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Women and Politics in Canada

Women and Politics in Canada

Heather MacIvor
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 413
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  • Book Info
    Women and Politics in Canada
    Book Description:

    Women and Politics in Canadasets the stage for a discussion of the Canadian situation by exploring ideas about women in Western thought and the various feminist approaches that have arisen in response.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0309-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-10)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. 11-12)

    It is surprising, given recent developments, that this book is the first introductory text about women in Canadian politics. Like many others who have have taught university-level courses on women and politics, I have tried, without success, to find a single, affordable textbook that brought together the main themes of my course: feminist theory, women in Canadian society, and women’s place in the political system. There have been collections of articles and a host of monographs on various aspects of women and politics, but no single text that pulled it all together. My mother brought me up to believe that...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 13-16)

    Canadian women have made a number of breakthroughs in the past century. Women can vote in elections. Two major national parties have had female leaders. Rita Johnston of British Columbia was premier briefly in 1991, and Catherine Callbeck of Prince Edward Island became the first female premier elected by the voters in 1993. In June 1993 Kim Campbell became the first woman prime minister of Canada. Women run businesses, lead established churches, and teach in universities. In addition to these new choices, most women still perform the traditional roles as well: spouse, parent, daughter, sister. The expansion of women’s life...


    • [PART 1: Introduction]
      (pp. 17-18)

      In this section we will examine the treatment of women in the study of politics. We will also look at the more general ideas about women in Western political and social thought, and at the ways in which women have responded to those ideas. Chapter 1 situates the study of women and politics within the broader discipline of political science, a discipline that reflects the sexism inherent in Western thought. Since men have put stylus to clay, or pen to paper, they have portrayed women in a narrow range of roles or types. Women have been seen as somewhat less...

    • Chapter 1: The Study of Politics and the Study of Women
      (pp. 19-32)

      This chapter is an introduction to the principal themes of Western thought as they apply to women. The discussion focuses particularly on social and political thought. The chapter begins with a brief description of political science, for those readers who are not majoring in the subject, and concludes with a discussion of the place of women in the discipline in the 1990s.

      What Is Political Science?

      Women in the History of Political Thought

      Feminist Critiques of Political Science

      Women as Practitioners of Political Science


      The discipline of political science traces its origins back to Plato (c. 423–347 b.c.)...

    • Chapter 2: Sexual Politics and Feminist Responses
      (pp. 33-92)

      We begin this chapter with a discussion of the power imbalance between men and women in our society, often calledsexual politicsorpatriarchy,and the structures of gender that perpetuate it. The rest of the chapter concerns women’s responses to these inherited social conditions. The first response is feminist thought, the purpose of which is to reveal, explain, and eventually eliminate patriarchy. Feminist thought is divided into four approaches: the currents approach, the strategic practice approach, the integrative feminist approach, and the identity feminist approach. The second response is the women’s movement, which is usually divided into the “first...


    • [PART 2: Introduction]
      (pp. 93-94)

      In this section we will examine the daily lives of women in Canada: in their families, in the economy, in the justice system, and in the mass media and popular culture. The political activities of women cannot be understood until we see the patterns that recur in women’s lives: the wage gap, the pink-collar ghetto wage gap, the feminization of poverty, the double shift double shift, the stereotypes of women that populate the airwaves.

      These four aspects of women’s lives are treated separately in these chapters, but they are closely linked in practice. The family has always been the bedrock...

    • Chapter 3: Women in the Canadian Economy
      (pp. 95-126)

      Chapter 3 examines women’s participation in the Canadian economy, and the ways in which that participation has grown and changed since World War II. More women are spending more years in the workplace than ever before. This has some advantages for women: more money, greater independence, the opportunity to provide for themselves and their children in the case of a marriage breakdown. But there are some disadvantages for women as well. First, women are paid less on average than men. Second, women are concentrated in a narrow range of jobs, many of which are dead end and low paying. Third,...

    • Chapter 4: Women in the Canadian Family
      (pp. 127-155)

      Chapter 4 examines some of the changes in Canadian families in the twentieth century, and the reasons why the political system has not responded effectively to those changes. The chapter argues that there is only one “politically correct” model of the family at a given time, and that any type of family structure that deviates from that model may be denied equal recognition and assistance by the state. Currently, the approved model is a married mother and father with at least one child. In contrast, the past half-century has witnessed a steep rise in divorce rates, a decline in birth...

    • Chapter 5: Women and the Law in Canada
      (pp. 156-194)

      Chapter 5 describes the law and its effects on Canadian women. We will focus on two aspects of the law: the criminal justice system and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The criminal justice system includes the agencies and institutions that define, detect, and punish criminal behaviour. In this chapter we will look at the Criminal Code of Canada, the police, the courts, and the prisons. The Charter is the part of the Canadian constitution that places limits on the power of the state and specifies the rights and freedoms to which all Canadians are entitled. It also restricts...

