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York University
Social Science
SOSC 1350
Julie Dowsett

Lecture 7  Wednesday October 23, 2013  The Women's Movement and Equality Rights in Canada THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT AND EQUALITY RIGHTS IN CANADA If the abstract rights of man will bear discussion and explanation, those of woman, by a parity of reasoning, will not shrink from the same test. —Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) At the time of the B.N.A. Act, [women] were, under the common law, as well as under the civil law, relieved from the duties from the duties of public office or place, by a general rule of law, which affected them […] with a personal incapacity to accept or perform such duties; and, in particular, women were excluded by the law and practice of parliamentary institutions, both in England and in Canada, and indeed in the English speaking world, from holding a place in any legislative or deliberative body, and from voting for the election of a member of any such body. —Supreme Court of Canada (Reference re Meaning of the Word “Persons” in s. 24 of the BNAAct, 1928) 1. Equality Rights and the Intellectual Roots of the (White, Middle-Class) Canadian Woman’s Movement - The only group of women who had any real influence to bring legal reform has been white middle class women 1. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) 1. This text was partially a response to Thomas Paine called The Rights of Man – defended the French Revolution 2. She was in broad agreement with the liberal democratic slogan of the French Revolution Liberty Equality and Brotherhood 3. Paine was defending the right of men – like actually men and Wollstonecraft believed that he was only defending half the population 4. In Wollstonecraft books, she advocates rationality, the idea that people can reason and that’s what makes them people she argues that argues that women too can reason ad should be given opportunities to use that reason 5. She also argues that masculinity and femininity is social constructed in essence she is arguing a social constructivist view of gender 6. Public Sphere – out in the world, politics the law etc. Wollstonecraft was very interested in women not being excluded in the public sphere 2. John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women (1861) 1. Mill made a sustained argument for the right of women 2. He demanded for the … 1. Equality of women 2. Changes of attitudes towards women 3. He wanted women to have education outside of the home (in favour of the education) and women employment (law, medicine) 3. Limitations of (liberal) “equal rights” perspective i. Basic legal/political reform advocated by Wollstonecraft and Mill have been achieved; yet position of women remains problematic a. A lot of what they have been arguing for has been changed, they believed that t would change the attitudes, but we can see that women still face problems b. We have achieved what they wanted us to achieve so why is it still problematic? (Very complex answer) ii. Classism; they were concerned largely with women of their class a. Inherent classism- Mill and Wollstonecraft were very privileged white British people b. Mill wasn’t really concerned with women and education for women who were already working c. Wollstonecraft argues that all children ought o be educated in the same manner but only ages 5-9 and after 9 the working class children to be shunted off to another school and children should receive the same education but only the middle class and wealthy kids. d. Wollstonecraft: girl should learn to sew, make hats and gown. Boys should be educated in the trades. iii. Race and racism not a matter of interest a. Over 80 references to slavery and in all of these references she says the “slavery of white British women of her class” i. Very inappropriate use of the term slavery iv. Did not consider how pregnancy, childbirth and childcare pose obstacles for economic independence a. Wollstonecraft struggled with pregnancy, childbirth and raising a child. b. These equal right feminists did not realize all these obstacles 4. Limitations of this perspective can be seen in the Canadian w
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