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The Feminist Power and Structure in Canada Essay

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Updated: Jan 21st, 2020

Canada has been characterized by a political dissension for a long time. This has been in practice through various movements that have taken place from the liberalism to conservatism, through socialism of various social movements. Feminists as presented in this discussion means the group of women who view discrimination as often a cause of inequalities, and as the major participant in the current political systems.

In the fight against inequalities in Canada, women have therefore found their way into the political system. Through the struggles that Canadian women face in politics, there is clear evidence that extra efforts have to be invested. Radical feminists in Canada have at the same time rejected the already existing authority structures, therefore the term.

Consequently, the term politics is however broad in its definition by the fact that it goes beyond the political gatherings and parties and the law making structure. The following discussion is therefore inclusive of the feminist power as well as structure and power in Canada. Although politics in Canada have been known to be male dominated, women have on the other hand not been left behind on the same.

Thesis Statement

The Feminist’s struggles are apparent in Canada, although there are hindrances that have to be overcome for women to be adequately represented in the social-political world. Politics appears to be one of the remedies to achieve social change and improve gender parity in the nation.

Radical feminist standardized norms have found their way into the state politics, while they are under the umbrella of different coalition organizations in Canada. These include the NAC, and the Action Group that are composed of women (Andrew and Tremblay 22).

However, there have been arguments which have always opposed the women movements but radical, social and liberal feminist have stood on the ground arguing that if there is any societal change to be achieved in Canada, then there should first be an occurrence of change in the way of living as well as the way of reason.

This paper will examine the issue of women underrepresentation in relation to the Canadian politics, the challenges and the necessary measures that have to be put to place to achieve gender parity in the political arena.

The Political Marginalization of Women

Although women compose almost fifty percent of the entire Canadian population, their representation in office is marginalized with just twenty percent of legislators, twenty five percent cabinet ministers and not more than ten percent of the party officials. This makes it certain that gender underrepresentation is real in Canada.

The issue is avoided by not only the public officials but also the media (Trimble & Arscot xiv). It is clear that women in Canada have been for a long time been marginalized, thus it has not been possible enough to use small groups in the political arena where there is a need for consideration of the collaborative structures.

To start with, it is important to look at the historical background in reference to feminist power, structure, and politics in Canada. It is clearly evidenced that there has been a great current liberal feminism, which has come from the systematic coercion of women in Canada as women were regulated to the home spheres.

The social patriarch forced women to dominate on the private lives at home, thus there was no room for them to go public in power or else politics. In 1960s, the feminist activities in Canada held a new forward motion in reference to social modification where they emphasized on the obliteration of the so called patriarch rule structure.

Out of the adaptations of the feminist doctrine in Canada therefore, women’s movement led to an increment in the legislative representation in the family dynamics as well as their reconfigurations. There were no much expectations of the re-emerging of the women’s movement in the 1960’s in reference to political stability bearing in mind the economic status of Canada after the prosperous postwar.

In Canada, there had been a tradition where women felt a bit secure if just one woman was found present in federal legislative body. For Instance, the government established the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in nineteen seventy followed by the Women’s Program in nineteen seventy three under the secretary of state.

The Women’s program dedicated its finances particularly to the women’s groups to improve their standards of living. By the year nineteen eighty five, the parliament reviewed the Canada Assistance Plan Act and replaced it with Canada Health and Social Transfer which drastically reduced funding to among other social services, the care giving services.

It also adjusted the insurance scheme regarding employment which resulted in women being left out. All these factors contributed to poor living standards for women since most of them could not work. Thus, by nineteen sixty seven a third of unmarried women were wallowing in poverty while by nineteen ninety five, the figure had hiked to fifty six percent.

However, the government established a new ministry recognized as a Minister of women’s Equality having awarded eight million dollars between nineteen ninety six up to nineteen ninety seven which was five million dollars less than that awarded from the year nineteen eighty nine till then.

Unfortunately, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women sacked almost every staff which meant the future was uncertain for Canadian women by this time unlike in other nations where women were significantly represented in the government.

For instance, the Scandinavian nations had women representation of thirty percent. This reflects fact that the Canada did not adequately embrace the social dynamics that had occurred earlier and which accelerated the women to acquire leadership (Kramarae & Spender 1602).

Feminist Theories in Relation to the Canadian Politics

Feminist theories have been known to play a very significant role in the Canadian women politics, which include: liberal, socialist, and radical theories of feminism. The structure of these three theories is similar even though their methodologies happen to be different.