    • Chapter 6: Women, Mass Media and Popular Culture in Canada
      (pp. 195-222)

      Chapter 6 examines the images of women that appear in the mainstream Canadian media, and the effects of those images on women’s security and self-esteem. Media images can have a powerful influence on our thoughts and assumptions, because they are so pervasive and because, through stereotyping, we tend to see the same images presented over and over. Women are presented as sex objects, whores, housewives, or ugly feminists – always defined by their appearance and by their relationship to men. These stereotypes, including the pernicious images of the rape myths and the beauty myth, help to perpetuate the very gender...


    • [PART 3: Introduction]
      (pp. 223-225)

      Every Western country is confronted by a political paradox. On the one hand, women constitute a small majority of the electorate. In theory, therefore, women should control the political system through their votes. After all, the idea of democracy rests on the will of the majority. On the other hand, women constitute less than half—in most cases, less than a quarter—of all mps and a smaller minority in national executives.

      How do we explain the paradox of a politically disadvantaged majority? In a country such as South Africa, where a majority of the population was (until recently) forbidden...

    • Chapter 7: Women’s Participation in Politics
      (pp. 226-252)

      Chapter 7 is an introduction to the study of women’s political participation. It discusses the ways in which women’s patterns of political involvement differ from those of men. The two patterns are similar in many ways. While most Canadians vote in elections, few pursue other activities such as joining a political party or running for office. Women are even less likely than men to become involved in the “conventional” politics of parties and interest groups. They are more likely to participate in “unconventional” politics, such as local neighbourhood groups or single-issue protest movements. As a result, feminist scholars have argued...

    • Chapter 8: Women in Canadian Political Parties
      (pp. 253-276)

      Chapter 8 examines the status of women inside Canada’s major national political parties. It discusses the roles played by the parties in the political system, and their treatment of their female membership. The chapter argues that women have been denied access to positions of real power within the parties, and that a gendered division of labour operates within party structures: men make policy, women make coffee. Women are more numerous at the bottom levels of the party structures than at the top. This is expressed in the phrase “the higher, the fewer.” In addition, women are less likely to succeed...

    • Chapter 9: Women in Canadian Legislatures, Executives and Judiciaries
      (pp. 277-306)

      Chapter 9 completes Part 3 by examining the status of women in Canada’s national political institutions. We will discuss the place of women in the House of Commons, the Senate, the federal public service, and the judiciary. The same patterns that we identified in the political parties characterize our national institutions as well: “the higher, the fewer” and the gendered division of labour. Despite the recent breakthroughs by Audrey McLaughlin, Alexa McDonough, and Kim Campbell, the road for female politicians in Canada is a rough one. This chapter will explain how the exclusion of women from elite politics, described in...


    • [PART 4: Introduction]
      (pp. 307-308)

      In Part 3 we discussed the structure and operation of the Canadian political system. In this section we look at theoutputof the political system, and its effects on women’s lives. By “public policy” we mean more than the laws and regulations created by governments. We mean “the broad framework of ideas and values within which decisions are taken and action, or inaction, is pursued by governments in relation to some issue or problem.”¹ The study of public policy goes beyond an analysis of the laws and regulations themselves. It is impossible to understand why a government passes a...

    • Chapter 10: Public Policy-Making in Canada and Its Effects on Women’s Lives
      (pp. 309-323)

      Chapter 10 examines the treatment of women by public policy-makers, in Canada and other Western countries. The chapter discusses six specific areas of women’s lives and the ways in which governments have dealt with them. It concludes with a discussion of how public policy is divided into “women’s issues” and really important issues, a division based largely on the traditional attitudes towards women discussed in Chapter 1.

      Women and the State

      The Effects of Public Policy on Women’s Lives

      Powers within Marriage

      Control of Sexuality and Fertility

      Rights and Duties as Mothers

      Control of Wealth and Income




    • Chapter 11: Women’s Effects on Public Policy
      (pp. 324-359)

      Chapter 11 discusses the ways in which the Canadian women’s movement has campaigned for changes in national public policies, and the factors that have influenced the success of those campaigns. A model of women’s influence in the Canadian policy process is used to identify the reasons for success or failure. The chapter concludes with an example to illustrate the model: the success of the Canadian women’s movement in inserting section 28 into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, compared to the failure of the American women’s movement in securing the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

      Grassroots and Institutionalized...

    • Chapter 12: ‘Women’s Issues’ and the Canadian Political System
      (pp. 360-405)

      Chapter 12 presents five brief case studies of Canadian public policy in areas of particular concern to women. Each case study is described, and then evaluated according to the model of women’s policy influence set out in Chapter 11. The chapter ends with a critique of the concept of “women’s issues.”

      Women and the Canadian Public Policy Process


      Child Care


      Sexual Harassment

      New Reproductive Technologies


      In the two preceding chapters we have looked at how public policy is made in Canada. We have studied the effects of that process on women, and vice versa. Table 12.1 summarizes...

  9. Index
    (pp. 406-413)