Our northern neighbors are known as a fairly easygoing lot. But right on the heels of the Olympics, a tempest kicked up in Canada over a proposal to changing language in the national anthem, “O Canada,” to be gender-neutral. Chastened by an uproar from Newfoundland to British Columbia, they recently dropped the idea.
One comment I read from an offended Canadian has had me seething for a week. About the idea of gender-neutral lyrics, she said
this: “It’s like women who refuse to change their names,” says one 30-something Canadian woman. “It’s so second-wave.”
’60s and ’70s – notably in the workplace and in social attitudes – resulted in rigid, one-size-fits-all definitions of what and who qualifies as feminist.
Third-wavers reject these definitions and stereotypes – one of which is that to be a feminist, a woman must keep her birth name. And it’s their privilege to hold that opinion.
I can say that, because, like the offended Canadian quoted above, I’m a woman living in one of the most literate, wealthy, peaceful and healthy nations on the planet. A nation where people women can state their beliefs, even controversial ones, without fear of censure or repercussions, whether they be political, physical, sexual or emotional.
Here’s the thing, though: Not everyone does. Billions of women alone live in the bottom half of the countries that scored the lowest on the UN’s Global Gender Gap index. which measures women’s parity – or lack thereof – with men in terms of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival. That health and survival are even part of the scale should give feminists from developed nations pause.
When there’s places in our world where pregnancy and childbirth are a major health risk, where patrilineal inheritance laws make widows into indentured servants, where girls as young as 10 can be married, we need waves – more and more and more of them, rippling from privileged Western nations to the shores of sub-Saharan Africa and the Persian Gulf and Middle Eastern countries where women’s lives face the most dire prospects.
It’s a little early for baseball season, and I know Canada’s only got one team now. But I think it’s still time to stand up and make a wave.