Women and the Canadian Welfare State: Challenges and Change

>> Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Evans, Patricia M. And Gerda R. Wekerle, Eds. Women and the Canadian
Welfare State: Challenges and Change
. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1997. Ebrary.

*sigh* This book just depresses me. I read it. I retained a lot of it it was- much easier than many of them because THIS one I lived through and even, to some extent, was paying attention. I was, for example, a beneficiary of Ontario's Pay Equity Legislation, which, after several years of wrangling and being told that there were no male comparators that they could AFFORD to compare us to, finally resulted in a very nice pay raise.

The book is a collection of essays that for the most part deals with the period between 1985 - 1995 and the hollowing out of the Canadian welfare state - and especially, the potential (at that point) for significant harm to women, and especially, to the progress that feminist organizations had made during the 60s & 70s.

I found it depressing because, for the most part, the authors were exactly right. Throughout the whole book, the one recurring message is that we have to pay attention. We have to take action. Or else....

and here we are... in or-else hell.... pretty much all of the things they warned of have indeed come to pass.... only more-so.....

Neoliberalism - or, as Dr. Marjorie Griffin Cohen terms it in her essay, vampire capitalism, has indeed prevailed, and the women's movement - although still around in various (under/un-funded factions) - faces serious challenges.... not the least of which is that a lot of people - young women, especially, think that the battle is over; we've come as far as we need to; it's all good now....

except that IT. IS. NOT.

We were, for a bit, drawing closer in terms of pay equity ... but now we're moving in the absolute wrong direction again. All of those people that used to be cared for in nursing homes, hospitals (for much longer than they are now), and institutions did not suddenly become independent... and guess who is providing the majority of at home or in the community care?

Institutions were not great solutions for a lot of people - and it is great that we're no longer warehousing people the way we were (with the exception of the many, many, many mentally ill people who we are now "caring for" -~gag~ - in our prisons) .... but such closures mean that a whole lot more people are caring for people and not getting paid for it ...and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell us that the majority of the people doing that unpaid caring work are women.

One of the essays that I found the most disturbing was "The Shift to Market: Gender and Housing Disadvantage" by Wekerle. Her discussion about housing and the impact of cuts warned of the potential harm specifically to women .... while I was reading it, the thought occured to me that here is one are we are making some ~progress~ toward equality.... in 2004, the National Working Group on Women and Housing reported that young women account for 41% of youth staying in shelters, and the percentage increases as they age. There are lots of other statistics in that fact sheet too, if you need further evidence that issues of women's equality are losing ground and that there is still work to do.

The scariest part of fact sheets like that, though, is not the actual statistics, although those are disturbing enough - it is that, as Dr. Meg Luxton observed when she spoke to my women's studies class, a few years from now we won't have reliable statistics about many of the things they tell us. By ending the mandatory long form census, Harper & Co. are ensuring that we just won't have StatisticsCanada data to draw on.

Anyway, once again I feel as though I have barely scratched the surface of potential discussion points in this book... but time to move on and tackle the next.

Still have 3/4 that I have read but not yet blogged about... perhaps tomorrow...

For now, I'm moving on to bell hooks.... or maybe....FOOD first, then bell hooks. The chocolate I ate for lunch (on top of the pot of coffee I had for breakfast) just isn't cutting it! I need protein.


  • Stephanie Barr

    One of the things I've found interesting is that, in third world nations (which--surprise!--tend to have women as second class citizens), investing in women specifically has had the most significant and positive economic impact.

    Whereas additional income to a man stands a good chance to go for drink and prostitution, when it is given to women, it usually goes for food and education for the children. Go figure.

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