This week, we’ve been asked to look at the year ahead and any wishes or predictions for the year ahead. My article this week was inspired by a recent article my feminist father forwarded to me from Canada’s National Observer that suggested that the new climate revolution will be led by women. This got me thinking about all the other fabulous female leaders around the world that we’ve seen arise in the last couple years, from political leaders navigating us through the pandemic to social activist fighting for a better world. I can’t yet agree with Beyonce when she suggests it’s girls who run the world (there’s still way to much inequity for that statement), but I do believe one thing to be certain: the future is female.
Feminism Isn’t a Dirty Word
When talking about female influence on the future, we can’t ignore feminism. Feminism often gets a bad rap and often draws visions of angry man-hating, hairy, bra-less women. Though this writer might be a little hairier (hey, it’s winter!), sometimes bra-less (um, breast-feeding calls for easy access), and there are a few men I’m not particularly fond of these days, these attributes don’t contribute to my definition and identity as a proud feminist.
To clarify any misunderstanding, feminism is simply the belief that men and women should be politically, economically, and socially equal. Straightforward as that. More of us are probably feminists unknowingly. After all isn’t equality a reasonable request?
Equality is More Complex Than You Think
We have the same legal rights; doesn’t that make us equals? Not quite. Generations of activists have fought (and some died) for the freedoms we take for granted today, but inequalities today may not be as easily spotted as denying a woman admission into medical school, refusing the female vote, or the acceptable act of patting your secretary on the bottom – but they are there.
In my short life, there have been numerous opposing forces, both individual and societal, that seemed determined to reassert my lesser status. Films have tried to teach me that women should be sexy, but not sexual. Advertising companies have tried to teach me that I can’t be beautiful without product help. History has tried to teach me that I’m too emotional to lead. Fun fact: did you know if you google “female teacher” the first image is a sexy teacher posing on her desk? We need to start asking why.
At my first teaching job six years ago, a male colleague told me that “men were just better at this job” and just last week another referred to me as peripheral “noise” when I spoke my mind. When I’m direct, I’m not seen as assertive, I’m aggressive and it must be “in my nature.”
Economic Inequities Are Still Widespread
Canadian women in executive positions make 56% less than their male counterparts. And still there is an incredible imbalance of who hold these roles. In a 2018 study, only 6 of 100 of Canada’s largest companies were ran by women. The pandemic only widened that gap with a study by the Canadian Women’s Foundation showing women were 10 times more likely to be forced out of their job in 2020.
Fort St. John isn’t excluded from the inequality. A lot of money goes through our town. Statistics Canada reported that our median household income is $107,000. But when you look closer at the 2016 census data, out of the 4980 people in our town that made over $100,000 a year, only 13% were women.
Cheers to the Women Clearing the Path
Despite the social, economic, and political obstacles, women all over the world are making important and powerful differences in the world. Perhaps it’s because for us the status has never been quite quo, but more women are taking up the torch and address global issues like the pandemic, climate change, and systemic racism. Jane Goodall said that “the greatest danger to our future is apathy” and here are a few women who are doing anything but that as we enter 2022.
A Nod to Our Canadian Pandemic Leaders
Though I know that they are not popular among a select few in our town (and I’m sure a vocal few will have some choice words), but I have to tip my hat to Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Theresa Tam. Not only have they essentially put their careers on hold to take on currently one of the most stressful jobs in Canada making impossible decisions, but they have braved the role of human punching bag by the angry internet who often have little understanding of the realities the COVID-19 pandemic has produced. You have my upmost respect and I’m proud to have you both at the helm.
Respect for Rockstar Politicians
Two prime ministers I admire in global politics have to be Sanna Marin from Finland and Jacinda Ardern from New Zealand. Sanna Marin is not only the youngest female state leader at 36 years old, but resides over a coalition government where all five parties are led by women. Proud vegetarian raised by same-sex parents, Marin is credited with navigating her country successfully through the first wave and encourage social media influencers to spread public health information about the pandemic, and has set the ambitious goal of Finland reaching net-zero emissions by 2035. Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, has been credited as one of the most effective leaders on the planet. Her leadership style rooted in empathy and built on swift action and clear communication has made her a rockstar for her people.
Never Too Young to Make Change
Many have heard about Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen who inspired a planet to take action against the climate crisis, but you may not have heard about our own young Canadian activist, Autumn Peltier. Peltier, who challenged Justin Trudeau in 2016 during a face-to-face meeting when she was 12 years old demanding resolution for the water crisis, now a world-renowned environmental activist advocating the impacts of climate change, systemic racism, and gender inequities.
We Should All Be Feminists
I’ve hyped up awesome women in this piece, but it’s important to note that the feminist movement wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of strong feminist men as well. We all need to be fighting for a better world for all and you don’t need to be a world leader to make a difference. As Drew Dudley talks about in his TED Talk, Everday Leadership, “every single one of you has been a catalyst... and made someone’s life better by what you said or did.”
Mamas (and Dads), what if we all started consciously raising our children in a way to remedy these gender inequities? Perhaps your ripple effects would contribute towards a future where women and men are truly politically, economically, and socially equal.
A.M. Cullen lives and writes in Fort St. John. Are you parenting in the Peace? Send in your questions, topics, or suggestions for #MomLife to cover at email@example.com.