(Left to right, William Gairdner, Leo Strauss, Allan Bloom)
I Burned my Bra For This? REAL Women of Canada and the Men Behind Them
I first read Susan Faludi's 1991 classic, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, several years ago, and I remember thinking that we were lucky to be living in Canada.
We had our male chauvinists, but government policy reflected, at least the notion of equality for women. We certainly knew of the U.S. 'Moral Majority', which later became the 'Religious Right', but as of yet, we had not been inflicted.
Reading the book again, 20 years later, Faludi could be writing about the Harper government and Canada's Religious Right.
When she discusses the influences of the Chicago School, and their Committee on Social Thought, she could just as easily be talking about our own Calgary School, that has gifted us with Stephen Harper, Pierre Poilievre and other like minded neocons.
And just as Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, succinctly outlines western imperialism, Faludi's Backlash clearly lays out the neoconservative feminine agenda.
She devotes part of a chapter to Allan Bloom, a student of Leo Strauss, and author of the book, The Closing of the American Mind. Harper's counterpart is William Gairdner, a founding member of the Reform Party, whose misogyny is so profound, that in 2007, he became the topic of a paper written by Donna L. Lillian, Assistant Professor of Discourse and Linguistics in the Department of English at East Carolina University: A thorn by any other name: sexist discourse as hate speech, which centered around Gairdner, and analyzed "Canadian neoconservative discourse as racist, sexist, and homophobic."
"In arguing that at least some sexist discourse should be considered hate speech, I first demonstrate that the popular discourse of Canadian neoconservative author William D. Gairdner is sexist.... Sexism, the ideology and practice of relegating women to a lower rung on the social hierarchy than men simply by virtue of their femaleness, is an integral component of neoconservative thinking, and one way that such sexism is produced and reproduced is through language"Gairdner has actually been compared to Bloom and his The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals, is hauntingly similar to Bloom's Closing of the American Mind.
But it is Gairdner's The Trouble With Canada, that was sold at Reform Party assemblies, that best defines Harper's anti-feminist policies.
Allan Bloomberg and William Gairdner
The establishment came down with a constitutional package which they put to a national referendum. The package included distinct society status for Quebec and some other changes, including some that would just horrify you, putting universal Medicare in our constitution, and feminist rights, and a whole bunch of other things. (Stephen Harper, 1997 speech to Council for National Policy)Susan Faludi writes of Allan Bloom:
Ostensibly about the decline in American education, Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind dedicates page after page to an assault on the women's movement. Whether he's deploring the state of scholarship, the emasculating tendencies of music, or the transience of student relationships, the baleful influence he identifies is always the same: the feminist transformation of society that has filled women with demands and desires and depleted men of vim and vigor. "The latest enemy of the vitality of the classic texts is feminism," he writes; concerted attacks on the literary canon from '60s student radicals and minorities pale in comparison, he says. Even the sexual revolution, Bloom's other bete noire, cast as a mere warm-up exercise to the "grimmer" rule of feminist tyranny. "The July 14 of the sexual revolution," he writes, "was really only a day between the overthrow of the Ancient Regime and the onset of the Terror."The bachelor Bloom writes very little of the problem with education, but a great deal of ink was used to paint the women's movement as a terrorist attack on America, and his paranoia that universities had succumbed to the terror of the radical feminist.
[Bloom] a Plato scholar teaches at the University of Chicago, where he has retreated to the conservative, and practically all-male, bunker of the Committee on Social Thought (which had only one woman on its faculty): "I'm protected in my eccentric ivory tower," he says. "It's worse in the departments." When venturing outside the committee's demilitarized zone, he treads warily. "It's hard to explain to people who aren't in the universities how extraordinary it is," he says, comparing his lot to a shell-shocked refugee bearing atrocity stories: "I'm like one of the first people out of Cambodia."Gairdner also speaks of "radical feminists" in Canada and how they too have influenced teaching, or what he refers to as "brain washing". He quotes the more extreme advocates for the movement, while ignoring the fact that there are legitimate grievances.