All of the theories have a common goal of the improvement of the social status of the Canada women, their economic progression as well as the political arena in relation to women. Liberal feminism theory principle is based on the promotion of freedom which is supposed to be enjoyed by all women in addition to equality which should be achieved by all autonomously.

In this theory, sexual discrimination is not at all accepted by the fact that women are denied equal rights. Therefore, this makes it hard for them to peruse individual self interest.

Even though there have been great efforts which have been put in place by the liberal feminist for the entire freedom of women, they are slightly less meticulous since these feminist still hold the idea on all political decisions being made within the official political process as prescribed by the Canada constitution.

In reference to the structures of the decision making, liberal theory does not see the need for the change or modifications far from them that are affected in the idea of women inclusion on equality. Therefore, there is a room which is created by this theory where men have more room in the social structures for any feminist change to occur in the female counterparts.

The structure of decision making or any formation of law is just in the men’s hands for the continual governance of women in its rule. Out of the inadequacy in the liberal theory, socialist theory came into existence in the attempts of meeting the inadequacies (Maclvor 40).

Socialist theory is the second feminist theory which held a big part to play in women and politics in Canada in reference to power, structure and politics. The argument which is based in the socialist theory is the need to attain economic means as well as the power to enjoy the economic means for the entire attainment of the political liberalism.

For a long time women in Canada had and still experience oppression even though there are changes which have been made out of the efforts of the movements. They therefore experienced alienation especially in the work force, subordinate working levels as compared to that of men, and the domestic labor as house wives.

Socialist feminists argued that there was a need for women to go public as much as they carried the greater part of the private lives. Private life involved laboring under the domestic context in which it was not possible to determine the appropriate monetary value. Therefore there was a great need to have social changes (Maclvor 26).

The social changes were to provide substitutes to the capitalist production and the construct in the family set-up. This position led to the manifestation of the third theory which agreed upon the analysis prepared by the socialist feminist in respect to social-economic status which was held by women – Radical feminism.

Radical feminism theory was spawned as a result of the disillusionment, which was created in politics. Women came into realization that they were only being exploited just for sexual purposes. According to the radical feminists, what was referred as private and individual was not just that but it was also political.

This was an attempt of signifying the real individual experiences which were current in the Canada patriarch families which underprivileged women. Some of these experiences included: rapes, wife abuse, and gender stereotyping. Even though there were great efforts which were put by the radical feminists on what is referred to as personal to be made public, the Canadian regime could not allow it.

This is because it sought public interventions in matters relating to rape cases or even sexual abuse which happened mostly in the family set-up. Socialist theory focus on the daily life politics just the same way as the radical feminist in the notion of private spheres such as sexual analysis which is different from liberal theory( Maclvor 45).

The daily experiences which Canadian women went through such as rape and wife abuse within the family, perpetuated more oppression to the women. Basically, this was because the family was politically protected from undergoing any scrutiny in the argument of maintaining privacy within the family.

The radical feminists were however determined to bring out domestic violence in politics – public set up. Men held powers which were supported legally to control women in labor and other social spheres. Thus the radical feminist felt that there was a need to overturn these powers.

Liberal Democracy and Feminist Theories

Putting in to comparison of the feminist theories and the current liberal democracy, there is a lot of which can be drawn to be similar. In the understanding liberal democracy which is a structure that is referred to as representative democracy, the elected representatives only hold decisive powers that are moderated constitutionally.

In the constitutional set up, there is more emphasis on promoting individual liberties as well as the minority rights and equality just to name a few. Basing on this description of liberal democracy therefore, it holds more of qualities in the state of promoting the minority tyranny in which the above three theories emphasized on.

Ultimate ideal, which is common in liberal democracy and feminist theories is their desire to achieve all rights of life and freedom with the promotion of dignity and a considerable moral worth to all. The whole idea to embark their steps on forward is based on the fact that liberalism principles in both cases are not meant to limit specific rights which should be provided to the specific rights in opposition to the majority.

Just as the way feminist theories received mixed criticism, current liberal democracy is also faced with the same problem. When pluralism and diversity accommodation is put into place, Canadians still remain in the state of ambivalent.

Both feminist theories and the liberal democracy have a greater role in place in reference to autonomy as well as the diversity on the enlightenment of women and the necessity to the accommodate the differences in the political set up. Following the same route of feminist theories, feminists have tried for a long time to fight for equality without full achievement, and therefore, this kind of life seems normal and natural in Canadian context.

Likewise, liberal democracy seems to take the same in reference to pluralism together with diversity. Basing on these two systems – liberal democracy and feminist theories efforts, it seems as though Canada in one way or another has already accommodated power along with inequality to rule and govern the nation.

