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A Look at the Intersectionality of Masculinities in Canada. How Were They Created and How Are the Different Levels Maintained by Economic and Political Systems in Canada?

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1.A Look at the intersectionality of masculinities in Canada.   How were they created and how are the different levels maintained by economic and political systems in Canada?

The roots of the male patriarchy in Canada stem back deep into Canadian history. Upon Canada’s settlement it was evident that the male held the systemic power. The primary role of white women was reproduction and they were expected to bare many children. There was an inherent belief that women were born with a set amount of physical energy, and it is foolish to waste energy on anything except reproduction.  Ramirez, September 25th). This permitted them from focusing on education and physical activity, which put thousands of women at a disadvantage. The power was taken away from the woman, and given solely to the man. In modern media today these patriarchal messages of masculinity continue to erode the fight for equality. Pioneering activist and cultural theorist Jean Kilbourne has been studying the effects of female portrayal in media for almost 40 years, her book “Killing us Softly” explores the impacts of male dominance in media on female culture. According to Kilbourne a 1993 study on women in relationships showed that 28% have experienced abuse by someone they know, and 15% have been forced to engage in unwanted sex under alcohol or drugs. (Ramirez, September 27). This systematic female oppression is a result of the portrayal of females in mainstream media as sexual “objects” and depersonalizes them which enables abuse. Hispanic or Black women are often portrayed as wild animals in the media, as untamed women. Yet it is not just females that bare the negative consequences of gender biased media. Men and their image of masculinity has been long established by ideals of power, prestige and wealth. Their skin tone, muscle mass, and even height play critical roles in perceptions of their masculinity. Political activist, black feminist and social leader Angela Davis is no stranger to the perception of masculinity based upon skin tone. Davis argues that prisons are institutions that help maintain the “white male” privilege and masculinity. Davis said “The prison … functions ideologically as an abstract site into which undesirables are deposited, relieving us of the responsibility of thinking about the real issues afflicting those communities from which prisoners are drawn in from.” (Feminist Issues, pg 67). Although African Americans only constitute 3% of Canadian population they account for 10 per cent of the federal prison population. (Feminist Issues, pg 45). Economically, the male dominance is further maintained as most clearly evident in the rising wage gap between males and their female counterparts. Wealth is a indicator of prestige and power in Western society, and it is not surprising that majority of this acquired wealth lays with the white man. Aristotle was of the belief that healthy relationships were dependent on the fact that the woman and the man were in a master slave relationship, and the key to maintaining this relationship was for the woman to understand her place. Notions of this dependence still exist in modern society, as exhibited in the woman's 87 cents to the man’s dollar. This places the power with the male, as there is an inadvertent implication that women need a man to survive and make a decent living. ( Ramirez, November 1st). Both economic and political institutions in Canada today enable the power and full masculinity to reside with the white man, while other subcultures are suppressed.

4B.        Examine how women’s groups since the 19th century have been faced with backlash.  Look at activism in the 19th century, throughout the 20th and into the present.   Provide examples at how this silencing has functioned and why.   How has democracy and the working toward democracy been rooted in a white male masculinity?  What does this say about the production of white masculinity?

White Male dominance is the foundation of which the “multicultural” nation of Canada was settled. Colonialism functions to acquire full or partial control over another country and assimilate the existing beliefs and values. Colonialism had a range of effects on the woman of Canada, for the aboriginal women their ways of life were totally altered and changed. In their traditional societies, Aboriginal woman were often figureheads of the community, and the matriarchal command was strong and respected. As the European settlers began assimilating their culture they lost control over their own land, children and even husbands due to alcohol and drug related addiction. These women were faced with depression, hopelessness and extreme fatigue. Depression and loss of hope was a challenge that faced both the European and Native women. White men diagnosed both women with hysteria and sent them mental institutions or gave them sedative medicine. (Ramirez, September 25). Women lost sense of purpose and identity and faced internal oppression. For the first-time women began to regain control and used their shared struggle to bond, and a Women's Temperance Christian Union was formed and focused on the problem of alcoholism and intersectionality. Food Banks along with Soup kitchens were created for struggling mothers, as well as orphanages to improve living conditions. (Ramirez, September 13). The WCTU continued to fight for female equality and pushed for equal voting rights. Women had asked to be able to vote in the 1898 national referendum on prohibition and had been refused. The government’s inaction after the referendum convinced many that it was not acting in the best interests of the people. (Feminist Issues, page 93). Members of the WCTU became increasingly frustrated by having to rely on men to create the kind of society they wanted to live in. Despite these frustrations, the WCTU continued to advocate for women’s suffrage as a way to positively shape society. Moving forward, many key influential women began to write and voice their opinion on systems of oppression. Impact of Gender roles and femininity was reflected in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963), which spurred more development on the emerging field of women’s studies. (Ramirez, September 13). Women fought to strengthen and control their own bodies during the 50’s-70’s. They had two primary objectives: first to satisfy the demand for birth control and abortion, and secondly the desire to eradicate gendered violence. One of the most influential women for contraceptive advocacy was Margaret Sanger. In 1914, Sanger started a feminist publication called The Woman Rebel, which promoted a woman's right to have birth control. She was threatened to be thrown into jail for her efforts, as any publications related to contraception and abortion were deemed “obscene” and punishable by law. (Ramirez, September 13). Sanger returned to the United States in October 1915, after charges against her had been dropped. She began touring to promote birth control, a term that she coined. In 1916, she opened the first birth control clinic in the United States. Sanger and her team were charged yet again with providing information on contraception, and Sanger fought the case in court and won. (Feminist Issues, pg 132). Sanger’s experience is not unique, many women movements in Canada faced great adversity when pursuing women's rights. For example, the Famous Five are regarded as a symbol of modernity, women's political rebellion, and human rights more generally. The group was formed of five feminists from Alberta whom aimed to legally identify women as “persons” under British common law. The case was fought long and hard in the Canadian judicial system, just to receive the verdict that the word “persons” did not include women. Fueled by a need for equality the group took the case to the British Privy Council, the highest judicial ranking at that time. The British Council agreed that women were indeed people, and should be treated with equal importance as men. (Ramirez, September 25). Men resist equality and change as it removes their systemic power, and we teach girls to not question the male driven institutions they live with. It is time that feminism becomes not just a women issue and it becomes a humans issue. The fight for equality concerns everyone.

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