According to Bloom's report from the front, feminists have invaded every academic sanctuary—a view shared by the many male scholars denouncing "political correctness" in the early '90s. "One finds it in all the various departments. They have made tremendous changes in courses. But more than that, in the old established courses with traditionalist books, a huge number [of professors] are teaching from that point of view. You study American history now, and what is America but the history of the enslavement of women! There's no question but it's become the doctrine." (1)
Instead, he suggests that men are the ones being victimized.
So woe betide us if men ever manifest the same lack of confidence in themselves as women have done for the past few decades and start a worldwide "masculinist" movement. That would have lots of fodder.Gairdner wrote those words in a follow up to The Trouble With Canada, The Trouble With Canada ... Still. Hard to imagine that he would think that way in 2010, but his arguments provide an excellent case for equality, to free both men and women from the "stereotype-burden".
For example, men carry a disproportionate "death burden" in society. They die much younger than women do; there is a "life gap" favouring women all over the world. They are also vastly more often the victims of violent crime - than are women. They also suffer outright discrimination in wartime: over 120,000 Canadian men have been killed in battle, 150 in Afghanistan as of this writing; and a handful of women, of which three in Afghanistan. Men also suffer an unfair anti-emotional bias, and a stereotype-burden: we say "men can take it"—so listen, don't even think about crying, eh? Society also unfairly expects men (not women) to compete financially for their entire lives, and face scorn and failure if they can't hack it. Boys begin to feel this expectation in big way when they are about fifteen. They don't have the same safe harbour default option of homemaking and child-rearing as women do. (2)
As to men being the victims of violent crime more often than women, men also perpetrate violent crime more often than women. And few women have that "safe harbour default option of homemaking and child-rearing", even if they wanted it.
What this really boils down to for men like Bloom and Gairdner, is that they are losing their status, when just being male opened all the doors. They truly believe that men are superior and resent any notion that they're not.
Perhaps what troubled Bloom was not so much that the feminist-tainted American mind was closing—but that it was closing against him. In 1970, Bloom felt compelled to flee his Ivy League haven for Canada. -The guns at Cornell," as he characterized the student uprising, drove him out. While only a very few of the guns were in women's hands, they are the ones he most vividly recalls—and resents. "That's when I began encountering the feminists," he recalls of Cornell, which was one of the first college campuses to establish a women's studies program. "The feminists started speaking very strongly.... Some of them are students who have since become well known. They were mostly women doing comparative literature who got a lot of attention."Understanding the influence of the 'Chicago School', brought to Canada by the 'Calgary School', is important if we are to understand the Harper agenda.
While these women were building their careers and collecting their kudos, he felt exiled for ten bitter years at the University of Toronto. "I was lost," he told a reporter later. Two years into his expatriate post, at the relatively young age of forty-one, he suffered a heart attack. Finally, after two years of negotiations, he received a faculty appointment at the University of Chicago. But even there he remained, in his word, a "nobody." (1)
This is not just about imperialism, neoconservatism, racism, sexism, and all the other 'isms'. It is a total "movement", influenced by men like Leo Strauss, Friedrich Von Hayek, Milton Friedman and Allan Bloom; and absorbed by Stephen Harper and the Reform Party (now calling themselves the Conservative party of Canada).
All of these men are deceased (with the exception of Gairdner), but their legacy lives on in the Republican Party, the Tea Party and the current Canadian government.
Defunding the Status for Women, promoting male sports and traditionally male occupations, is only part of the incremental steps in destroying everything so many women fought for.
Harper likes to suggest that he has many women in his cabinet and caucus, but they are women who sit down and shut up and do as they're told. They hardly represent us.
We'd better start paying attention.
1. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, By Susan Faludi, Crown publishing, 1991, ISBN: 0-385-42507-4, Pg. 290-296
2. The Trouble With Canada ... Still: A Citizen Speaks Out, By William D. Gairdner, Key Porter Books, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-55470-247-3, Pg. 238-240