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Stan Carew is the lovable host of CBC Radio One’s Weekend Mornings, heard across the three Maritime provinces on both Saturday and Sunday. It’s a very popular show — rightly so, as it’s simultaneously current and nostalgic, sophisticated and whimsical, cozy and worldly.

Over the Christmas holidays, Weekend Mornings played to the whole nation a couple of times. This is always fun and it’s easy to tell that Stan, Deputy Doug Barron and Duke, the studio stallion are excited and challenged to play to a whole different audience. The dynamic changes.

The week after the national show, Stan played some of the very positive feedback from around the country.

And then, he said sombrely, we got this. “This” was a rather scolding response from a woman in Ontario to a Spike Jones song that he’d played on New Year’s weekend. I had heard it and I had a real “what-were-you-thinking-Stan?” moment at the time. It’s an awful song. It has no redeeming social value: it’s not cute or funny or saucy or satirical.

The caller was hard on Stan. She said he should be removed from his position.

Stan sounded hurt and bewildered, which annoyed me.

It would be nice if we could consider that song an artifact, an amusing reminder that we can dig up to show why things needed to be changed. But women and girls live every day in a world that diminishes, ridicules and marginalizes their lives. It’s there in advertising, in music, in film, in politics, in religion. It’s in the language and in the attitudes and in the “jokes.” Because I continue to point this out, I’ve spent much of my adult life being told to lighten up, get a sense of humour, “he didn’t really mean anything by it. It was a joke!”

Just last week, I was in the company of a gaggle of grade four kids — four boys, one girl. The boys were rambunctious, inappropriately noisy for where they were and eventually, their adult supervisor raised his voice to them. “Try to behave more like her,” he said, nodding toward the lone girl. The boys hooted and chortled and fake-gagged. “Should we grow our hair long and wear pink? Play with — yecch — Barbie? Go shopping? Run like this?” Their contempt and disdain were palpable. They’re 10 years old.

I have been an active and vocal feminist since the ’70s, at first working for rights that women had never had and later, trying to salvage and retain those rights that have been gained which are now threatened on a daily basis. Stephen Harper, with his minority government, has stripped bare those federal departments which had anything to do with levelling the Canadian — and the world — playing field.

Anti-feminists — feeling very emboldened these days — can haul out their statistics about numbers of women in university and in the professions but in fact, many women continue to live in poverty in precarious employment situations and in dangerous home environments. Women still struggle to have their families and raise their children within systems that have not changed to accommodate their biology and — only partly because of that — women are still earning much less than men are in most workplaces.

Women and girls face judgement every time they walk out their front door, every time they pick up a magazine that tells them they’re too fat or watch a television commercial that demands more and more of their time and energy to meet ever-changing impossible beauty standards.

People who say that the struggle for women’s equality is over and that feminism is therefore passé are not paying attention. It is disheartening for those of us who are paying attention to have to get up every morning and put out the same brush fires, day after day after day. It’s tiring.

And Stan? That’s why the woman who called from Ontario took you so strongly to task. She had just come through the Christmas season — as the rest of us had — and she had probably been dealing with family members and co-workers who’d had too much to drink. Clearly, she had just had it up to here and Spike Jones was just the final straw.

P.S. To all those defenders of Stan who called in and told him not to give in to those crying for “censorship”: Making choices for a playlist is not censorship. Radio hosts choose and reject songs for all kind of reasons — rightly so — and it is simply silly to use the word “censorship” in this situation.

2 Responses

  1. #1
    Mary-Ann Browne 

    I have read, and marvelled, at your wonderful words…I’m sure your nursing background has enriched your powerful insight into the burning issues of today, esp. for women. Thank you for this, Sharon — keep them coming.

    Your robbery story was particularly touching…so sorry you went through all that trauma. Gives more insight into those events we hear about every day. Loved that Christmas one too….

    Take great care…

  2. #2
    Robert Ross 

    Hello Sharon – Chatham High is long gone but great memories persist. I remember you and your family well. I want to commend you on your initiative and wisdom in writing about Stan Carew. His death now puts many things in a different perspective. The communication industry is often formidable for those sensitive souls who try to soften and refocus hardened attitudes which seem to prevail everywhere. Thanks, Sharon – you are a Miramichier of whom we all can be proud.

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