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Chapter 35

SOCI 1F90 Chapter Notes - Chapter 35: Neoliberalism, Nuclear Family

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Michelle Webber

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SOCI 1F90: Introduction to Sociology
Rethinking Society – Chapter 35
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016
Sex, Gender, and Generation: Age of Consent and Moral Regulation in Canada by Carol L. Dauda (pg. 419 – 436)
In 2008, the age of consent to sexual acts was renamed the age of protection and was raised in Canada
The legislation is ostensibly gender neutral in that it applies to all young people under 16
A more thorough examination of the proceedings reveals a gendered discourse in which the regulation of
sexuality still targets predominately women’s sexuality within the context of an idealized family structure
based on a heterosexual norm
The article is an attempt to understand how the public policy process in Canada enables such retrenchment and
argues that it is best understood through a feminist lens that posits a post-feminist context
In Canada, this context is characterized by both the turn to a neo-liberal ideology that embraces
privatization and individualism through the market and the family and the rising power of social
It is within this context that the political value of idealized notions of the family and, in particular,
childhood, rises in both neo-liberal and socially conservative political strategies
The raising of the age of consent is framed in terms of protection of children, which
raises the issue of generation, that is, the child/adult relationship, its symbolic identities
of childhood and adulthood, and the associated relations of power
The discourse within the proceedings reveals an identity of childhood and youth, predominantly girls, as innocent
and incompetent and so needing protection; yet, this identity of innocence is all contradicted with
characterizations of youth as calculating
These gendered and generational notions of youth are politicized: Conservative members and their
supporters use them for political purposes in what is termed the “politics of generation”
Conservatives divert attention away from the issue of agency; and, by focusing on protection,
they divert attention from issues of gender and sexuality and reassert a heterosexual norm
They avoid issues of gender equality and sexuality but at the same time reinforce unequal
relations of power of both gender and generation
Gender and Generation: Moral Regulation and Public Policy in a Post-Feminist Context
Neo-liberal goals and strategies combined with the growing political strength of social conservatism mark the
post-feminist context in Canada
Once neo-liberal values predominated, Janine Brodie argues, the Liberals “promised little else then to be more
compassionate managers of the economic transition”
Brodie argues that neo-liberal policies, based on privatization have brought new challenges
The resulting recodification of proper conduct of individuals emphasizes the responsibility of the
family and so the “dominant threat of running through the moral regulation of the 1990s is the
glorification and refamilialization of the family”
The symbolic notion of the family becomes a political tool for neo-liberal policy
State actors’ manipulation of advocacy privileged conservatives and the strategy debilitated feminist activism
Thus, policy makers incorporated feminist issues while eliminating feminist demands through symbols of
the family and childhood
Feminists initiated and engaged the state in debates on violence against women, pornography, and child abuse,
and defined al those issues in terms of systemic male dominance
Their focus was on the need to change masculine behaviour, but state responses often targeted women’s
behaviour instead
Public policy makers diverted and subverted feminist attempts to deal with violence against women and
child abuse
While conservative groups campaigned to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16 or 18, the fact is that the age of
consent had been augmented for almost a century by various property and seduction laws that “protected” women
up to age 18 if they had a “previously chaste character”
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