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During the past few weeks, I’ve been stumbling over many anti-feminist websites.  It may be that they’ve always been there and just coming across one or two has led me down a path to many more. 

Anti-feminism is not new but the sites I’m reading recently seem a lot more vicious and hateful than they used to be. It’s pretty disheartening.

Back in the ’90s, I wrote a feminist column in The Daily News in Halifax.  I was asked — specifically — to write a feminist column.  That seems very surprising to me now.  I can’t imagine anyone being asked to do that today.

I look back at those columns every now and then and it’s discouraging to see that many of them are still relevant.  They could have been written this week.  I plan to add some of them to the archives of this website as time goes on.

But reading the anti-feminist websites awakened an old memory that I hadn’t thought of for awhile.  Feminism  for many people in the “developed world” means pay equity, reproductive choice, unlimited education and career opportunities, legal and social rights that are more recent than we think.

Before I was a journalist, I was a nurse, trained at the exceptional Montreal General Hospital, and a working nurse in different Montreal hospitals.  When I began, universal health care was but a wish and a rumour and we’ve all heard stories about those times.

What is less well-documented was that not so long ago, a woman could not consent to surgery or other invasive treatments for herself or her children. Even in cases where the husband/father had long since left the family, his signature was required before his wife could have surgery — life-saving or otherwise.

I can remember long detective-like searches for a senior male relative — the father would do if there were no husband – so that some sick woman could be treated.  As a last resort, the Chief Surgeon of the hospital could sign the consent form but he (it was always a he) was usually reluctant to do so.

If we stop to think about it on a day-to-day basis, many women are probably grateful that we can, on our own, get a mortgage or a bank loan, a credit card, a divorce, a law degree, a baby – some of which were not possible, others of which were much more difficult, not that many years ago. 

Feminism changed that and much more but perhaps most of us don’t think of feminism as changing what was often a dramatic life and death situation for women and their children.

4 Responses

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