Does feminism still matter: a question unanswered

On Oct. 25 a panel of women in Toronto got together to discuss their disparate experiences with feminism.

At YWCA’s autumn panel, three women each with their own areas of expertise spoke about the pros and cons of feminism. An unnerving task but nonetheless it brought in a crowd that spilled over on the stairs, eagerly awaiting the answer to the question asked, “does feminism improve women’s lives?”

Pam Palmater, a professor at Ryerson University, started off the discussion by proclaiming she was not a feminist.

“No one’s going to boo me?” Palmater laughed before explaining herself.

She was awarded YWCA’s Woman of Distinction in the Social Justice category this year, with her key research being in indigenous communities. Palmater explains that growing up in a first nation reserve, she was taught that Mi’kmaq communities focused on “equal love”. Since the indigenous population is not part of the European or North American majority, feminism does not nearly have a great effect on it as hoped. Palmater says that she call herself a “decolonist”, someone who would rather partake in the process of removing the mark that colonization left on so many communities.

“I don’t think the problem is gender, it’s more about what happened when colonization came to North America and all power shifted to the white male,” said Palmater.

Haideh Moghissi is professor at York University and left Iran after forming Iranian National Union of Women in 1984. Moghissi says she lives in exile because she is a “proud feminist”.

She chose to talk about identities and that as times change, the woman’s identity must also change.

“People have fluid, multiple identities,” said Moghissi.

Ann Decter, part of the staff at YWCA, prepared a powerpoint covering the long history of feminism in Canada and America. She discussed every point briefly and succinctly explaining that feminism has very obviously changed the course of history, bringing women closer to become equal counterparts to men. She believes that gender is still the biggest discriminatory quality today.

After taking a moment to discuss, the audience decided that while feminism has influenced women in an incredibly positive way, it is not as inclusive as it should be in this day and age. The feminism movement is still pushing away minorities and even the most unanticipated group: men.

Want to read more about feminism and the turn it has taken from its more liberating days? A review on Noami Wolf’s, “Vagina”.