Racial and gender discrimination has been present in the society for centuries. It is difficult to eradicate it because there will always be those who classify people according to their skin color and gender and who stand for the purity of their own race or nation. Two articles under consideration, From ‘Mothers of the Nation’ to Migrant Workers: Immigration Policies and Domestic Workers in Canadian History by Sedef Arat-Koc and Recipes for Democracy? Gender, Family, and Making Female Citizens in Cold War Canada by Franca Lacovetta are similar in their view on gender discrimination for the former discusses the lives of women in Canada during the slavery, while the latter traces the fate of immigrant women in Canada who were subjected not only to gender, but to racial discrimination as well.
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First of all, Arat-Koc offers an idea that women’s work has mostly been associated with slavery. The author mentions that in those times when slavery existed in Canada, female slaves were mostly hired as domestic servants. White women, however, have also been employed as domestic servants, but this was considered only as a stage in their lives with their work being more of help than service to their masters. In the 1920s feminization of domestic sphere became evident because “within a period of 60 years, the percentage of women among urban domestic workers grew from 50 per cent to 90 per cent” (Koc-Arat 2006, 198). This happened due to the fact that middle-class families became more privatized this is why their requirements as for the domestic comfort increased greatly. Therefore, one of the arguments which Arat-Koc proposes in his article is that domestic service was mostly typical for women, especially for the enslaved ones.
Another idea which the author advances in the article is that, even when regarded as the working force, the women were still judged by their racial backgrounds. Thus, Arat-Koc states that “British domestics enjoyed privileged position” (Koc-Arat 2006, 201), while the domestics of other races were not even regarded as the members of Canadian nation. Closer to the twentieth century, the domestic workers from the Scandinavian countries became second popular to those from Britain. Arat-Koc emphasizes the fact that women of color were used in domestic service throughout the Canadian history, “largely because they have historically been excluded from other possibilities in the labour market” (Koc-Arat 2006, 205). Thus, gender and class status have been two features of the domestic workers in Canada with women of color being hired for domestic work most often.
Similarly, Franca Lacovetta also explores the issue of women in labor, though she approaches it from a slightly different perspective. The research of this author is more connected with immigrant and refugee women and their families, as well as with the Canadian government’s efforts to “remake” them for them to be acceptable by the nation. With respect to this issue, Lacovetta turns attention to the fact that the government itself is responsible for the racial and gender inequality which exists in the world. For instance, Lacovetta states that liberal capitalist countries are hypocritical because they “promise opportunity and freedom to all while simultaneously creating pools of unfree labor and perpetuating damaging race and gender stereotypes” (Lacovetta 2006, 266). Therefore, the author emphasizes that though Canada was often referred to as a land of opportunities, it was hard for the women of the middle of the 20th century to use these opportunities due to racial and gender discrimination which the Canadian government only favored.
Finally, Lacovetta discusses the methods with which the immigrant women were ‘Canadized’ which included altering the immigrant women’s food preferences and customs explaining this by health and welfare concerns. Thus, the government initiated healthcare campaigns “preaching the value of a well-balanced diet, efficient shopping and household regimes, planned menus, and budget-conscious shopping” (Lacovetta 2006, 269). The media, in its turn, was publishing ‘ethnic’ recipes and advised on where to purchase ‘ethnic’ (meaning inexpensive) food. In this way, the Canadian government contributed further into social injustice through making racial distinctions between its citizens and turning attention to the fact that they were different from the others.
Thus, it can be concluded that the life of the women in the 20th century was extremely complicated because they were discriminated not only according to their gender, but according to race as well. The articles considered discuss different aspects of the women’s life in 20th-century Canada, but they both agree that women’s (especially immigrants’) life in this period was harder than ever.