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Introductions to sections of the Connexions Annual written by Ulli Diemer.
The modern women’s movement has had a profound and far-reaching impact on almost all spheres of society. It has challenged and changed the way women see themselves, their expectations, their treatment in society. It has shaken and transformed relationships and the family, the law, the educational system, the labour movement, and much else.
Yet for all its success, the challenges that remain are enormous. Women with full-time jobs earn about 65% of what men make. Over 50% of one-parent families headed by women are poor, as against 9% of those headed by men. The pension system works against many women, especially those who have been homemakers or who have taken time off from jobs to raise children. 50% of elderly women live in poverty. Women are subjected to violence or harassment in the home, the workplace, and on the street. The number of women’s shelters is nowhere near to meeting the need. Women’s right to reproductive choice, to control over their own bodies, uncertain to begin with, is under attack.
Because women tend to be poorer and economically more vulnerable, they are also hit harder by many of the other problems that exist in Canadian society. Non-existent or inadequate child care services make it harder for women to earn a decent living. A lack of affordable housing hits single mothers and elderly women particularly hard. Native women, immigrant women, and women who belong to visible minorities are disadvantaged even within their own communities. Free trade is expected to be especially devastating to industries like textiles which have a high concentration of older female workers.
These problems continue because they are built into the structure of Canadian society, and also because there are still many forces which reinforce sexism in public and private life, and which socialize our children into that system.
The various elements of the women’s movement have adopted a wide variety of strategies to challenge sexist structures and ideology. Some groups are working to fight discrimination in the workplace. Others are providing services to battered, disabled, or immigrant women, services designed to help them take control over their own lives. Many groups focus on education or self-help.
Whatever the particular focus, many women’s groups are united by the idea that the women’s movement needs to concern itself with the entire social system, and with the nature of human relationships within that social system. They believe that the liberation of women cannot be achieved unless the whole system of oppressive and unjust structures is confronted, and equally that those structures cannot be dismantled unless the oppression of women within them is forcefully challenged.
This perspective applies also to movements for social change, who have been and are being forced to confront their own sexism and their own oppression of the women within them, and in the process are themselves being transformed even as they work to transform society.
Aussi disponible en français:
Connexions: Introduction au chapitre des femmes
También disponible en español: El Anuario de Conexiones: Introducción al Capítulo de las Mujeres.
Other Overview Articles from the Connexions Annual:
Introduction to the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Arts, Media, Culture section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Community, Urban, Housing section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Development, International section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Economy, Poverty, Work section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Education, Children section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Environment, Land Use, Rural section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Health section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Human Rights, Civil Liberties section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Lesbians, Gays section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Native Peoples section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Peace section of the Connexions Annual