Political dissension has taken place in Canada throughout history. Various movements, from liberalism to conservatism through socialism, have practiced this dissent. Although politics in Canada have been male-dominated, women have not been left behind.
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Radical feminist standardized norms have found their way into state politics under the umbrella of different coalition organizations, including the NAC and the Action Groups that are composed of women (Andrew and Tremblay 22).
However, there have always been arguments opposed to women’s movements. Radical, social, and liberal feminists have stood their ground, arguing that if any societal change is to be achieved in Canada then there must be a change in ways of life as well as ways of thought. Historically, Canada was designed to be the country where the first feminist revolution was bound to take place.
The country has regularly witnessed the emergence of feminist movements and feminist ideas. The idea of feminism has been formed here since time immemorial, though it was connected then with issues of liberalism.1 Canadian women’s routes through power structures and politics are not smooth at all.
Women in Canada have been marginalized for a long time; thus, it has not been possible to use small groups in the political arena where there has been a need for the considerations of collaborative structures. At the same time, radical feminists in Canada have rejected already-existing authority structures.
The term feminist, as presented in this discussion, means the group of women who view discrimination as the major contributor to the political system. This has been enhanced by inequality, even though in the fight against discrimination, women have found their way into the political system.
The term politics is broad in its definition, based on the fact that it goes beyond political gatherings and parties and the law-making structure. The following discussion is inclusive of the feminist power structure in Canada.
To start with, it is important to look at the historical background with regards to feminism (women) power, structure, and politics in Canada. Current liberal feminism comes from the systematic coercion of women in Canada, as women were regulated to the domestic sphere.
The social patriarch forced women to dominate at home; thus, there was no room for them to go public in power or politics. The liberal theory in which feminist ideology is rooted comprises liberal and feminist ideas. Social feminism aims to offer women social roles that were initially designated exclusively for men. Finally, radical feminism suggests that women play greater role in organizations.
However, at present, social and radical theories have fused into a single entity.2 In the 1960s, feminist activities in Canada gained forward motion in reference to social modification when they emphasized the obliteration of the so-called patriarchal rule structure.
Because of the adoption of feminist doctrine in Canada, the women’s movement led to an increase in legislative representation in family dynamics as well as to their reconfigurations.3
There were no such expectations of the re-emergence of the women’s movement in the 1960s with regards to political stability in addition to Canada’s prosperous post-war economic status. Traditionally, there had been a feeling of security if just one woman was found in the federal legislative body.
Feminist theories—including liberal, socialist, and radical—have played a significant role in Canadian women’s politics. The structure of these three theories is similar, even though their methodologies happen to be different.
All of them have common goals of improving the social status of Canadian women, economic progression, and the political arena of women. Liberal feminist theory is based on the promotion of the freedom that is supposed to be enjoyed by all women, as well as equality, which should be achieved by all autonomously.
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In this theory, sexual discrimination is not at all acceptable. It becomes difficult for women to pursue individual self-interest because they are denied equal rights. Even though liberal feminists have put great effort into freedom for women, they are slightly less meticulous by the fact that these feminist still hold the idea on all political decisions being made within the official political process as prescribed by the Canada constitution.
Liberal theory does not see the need for the change or modifications in the decision-making structures affected by women’s inclusion or equality. Therefore, there is a room that is created by this theory where men were to have more room in the social structures for any feminist change to occur in the female counterparts.
Decision-making structures and law formation were exclusively in men’s hands, which led to the continual governance of women. Socialist theory came into existence to address the inadequacies in liberal feminist theory.
Socialist theory is the second feminist theory with a big part to play in Canadian power, structure, and politics. Socialist theory is based on the argument that women need to attain economic means as well as power, so as to attain the goals of political liberalism. Women in Canada have experienced, and still experience, oppression, even though change has come about as a result of the efforts of feminist movements.
They experience alienation, especially in the work force, have jobs subordinate to those of men, and provide domestic labor as housewives. Socialist feminists argued that there was a need for women to enter the public sphere as much as they carried the greater part of the private sphere.
Domestic labor does not provide monetary compensation; therefore, social changes were needed. The social changes would provide substitutes for the capitalist production and the construct of the family setup. This position led to the manifestation of a third theory, radical feminism, which agreed with socialist feminist analysis of women’s socioeconomic status.
Radical feminist theory was spawned as a result of the disillusionment created in politics. Women came to realize that they were being exploited for sexual purposes. According to radical feminists, what was referred as private and individual was not just private; it was also political. This was an attempt to signify the ways in which individual experiences of Canadian patriarchal family structure disadvantaged women.
These experiences included rape, wife abuse, and gender stereotyping. Even though radical feminists put great effort into what is referred as “the personal made public,” the Canadian regime could not allow any sort of public intervention in the case of rape or even sexual abuse, which happened mostly at the family level.
