It's not about partisan politics or the rough and tumble of parliamentary debate. Degrading women isn't funny. This is sexism, pure and simple. And trivializing sexism is just as bad as sexism itself. CanWest Global should be ashamed of itself.

I began the day an optimist, celebrating the advancement of women's rights here and abroad. I end the day with a sense of cynicism, sickened by the comments of a bad person and disheartened by the reaction of the media.

Persons' Day. Sigh. I guess there's always next year...