Good Girls Do....
When we were growing up, my three sisters and I used to entertain ourselves by holding meetings of The Good Girls' Club. I was the club's president. (I must confess. In a terribly undemocratic move, I appointed myself president. The power of being the oldest sister must have gone to my head. It never even occurred to me to hold elections.)
The Club was mainly about celebrating being girls – sisters, more specifically. That "we are sisters" thing can be a pretty powerful bond when your only brother is a Boston Terrier.
I'm not sure where we picked up the "good" piece. Perhaps at church, school, Brownies, or Girl Guides. Or by tuning into way too many reruns of The Brady Bunch – or Romper Room before that. All I know is that we learned the good girl rules early in life. Work hard. Make other people happy. And don't rock the boat.
I played by those rules for many years. Sometimes I still find myself playing by them: that's how hard-wired they are. I don't have a problem with the first two rules, provided they are practiced in moderation: that they are balanced off with time for fun and making yourself happy, too. It's the third rule that gives me grief. While we like to think we've come a long way (baby) since the 1950s, when it comes to boat-rocking, we're still very much tied to the dock.
My women's studies courses at the University of Toronto were the first place I got permission to rock the boat. (I know: it's kind of pathetic that someone had to give me permission to rock the boat, but remember, you're dealing with the founding president of the Good Girls Club here. Baby steps. Baby steps.)
But rock it I did. I participated in the 1985 International Women's Day March in Toronto, the year the march wound its way through the streets of downtown Toronto, into the Eaton Centre; and then shut down the flagship Eaton's store. We were there to support the store's largely-female workers, whose newly formed union was on strike, trying to secure better working conditions. It was a powerful moment. The store filled with women: women supporting other women in their quest for respect and decent jobs.
Fast forward 25 years to the International Women's Day March that took place yesterday. Here we are, a quarter century later, and women are still marching for the very same reasons. Even worse, the rights clock has been spinning backwards since the Harper government came to power. The Harper government's cuts to Status of Women Canada (closing 12 of its 16 offices) and its decision to shift its focus away from research and advocacy are all about not rocking the boat.
I spend a lot of time thinking about these issues: about what I can to turn the tide against the various types of injustice and inequity that have become part of the status quo in this country. As I mark International Women's Day tomorrow, I'll be thinking about all the strong and decent people I know who are working to reverse the backwards spinning of the rights clock. Knowing they are writing letters, showing up for protest marches, making phone calls, and otherwise making their voices heard will keep me working for a better Canada. To keep rocking the boat.
Good girls do that, you know. They do rock the boat.
Related:The Toronto Star: Canadian Women's Rights in Decline
The Toronto Star: Women Getting Less of Tories' Cash