Canadian Politics from a Global Perspective

When Canada is compared world widely, there is full evidence that more than twenty percent of the Canadian women at a considerable level enjoy political freedom. Currently legal equalities have been practiced to some extent as well as the improvement of the economic opportunities for women. All these advantages have been achieved as a result product of women’s activism which happened over decades and still is ongoing.

Essential political freedoms such as voting rights, being in office run, and also the consideration of Canadian woman as a “person” basically under law were achieved when the feminist insisted that women have equal qualifications to that of men and held the capability of leading a democratic life in Canada.

Putting into consideration of the above factors, it would seem reasonable enough for one to expect a greater women representation in politics globally which is not the case. Despite the progress which women have made in relation to education, workforce, and public life contribution, their political interests do not exceed those of men and at the same time they are less knowledgeable as compared to men in the official political field.

By the fact that men remain the preponderance in the political arena of Canada, there has been a subtle message that has always been sent to women by the political leaders which means that the world seems close for women.

Focusing in today’s Canadian politics there has been accommodation lines which have occurred within the women which have led into a significant division in the nations and subordination by the minority communities. Women in Canada have therefore played a very significant role on promotion of politics which involves pluralism and the rights of the minority.

In relation to the recent studies which are related to women’s leadership, the political representation is much subjective to the economic circumstances which affects in the decisive aspect of whether there are enough reasons unto why a woman should stand in the elected office as a candidate. In Canada, politician’s responsibility is viewed to carry more weight in the capacity of a patron rather than an administrator.

This has on the other hand led to many women not putting their names as candidates as it is an aspect that proves to be a challenge to women. It also attests to be a block by the fact that not many of the local elite are always willing to change especially when it comes to the time of recruiting nominees’ thus male competitors always find their way forward.

Exploring further in a more detailed way on the challenges which are faced by Canadian women in politics, there is a need for cultural change which will promote the desire of more women to run for office and emerging as winners. The cultural role of child rearing responsibility which is highly left only to the women proves to be a major challenge for women involvement in politics.

Canada’s social and cultural expectation for women demands them to be with their child which acts as a hindrance for the involvement of the women into the federal politics.

It is clearly evidenced in that Canada’s members of parliament spend at least thirty two weeks per year without their children since they leave for Ottawa, five days per week and go back in their respective constituencies over the weekends where they still hold some office hours and participate in constituency events.

Party nomination as illustrated earlier in this discussion proves to be another challenge for the women involvement in politics. Since one has to be nominated first before he or she enters into party politics, the winnable seats are never open to give a chance to the new candidates while the few that are opened, financial barrier proves to be a challenge in most of the women wanting to get into federal politics.

In Canada, political nature has never been friendly especially to women because of the confrontations experienced which turns to be an aspect that lacks in women as compared to that of men who usually find the confrontation as a means of up-man-ship . Media has a greater role when it comes to this in the many questions that are asked to the politicians, a life that is referred to as fish bowl life.

Women are always presented in relation to how they dress, how good are their body shape and structure, hair styles and their voice where these issues becomes the first on news coverage, as aspect which is not done to men.

Women still prove to be a challenge in politics through their unwillingness to run positions in office. Unwillingness is viewed as a challenge because it has led to few women to come forward in politics however how much the blame is pushed to Canadian culture on male counterparts.

Conversely, there are women who are said to have the interest in respect to office run, but they face a challenge of not being inclined on the need to step forward. Rather they always wait for the time that they will be asked to do so.

To curb this challenge there is a need for the political parties to form committees which their sole responsibility would be on encouraging the women candidates who seem to be well qualified. At the same time, many women hold little interest in pursuit of the political careers.

Despite the above challenges that Canada women face in politics, women have continued to involve themselves in politics, an act that can be termed as “miracle happenings.” It is also necessary to understand on what happens once they find themselves elected in the provincial legislature and other political positions.

The big question lies on whether once these women attain political position do they make their way in changing representative institutions or in one way or another are they forced to incorporate the exiting overriding political culture, thus struggling at least to achieve their credibility in an environment which is considered to be hostile?

In the attempt of answering this question, once women attain these positions, they have reported to be discriminated by their male counterparts. At the same time, many are said to be dissatisfied when they are elected as they consider political life to be more frustrating.

For that reason, the future progress of women in politics in Canada seems to take a state of a fate which cannot be explained putting into considerations that they have not achieved a better position in politics yet.


