Don’t tell me I’m oppressed

The last time someone told me I needed special protection on account of my gender occurred when I was 10.

It was coming from a parent concerned about the safety of the lone girl playing in a boy’s ice hockey league.

After scoring a goal and contributing to a 10-0 blowout in the first game of the season, I remember thinking it was the other team’s goalie that needed protection.

Perhaps I’m just lucky, or perhaps this is the new norm.

Women have more opportunities and choices over their careers and their lives than any time previously.

And yet, without asking or enquiring, a bunch of busybody Canadian activists have declared that I am somehow being left out.

A few months ago, an organization called “Up for Debate” began to demand that one of the leaders’ debates in this federal election be entirely focused on women’s issues.

They claim the current debates don’t discuss the problems affecting women, and are outraged that Canada hasn’t had a national leaders’ debate on “the status of women” since the 1980s.

But do we really need one?

During the recent Maclean’s leaders’ debate, moderator Paul Wells skillfully guided the discussion and pressed each leader to answer questions on the economy and tax policy, foreign affairs and Canada’s role in the world, energy and the environment, plus, Canada’s democratic institutions.

I thoroughly enjoyed the debate. It was wonky, spirited, interesting and substantive. I didn’t feel excluded in any way. Nor did I feel it skipped over issues important to me, other women and all Canadians.

So why do we need a separate debate for women?

The mere thought of a debate exclusively for women about women feels regressive.

In fact, it’s insulting. Like being sat at the kids’ table at your cousin’s wedding.

I don’t need to have my hand held or for political leaders to speak differently to me so that I can understand.

They can use all the big words they want and talk about complex issues. Women will follow.

A few years back, Justin Trudeau hosted a “ladies night” for women in Toronto.

The event backfired, to put it mildly.

Not only were most people severely put off by the lame invitations that asked: “What’s your favourite virtue?” and featured a doe-eyed Justin doing his best Zoolander impression, but also, the Liberal leader let his guard down and flippantly told the audience at one point he admired China’s “basic dictatorship”.

Oops.

Serves him and his party right for thinking women need to be engaged through a Sex and the City-style cocktail party.

It was an insult to the intelligence of all women. So, too, would be a special debate for women.

In Canada’s modern, pluralistic and diverse society, we shouldn’t have to separate ourselves into clans and demand different standards and rights.

Women make up 51% of the population, obtain 56% of university degrees, two-thirds of medical degrees and possess divergent identities and interests based on a bundle of factors, including age, ethnicity, region, religion, marital status, family composition and so on.

Women are a diverse bunch, and we certainly don’t think with one collective mind.

When activists list a handful of issues – typically childcare, crime rates against women, and a gender wage gap – and allege these are “women’s issues,” they imply other issues are not.

It suggests the economy, national security, and the energy are men’s issues. This is not the case.

Crime affects both men and women. So does the economy. So do our foreign policies.

And frankly, in 2015, childcare is no longer simply a women’s issues.

It’s a family issue, affecting moms and dads, parents and grandparents, and employees and employers in similar ways. Suggesting otherwise is just plain sexist.

I’m not saying Canada is perfect. Misogyny and chauvinism still exist.

Women need to stand up for themselves, whether by being vigilant against sexists and bullies or standing up for themselves what they’re at the negotiating table bargaining for their salaries.

But women, especially young women in Canada, do not need a victim’s complex imposed upon them by the same, old predictable activists preaching third wave feminism and exaggerating claims that women are hard done by or ignored by political leaders.

This column first appeared in the Sun papers on August 15, 2015