Socialist theory focuses on the politics of daily life in the same manner as the radical feminist notion of private spheres. This sexual analysis differs altogether from liberal theory.
The daily experiences that Canadian women went through within the family, such as rape and wife abuse, perpetuated more oppression. The argument for maintaining privacy within the family protected the family politically from undergoing any scrutiny.
Radical feminists, however, were determined to bring up domestic violence in politics. Men held the legally supported power to control women’s labor, as well as other social powers. Radical feminists felt that there was a need to overturn these powers.
Many similarities can be drawn between feminist theories and the current liberal democracy. What is meant by liberal democracy is a structure that is referred to as representative democracy, where elected representatives hold decisive powers that are moderated constitutionally. In the constitutional setup, there is more emphasis on promoting individual liberties as well as minority rights and equality.
Based on this description of liberal democracy, it holds more of qualities in the state of promoting the minority tyranny which the above three theories emphasized.
The ultimate ideal, common to both liberal democracy and feminist theories, is the desire to achieve all rights of life and freedom with the promotion of dignity and a considerable moral worth to all. This idea is based on the fact that liberalist principles in both theories are not meant to limit specific rights, which should be provided in opposition to the majority.
Just as feminist theories received mixed reviews, current liberal democracy is faced with the same problem. Canadians remain ambivalent when pluralism and diversity accommodations are put into place.
Both feminist theories and the liberal democracy have a greater role to play in reference to autonomy, diversity, the enlightenment of women, and the necessity to accommodate differences in the political setup.
Feminists tried for a long time to fight for equality without fully achieving it and this kind of life seems normal and natural in a Canadian context. Liberal democracy seems be the same with regards to pluralism and diversity. Based on these two systems—liberal democracy and feminist theory—it seems as though Canada has already made accommodation for power and inequality in governing the nation.
When Canada is compared to the rest of the world, evidence shows that over twenty percent of the Canadian enjoy a considerable level of political freedom. Currently, legal equalities are practiced to some extent, and economic opportunities for women are improving. All these advantages have been achieved as a result of women’s activism over decades.
This activism is still ongoing among feminists inside the halls of power, together with those who are outside. Feminists achieved essential political freedoms such as voting rights, being able to run for office and the consideration of the Canadian woman as a “person” under the law by insisting that women were equal to men and had the capability to lead a democratic life in Canada.
Putting into consideration the above factors, it would seem reasonable enough to expect a greater representation of women in polities worldwide. This is not the case; in fact, they are underrepresented. Despite the progress that women have made in education, the workforce, and contribution to public life, their political interests do not exceed those of men.
At the same time, they are less knowledgeable in the official political field compared to men. The fact that men remain the majority in Canada’s political arena sends a subtle message that the political world seems closed for women.
Focusing on Canadian politics of today, there has been accommodation lines which have occurred within the women that have led into significant division in the nations as well as the leaving out and subordination by the minority communities. Women in Canada have a very significant role in promoting politics that involve pluralism and the rights of the minority.
According to recent studies on to women’s leadership, political representation is subjected to economic circumstance. This decisively affects whether a woman is able to run as a candidate for elected office. In Canada, a politician’s responsibility is viewed as carrying more weight in the capacity of a patron rather than an administrator.
This proves to be a challenge for women, and has led to many women not putting forward their names as candidates. It also attests to the fact that not many of the local elite are willing to change, especially when it comes time to recruit nominees. Thus, male competitors always find their way forward. The life of a Canadian woman involved in politics is a series of challenges.
They are supposed to meet the requirements, nearing the same political responsibilities as men do, which creates certain problems. Despite the endless attempts to establish equality in politics, women are still nominated far more seldom than men.4 In addition, Canadian culture is not ready yet to see women as politicians. Mass media is another problem.
Women are still “regarded as novelty”5 by most Canadian journalists. Often women are reluctant to continue the struggle, knowing the opposition they will have to face. However, Canadian women do not despair, but resort to numerous political means to fight these challenges.
Further exploration of the challenges faced by Canadian women in politics shows that there is a need for cultural change, which will promote the desire for more women candidates and allow them to win in considerably higher numbers. The cultural role of childrearing, a responsibility that is largely left to women, proves to be a major challenge to women’s involvement in politics.
Canada’s social and cultural expectations for women demand that they be always with their children. This is itself a hindrance to the involvement of the women in federal politics.
Canadian members of parliament spend at least thirty-two weeks per year without their children, as they must be in Ottawa for five days per week and return to their respective constituencies over the weekend, where they still hold some office hours as well as attend constituency events.
Party nomination, as illustrated earlier in this discussion, proves to be another challenge for the women involvement in politics. Since one must first be nominated before entering party politics, the winnable seats are never open to new candidates. Financial barriers prove to be a challenge to most of the women wanting to get into federal politics.