It is hard to acquire total equality in Canada, but no one can negate the fact that it is a desirable aspect. Women in Canada have made great effort in the fight for equality despite the minimal progress, which is an act that needs to be acknowledged. Around twenty percent of women are always elected in the parliament since 1993.

It is clear that women account to around fifty two percentage of the total population in Canada which is an approximate of 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.

Women are known to hold more care in different issues through the polling data which has been consistently done thus calling for equality where women should be given chances to hold the same positions just as men – a desirable thing.

Moreover, equality is important in decision making for the purpose of empowering women so as to bring about successful production of the public policies. The critical mass is needed in which the largest populations in Canada are women. For the Canadian democracy to be deemed legitimate then, it has to represent at least a half of the entire population which is composed of women.

There should therefore be a genuine partnership in gender where to some extent Canada has made some efforts in the adoption of the charter which is composed of the rights as well as freedom for all (Andrew and Tremblay 290).

Women have experienced different barriers in Canada politics thus calling for the breaking down of these blockades through the implementation of action policies by the regimes as well as the political parties. Political party leaders should at the same time holds political will and improve in their commitment which it is one tool which is necessary for the promotion of equality.

Political recruitment of the women candidates should be provided by their political parties so as to support them in running winnable positions. For the political equality in support of women to occur, it necessitates all parties to address the historical problem of inequality and identify the relevant processes which are necessary in working them.

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 the opportunities to others who are underrepresented. To solve this issue, electoral reforms are essential in Canada to ensure equal opportunities for women. This could be achieved through proportional chances for both men and women.

Women programs in Canada propose that there should be a review on Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) to incorporate social aspects and include women as a legally deprived group (Kramarae & Spender 1602). Out of this, there will also be a benefit of a healthier political system which is democratic in not only Canada but in other nations around the world.


There is still a long path for women for the attainment of equality on the political assembly. Out of feminist efforts, there has been improvement in the political aspects in Canada even though at a slower rate. Some of the achievements include the creation of women programs, which were meant to improve the Canadian women way of living.

Out of their efforts there was also a position which was created of a minister whose responsibility was to promote women’s equality. Through women movements, many women have been led in politics where they have acquired official positions. Some policies such those dealing with child care have also been put in place.

A line can be drawn out of the clear evidences that gender representation in politics in reference to Canada has for a long time been an issue. There has never been an achievement of gender parity in the political history of Canada, yet women represent the larger population but they do not hold equal position in politics with men.

Despite the challenges in Canada politics which are faced by women some of them are already in politics and many desire to get into it. What pushes women in the desire of being in the political assembly is the need to make changes in the party nomination processes, media coverage, and parliament operations which are all require a cultural change.

Therefore, there is a great need for the Canadian women to be in politics so as to secure several parliamentary seats to facilitate for the necessary adjustments. To sum it all, politics have been downgraded far beyond what was referred to as an important profession by the Canadians.

However, there is a great need for a better regime which should be represented by dedicated politicians coming from both genders which can only be achieved if gender parity is valued.

Works Cited

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Andrew, Caroline and Manon Tremblay. Women and political representation in Canada. Mexico: University of Ottawa Press, 1998. Print.

Andrew, Caroline. Electing a Diverse Canada: The Representation of Immigrants, Minorities, and Women. London: UBC Press, 2009. Print.

Bashevkin, Sylvia B. Opening doors wider: women’s political engagement in Canada. New York: UBC Press, 2009. Print.

Bickerton, James. Canadian Politics. New York: University of Toronto Press, 2009. Print.

Carstairs, Sharon. The culture of women and politics. 2005. 29 January 2011. Web

Cooper, Andrew F. and Dane Rowlands. Canada Among Nations, 2005: Split Images. London: McGill-Queen’s Press – MQUP, 2005. Print.

Crow, Barbara A. and Lise Gotell. Open boundaries: a Canadian women’s studies reader. New York: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004. Print.

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Kramarae, Cheris and Dale Spender. Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Identity politics to publishing. New York: Routledge, 2000. Print.

Maclvor, Heather. Women and Politics in Canada. Ontario: Broadview Press. 1996. Print.

O’Connor, Karen. Gender and Women’s Leadership: A Reference Handbook. London: SAGE, 2010. Print

Sacouman, R. James, James Sacouman and Henry Veltmeyer. From the net to the Net: Atlantic Canada and the global economy. London: University of Toronto Press, 2005. Print

Townshed, Juleles. C.B. Macpherson and the problem of liberal democracy. London: Edinburgh University Press, 2000. Print.

Trimble, Linda and Jane Arscott. Still Counting: Women in Politics Across Canada. London: University of Toronto Press, 2008. Print.

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