August 21, 1998 Halifax Herald

Has women's rights pendulum swung too far?

At the start of the 20th century, Canadian women were well into what was to be an epic battle to eliminate the degrading discriminatory practices that a white male dominated society had begot to keep them barefoot, pregnant and at home. Because they were then viewed by males as little more than property and treated paternalistically as intellectual inferiors, their cause was just and noble.

After many battles, and with the assistance and cooperation of many fair-minded men who supported their effort - regardless of the hard-core resistance to altering the status quo shown by their peers - Canada has female entrepreneurs, parliamentarians, Supreme Court judges, and so on. The determination and toughness displayed by the women who fought for the right to aspire to such positions, in the face of what would have appeared to be insurmountable odds at the turn of the century, are admirable.

Today, in view of the opposition women faced, it can be stated that the changes forced upon Canadian society over the last 100 years by their movement were remarkable. Over that short period of time, although effort is still needed to weed out the remnants of the patriarchal society which existed, the goal of gender equality has largely been achieved.

However, the women's movement did have some negative impact. It gave birth to a fair share of crackpots, militants, etc. According to the views of a great many of these individuals, men are evil incarnate. Opposingly, they believe that all women who wind up in trouble with the law, no matter how evil their deeds, are victims.

This raises a strange paradox. When one examines the victim aspect of crime, itís remarkable how modern Canadian society has managed to twist things around. The perpetrator is often depicted the victim while the real victim - dead, disabled, or otherwise traumatized - is forgotten. In the case of women perpetrators, the practice of depicting them as victims has become virtually standard. In view of the major crimes being committed by hardened female criminals, which are comparable to any committed by their male peers, these halos don't fit well. It seems biases have hijacked logic in the dispensing of justice.

Viewing the performance of the many female militants, who are labouring to create a society where women enjoy special privilege, one can easily conclude that their goal is to take what was a patriarchal society and turn it into a matriarchal one. Lost to them is the fact that the women's movement was organized to gain for women equality and respect, not dominance. Replacing male chauvinism with female chauvinism is not the future.

Therefore, in place of chauvinism of any kind, an all-out effort should be made to finesse a society where men and women can love and respect one another, where they can enjoy equality and, above all, where they can be comfortable and secure in their own sex!

Itís not logical to try to replace one evil with another or create a society where all appear to be clones. The shenanigans of the sexes is what makes living exciting and worthwhile. Just think how dull life would be without them - no soap operas, nor presidential or royal scandals, boring movies, etc.

Now for a short discourse on women involved in criminal activity. Stats indicate, in contrast to those for males, that violent crimes perpetuated by women is on the rise. Perhaps this disturbing trend is related to the justice system's tendency to give special treatment to female criminals. To halt or reverse the trend, society must began to remove many of the double standards that it erected to help promote women's rights. If equality is the goal, then the time has arrived to deal out in equal measure harsh punishment to both female and male criminals.

How lopsidedly biased the justice system has become towards female offenders is highlighted by the fact that the young men who delivered a severe, non-fatal beating to Darren Watts received six to eight year prison sentences. In contrast, and this is just one of many similar instances, The Canadian Press reported in a news item from Calgary, dated July 10, 1998: "Three young Calgary women who laughed as they kicked a woman to death in a nightclub bathroom were sentenced Thursday to four years in prison" for manslaughter.

Has human life become so cheap that murder is considered less of a crime than armed robbery, drunk driving, etc. Seeing that many murderers are dealt with less harshly than is the case with many of the criminals who commit these lesser crimes, one would think so.

The practice of dishing out special paternalistic treatment to women during sentencing is belittling, degrading and discriminatory towards them. The principle of equality demands that the sex of the perpetrator, except under exceptional circumstances, be put on the back burner when judgements are being made. Standard punishment, regardless of sex, needs to be the norm, not the exception.

If there is a burning desire among us to create a society where we all enjoy equal civil and human rights, our energy needs to be directed towards eliminating biases and seeking accommodation and finding justice for all!

Daniel N. Paul


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