Why is everyone so afraid of the “F” word?

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by Julie Wong

Being on the board of a women’s professional group and often also referred to as a “feminist” group, a loaded term that conjures negative associations. Although I fully support the endeavors to empower women and girls, I’ve also often felt the need to defend myself of the relevance of my stand on gender equality and my involvement in the group. The feminist stigma baffles as the cause emphasizes advocacy and equality rather than female chauvinism (something that I do not condone).

Feminism may have assumed different forms under different situations and contexts in history. I alsorecognize that the days of activism and past perceptions are hard to let go of so rather than focusing on definitions, I would like to reflect on the achievements of the movement, as October is Women’s History month in Canada.

October marks many important events that have given women and girls rights and privileges that we take for granted because they are so fundamental to our daily lives. On Oct 18, 1929, a court decision gave every woman in Canada over the age of 21 who was a British subject (not including persons of visible minority) the right to vote. Before this, women were not considered “persons” for all purposes under the British North American Act. The famous five, Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and Henrietta Muir Edwards campaigned and persuaded the government to direct the Supreme Court to rule on whether women were indeed “persons.” This decision was first rejected, appealed and then approved eight years later. This important achievement has given women to basic human rights which include the right to vote and a right to an education.

It has been evident that by empowering women as social, economic and political leaders creates more representative and effective governments and institutions. Women offer unique contributions that will benefit society as a whole. With changes in perception of women and their role in society, there has been increasing numbers of women in careers that have been considered in the past to be non-traditional, most notably in engineering, science and technology. The Society of Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST) would not be possible if it were not for our trailblazing founders who showed us the endless opportunities and possibilities in a field that did not always welcome women.

While gender equality is multifaceted with women representing a spectrum of ethnicities and we must also recognize that there are developing countries that still struggle with sexism and human rights; it is important to remember the history and strides that have been made to advance the status of women to what it is today.

In recognition of Women’s History month I encourage you to visit the following events and links:
Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology
University Women’s Club Events: Person’s Day_Oct 21_2012 Event
Herstory Café: http://www.herstorycafe.ca/
October 11: UN has just declared the first International Day of the Girl

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