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With another Federal Election looming large here in Canada, I can’t help but worry about the complacency that exists in North American countries when it comes to voting. None of us ever thought that an out-of-control narcissist / bully / chauvinist / wannabe dictator could become President of the United States. The leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world. And that’s the problem: people didn’t think it would happen and didn’t bother to place their votes to ensure that it wouldn’t. I’m talking about a great variety of people including: university students, educated but disillusioned Millennials or Gen Xers, middle-class women.
The fact that only two thirds of eligible women vote worries me because I feel that women have a good deal more to lose. If women don’t vote, they allow the other voters, in other words men, to place into office the people who decide everything for them, including their rights. The anti-abortion laws that have been passed in several US states this year is an exclamation point that women should stand up and take notice of. Women’s rights in the US appear to be going backwards and we should all be worried. I honestly thought this battle was in the past and over, that the women of this particular democratic modern country would be able to keep control over their reproductive rights.
In Canada the laws are different, but everything that happens in the US has a tendency to overflow and affect our country. Racism, in particular, has become more blatant here after a few years of hearing the extreme and bigoted rhetoric from the out-of-control narcissist south of the boarder. Every country has radical right-wing citizens, but do we want them in power? During Federal elections in Canada, the abortion issue always comes up. There are still people who want it on the agenda, with hopes of finding the right leader who will push it forward for them or at least allow their party members an open vote on the matter. And some leaders will, because they want to appease as many voters as possible. Anything concerning women’s rights is a deal breaker for me. I will certainly not vote for any party whose leader is willing to take us backwards by allowing his or her members to open up the abortion debate.
North American women seem to have forgotten how long it took the gain the rights that we currently have. The right to be considered a person and not the property of a man. The right to own property. The right to vote. The right to earn a fair and equal wage. The right to have control over our own bodies. Rights that many women in other parts of the world would love to have.
We all know that things are not perfect. Some things, like the right to earn a fair and equal wage are still a work in progress, but are moving in a positive direction. Women still have challenges when running for and holding political office. Those who do need to be confident and thick skinned. The cards are often stacked against them. These women do it because they want to make a difference and add a female prospective and because they have the right to. This too will continue to move in a positive direction if we show up and vote for forward-thinking leaders.
In August 1917, a group of women in Washington were demonstrating for the right to vote. These women were shot at and arrested. They were sentenced to 30 days in the Occoquan Workhouse where they were beaten, brutalized, humiliated and fed maggots and lice. They were treated like animals–actually worse than animals. (For more information: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/women-who-dont-vote-explain-yourselves-to-grandma-flanagan/2018/11/05/a728383e-e120-11e8-b759-3d88a5ce9e19_story.html)
Canada’s story was a little more peaceful but not easy. The attitude that, “nice women didn’t want to vote,” was pressed upon suffragist Nellie McClung, a writer with a sense of humour, who created a mock women’s parliament that publicly argued that nice men didn’t want the vote. Yay Nellie! (For more information: http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/32/womenwonthevote.shtml)
Manitoba was the first Canadian province to legalize women’s right to vote in 1916. Women in the province of Quebec didn’t receive that right until 1940. It was 1951 for those in the Northwest Territories. First Nations peoples, both men and women, didn’t get the right to vote, without relinquishing their status, until 1960. When you put these dates into perspective, they are not that long ago. And when it comes to governments, nothing is engraved in stone, so we should not take our right to vote or any of our other rights for granted.
In my very small circle, I know of at least two women who have admitted that they don’t vote. These same two women also confessed to not reading or watching any news. This scares the hell out of me. These women, and all the other women like them, risk being blindsided by current events that could drastically change their lives. We have so much information at our fingertips these days that there is no excuse to be unaware of what’s happening. I don’t profess to know everything that is going on in Canada or the World, but I take some time every day to check headlines and then read the things that interest or impact me. I make sure that I am aware of our political leaders’ stance on the things that are important to me. Things like my rights and the environment. This takes less than twenty minutes out of my day.
As far as voting goes, it is so easy to vote in Canada and, I will assume, in the US. We don’t have to travel far or line up for hours. We don’t have to worry about being threatened or beaten. It takes about the same amount of time that it would to paint your toenails or pluck your eyebrows, or review your Instagram account or Facebook feed. Perhaps less. It doesn’t matter whether the election is municipal or federal, it is important to stop making excuses and go vote. Because if you don’t, you may find yourself, sometime in the future, in a situation where you have lost your rights and no longer have the ability to provide input that can influence the decisions of the people in power. The last thing any of us wants is another out-of-control narcissist / bully / chauvinist / wannabe dictator, or even someone with only one of these characteristics, in charge.