Not To Be Trusted With Knives

{February 1, 2008}  

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hearing Gloria Steinem1 speak at fund raiser luncheon for BC Women’s Hospital, an event at which my office had a table. Being an event for a women’s hospital, Steinem spoke about her passion for women’s health an its importance for the women’s movement.

Some interesting things from her talk:

  • she reiterated a point that I find I’m often making when I support feminism – feminism isn’t man-hating; in fact, equality of the sexes benefits men as well as women. One example: all the focus (e.g., US Congressional Hearings) on the birth control pill when it first came out not only ensured that women had that option to control their own means of reproduction, but results in patient information being required on all prescription drugs – which benefits men as well as women.
  • the suffrage movement came from First Nations women. European women, brought to North America basically as “chattel” saw First Nations women living in a more egalitarian way than the European women had ever seen and thought “hey, we want that!”
  • change is hard! Change requires work! She used the analogy of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly… apparently, the cells of the caterpillar body don’t just passively die to make way for the butterfly cells; they fight it and, in the process, become like this gel on which the emerging butterfly cells feed. Change is struggle, but in the end we get to be a butterfly. =)

Also, Pamela Martin was the MC and told an interesting story about getting married in the early 1970s and making the then-controversial decision to not change her last name. When she went to get a passport, they made her fill out a “change of name” form because, by their reasoning, by not changing her name at marriage, which women are “supposed” to do, she was, in effect, changing her name to her maiden name. “I, Pamela Martin, swear that I’m changing my name to… Pamela Martin.”2

As a total coincidence, the day before I got an email from the library that a book I had put in a request for months and months ago was finally in – Full Frontal Feminism. So I expect you’ll be hearing more from me on feminism in the near future (including a review of a book on evolutionary psychology, “Why Do Beautiful People Have More Daughters,” which I finished a little while ago, but haven’t got around to reviewing yet.)

1So, I just read the Wikipedia entry on Steinem while grabbing the URL to link to her name and discovered that she’s Christian Bale‘s stepmom; further, she:

led the National Organization of Women to block the original publication of the book, American Psycho, and to convince actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, not to take the lead in the movie version.

Starring in American Psycho, of course, being one of Bale’s claims to fame.  Another thing I noticed from Wikipedia… some of the sentences from the entry on Steinem seem very familiar. I’m 99% certain the person who introduced Steinem (and it wasn’t Pamela Martin) took sentences directly from Wikipedia… in particular, I remember:

She attended Smith College, where she remains active. In 1963 she was employed as a Playboy Bunny at the New York Playboy Club to research an article that exposed how women were treated at the clubs.


Her 1962 article in Esquire magazine about the way in which women are forced to choose between a career and marriage preceded Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique by one year


Steinem remains on the masthead as one of six founding editors

2This reminds me of when my ex and I went to Hamilton City Hall to apply for our marriage license. They made us swear on a Bible that everything in our application (including our declaration that we are atheists) was true.  “I, Beth, swear on this Bible that I don’t believe in this Bible.”

I just read this over on the Quirks & Quarks blog:

No science in the PM’s ear: Canada dismisses National Science Adviser at its peril

Apparently “Prime Minister”1 Stephen Harper is eliminating the position of National Science Adviser, less than 4 years after the position was created.

I remember when Dr. Art Carty was appointed as Canada’s first ever National Science Adviser, the office of which was situated in the Privy Council Office2, and there were high hopes among the scientific community that there was finally someone to advise the Prime Minister on scientific issues. I mean, it was 2004 and we hadn’t had a science adviser to the P.M. before? Wtf? Shortly after his appointment, I got to meet Dr. Carty at a science outreach conference; he sat with me and a few of my friends during one of the conference sessions, during which my friend Erika dropped the F-bomb in front of him. True story.

Soon after “P.M.” S.H. took power, the Office of the N.S.A. was moved down from the Privy Council Office to Industry Canada, meaning that the N.S.A. was now to report to the Minister of Industry Canada, not directly to the P.M. This move happened with little fanfare as far as I can tell, as I hadn’t even heard3 about this move until I read these new stories about the N.S.A. being eliminated altogether. Or, in the government’s lingo, “phased out.”

But really, why would the P.M. need someone to advise them on scientific issues anyway?  It’s not like science is important or anything… I mean, climate change, stem cells, alternative energy, mad cow, bird flu, biotechnology… these things never come up in matters of policy, right?

1Sorry, but much like I have trouble calling the Reform-Party-In-Sheep’s-Clothing the “Conservatives” or calling Gordon Campbell’s party the “Liberals,” I just can’t bring myself to think of S.H. as the P.M.
2 Meaning that he reported directly to the P.M.
3And I’m usually up on such things.

et cetera