In Canada, the nature of politics has never been friendly, especially to women. Women are not as confrontational as compared men, who usually find confrontation to be a means of one-upmanship .
Media plays a great role in the many questions that are asked of politicians, leading to a life that is referred to as fishbowl life. Women are always presented in relation to how they dress, their body type and structure, their hairstyles, and their voices. These issues are the first to be covered by the news, which does not happen to men.
Women are still challenged in politics by their unwillingness to run for positions in office. This has led to a small supply of women who come forward in politics, however much of the blame is pushed for Canadian culture on their male counterparts.
Conversely, there are women who profess an interest in running for office, but are not inclined on the need to step forward; rather they wait to be asked to do so. There is a need for political parties to form committees whose sole responsibility would be to encourage well-qualified women candidates. At the same time, many women have little interest in pursuing political careers.
Women have experienced different barriers in Canadian politics, thus calling for the breaking down of these blockades through the implementation of action policies by the government as well as political parties. Political party leaders should at the same time hold political will and improve in their commitment that it is one tool, which is necessary for the promotion of equality.
Political recruitment of women candidates should be provided by their political parties, so as to support them in running winnable positions. All parties must address the historical problem of inequality and identify the relevant processes that are necessary to address them in order for women’s political equality to occur.
Promoting changes in the representation of women in politics and their involvements will not only improve the welfare of women in Canada, but will also develop opportunities for others who are underrepresented. This will create the benefit of a healthier political system, in which Canadian democracy will take the lead.
Despite the above challenges that Canadian women face in politics, women have continued to get involved in politics, an act that can be termed as “miracles happening.” It is also necessary to understand what happens once they find themselves elected to the provincial legislature and other political positions.
The big question is whether these women work to change representative institutions or are forced to incorporate the existing political culture once they attain the political positions. Do they struggle to achieve credibility in hostile environment?
Once women attain these positions, they have reported discrimination from their male counterparts. At the same time, many report being dissatisfied once elected, as they consider political life to be more frustrating. The future progress of women in politics in Canada seems to be uncertain; once one considers that they have not yet achieved a better position in politics.
Total equality is difficult to achieve in Canada, but no one can negate the fact that it is desirable. Women in Canada have made great efforts in the fight for equality despite minimal progress, which needs to be acknowledged. Around twenty percent of women are always elected in the parliament since 1993.
Women account for around fifty-two percent of the total population of Canada, which is approximately twenty-one percent of the municipal councils and legislatures.
Canada has enjoyed economic stability with fewer women who are elected, but on the political representation in the international set-up, Canada ranks 47th on the elections which took place 2007. Polling data shows women place more value on different issues. Women should be given chances to hold the same positions as men.
Moreover, equality is important in decision-making in order to empower women. This will bring about successful development of public policies. A critical mass is needed in which the largest populations in Canada will be women.
For the Canadian democracy to be deemed legitimate, it must represent at least half of the population that is composed of women. There should be a genuine partnership in gender, where to some extent Canada has made efforts to adopt the charter which is composed of rights and freedom for all (Andrew and Tremblay 290).
In conclusion, there is still a long path for women’s equality in the political assembly. Feminist efforts have improved Canadian politics, although at a slow rate. Achievements include the creation of women programs meant to improve the lives of Canadian women. These efforts also led to the creation of a position for a minister whose responsibility is to promote women’s equality.
These movements have led to women’s involvement in politics. They have acquired official positions and put into place some policies such as those dealing with childcare. Evidence clearly shows that gender representation in Canadian politics has been an issue for a long time.
Achievement of gender parity has never taken place in Canada. Women represent the larger population, but they do not hold equal positions to men in politics.
Despite the challenges women face in Canadian politics, some of them are already involved in politics and many more desire to be. What pushes women toward participating in the political assembly is the desire to make changes in party nomination processes, media coverage, and parliament operations, which are in the hands of Canadian cultural change.
There is a great need for Canadian women to get involved in politics, so as to secure as many parliamentary seats as possible in order to demand the necessary changes. In summary, politics have been downgraded far beyond on what was being referred as important profession in Canadians mind in reference to them that make decision to serve more on the few women who find their way in politics.
There is a need for a better regime, represented by dedicated politicians coming from both genders, which can only be achieved if equality is valued.
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1 Pierson Ruth and Griffin Marjorie Cohen. Canadian Women’s Issues: Bold Visions. (Halifax, CA: James Lorimer & Company, Ltd., 1995), 418
2 Young Lisa. Feminists and Party Politics (British Columbia, CA: University of British Columbia Press, 2000), 55
3 Jaggar M. Alison and Young M. Iris. A Companion to Feminist Philosophy (New York, NY: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000), 519
4 Megyery Kathy. Women in Canada Politics: Towards Equity in Representation (Toronto, CA: Dundurn Press, Ltd. 1991), 33
5 Heather Macvlor. Women and Politics in Canada (Toronto, CA: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 290