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POLSCI 1G06 Lecture Notes - Equal Opportunity, Marxist Feminism, Bertha Wilson

Political Science
Course Code
Todd Alway

of 3
Political Science 1G06 2012 Lecture 5a Feminism
- Is there an inequality in the distribution of power, resources, and
social benefits between men and women?
- Economic:
- Women comprise 50% of the world’s population. However, they only
“own 1% of the world’s property and resources.”
- In Canada, women who work full-time have earnings that are only
71% that of men who work full-time (2008)
- Amongst Fortune 500 countries, only 19 are run by women (2012)
- Political: Only 25% of the Members of Parliament in Canada are
women (76 in House of Commons)
o Better than the worldwide average of 19.5% (2011)
- Qualitative indicators:
- Cases where women are subject to social practices, often sanctioned
through the law, that men are not likewise subject to
- Rhetoric:
- Women are frequently portrayed differently (and disadvantageously)
in the world of discourse/speech
- In sum, there exists an overwhelming disparity between the number of
women, their representation in leadership positions, the extent of their
economic reward, and the extent of their actual power
- The question is why?
- Why is it the case, in almost every society around the world, that
women’s choices, opportunities, and power are more restricted than
- Patriarchy an unequal social system based upon the privileging
of “masculine” characteristics and activities at the expense of
those considered to be feminine. The net effect is that one gender
(female) is exploited by another (male)
- There are a number of different answers as to why patriarchy exists
and what should be done about it:
- Liberal Feminism:
- The Problem: Liberal equality must mean equality for all, not just for
- 1. Classical Liberal Feminism:
- Agitation for Suffrage, the right to hold public office, the right to
equal treatment in the economy
- Equality required the right to vote but more than this
- It required the right to be treated as an equal individual no matter
where in the public realm one was
- Quote from Mill (The Subjection of Women)
- “One thing we may be certain of – that what is contrary to women’s
nature to do, they never will be made to do by simply giving their
nature free play…What women by nature cannot do, it is quite
superfluous to forbid them from doing. What they can do, but not so
well as the men who are their competitors, competition suffices to
exclude them from; since nobody asks for protective duties and
bounties in favor of women
o So why all the anxiety about giving women equal rights?
- The struggle for equality of rights - Canadian context:
- 1918: women granted the right to vote in Federal elections
- 1929: women declared to be legal persons (Persons Case)
- 1930 the first women (Cairine Wilson) was appointed to the Senate
- 1982 the first woman Supreme Court Judge (Bertha Wilson)
- 1993 the first female Prime Minister of Canada (Kim Campbell)
- 2. Reform Liberal Feminism
- Formal equality under the law did not result in equality in practice
- Equal opportunity was being denied to women because of the
responsibilities that patriarchy had assigned at home
- Politically this meant changes to government policy to enable women
to participate in the public realm as equals
- In sum, the general point of Liberal Feminism (classical and
reform) is not that men and women are fundamentally different.
- They sometimes play different roles in society because of
o But they are fundamentally equal and should be treated as such
- 3. Marxist Feminism:
- Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,
- “The modern individual family is founded on the open or concealed
domestic slavery of the wife…within the family, he is the bourgeoisie,
and the wife represents the proletariat”
- The Problem: Patriarchy exists. But it is fundamentally an economic
relationship based upon the exploitation of female labour within the
- The Solution - Eliminate capitalism and patriarchy should fall
alongside it
- Radical Feminism:
- The Problem: Patriarchy is the fundamental ordering principle of
- The history of society is best conceptualized as one of constant
struggle between the sexual classes (men and women)
- The dominant culture, laws, and institutions are all designed by men
to control women
- The Solution: If the problem is all hitherto existing civilizations, the
solution must be the complete transformation of civilization
- The monogamous family must be eliminated it is perhaps the most
entrenched form of patriarchy
- 1. Are there differences between men and women?
Men and women approach moral questions differently. Men approach things
using rights and rules vs. women approach things using networks and mutual
support. Some argue that women are morally superior than men.
- 2. If there are differences, what are the origins of those
differences? (nature or culture)
Both. Women seem to learn things a lot more easier than men and vice-
versa. It could be biological or it could be social as in how radical feminists
state. They believe that we live in a society that is controlled by men and
culture has dictated the role of women.
- 3. If these differences do exist, how can the political order
accommodate them?