December 7, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
You ever think the word "controversy" gets used too often?
I think there are things that are genuinely controversial, and then there are what I call "small c controversies" -- things that people really desperately want to blow out of proportion.
Case in point, a federal Conservative cabinet minister named Keith Ashfield recently had breakfast at the home of a family. You know, one of those adorable photo ops that politicians seem to think is just so adorable (this is something all parties do, BTW).
At this breakfast, he complimented one of the family's young girls. She had made some bread. He ate it, thought it was delicious and told her she would make a great wife one day.
Of course, the CBC was all over this. How dare this white, male, conservative politician say this to the young woman? How dare he limit her to being "just a wife" one day. Have we not evolved past this sexist thinking? BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH CBC BS BLAH BLAH BLAH.
The NDP is upset. The NDP demands the Tory minister for the status of women apologize for the comments her fellow MP made. Typical rhetoric.
Anyway, the young girl in question took to Keith Ashfield's Facebook page and said (and I am paraphrasing here): "hey, I wasn't offended! I made that dish especially for him and he complimented me on it, and it's not fair that people are taking it out of context."
But still! The bloggers, the politicians, the feminists MAINTAIN this is an issue. How dare we suggest this young girl could be a good WIFE when what we probably should suggest is that she could be an excellent BAKER? There's really nothing wrong with that argument, actually. No one wants women to be pigeon-holed into being stuck with the wife/mother life if they don't want it, and really, we should always encourage women to explore their options and realize they can do so much more.
But what, exactly, is so wrong with the suggestion this young woman would be a good wife?
Here's the thing. I hate this BS. The beautiful thing about being a woman in 21st-century North America is that we can be pretty much anything we want to be. We can be professionals with careers. We can be wives. And HOLY CRAP, we could be both! BOTH! Millions of women in North America are both.
The only way anyone should be offended by what Ashfield said to this young girl is if after telling her she would make a good wife one day, he licked his lips and tried to bribe her into a van with some candy.
What is so wrong with addressing the fact that women could possibly become wives one day? Where is the evidence to suggest that becoming a wife is something that the female population doesn't want at some point?
Do we turn a blind eye to the billion-dollar bridal industry? Do we glaze over the fact there are tons of wedding/bride related shows on television every night? What about all the cooking shows hosted by and catered to women? What about all the shows about child rearing, births, mommyhood, etc?
Look, I know there are a lot of women out there who truly believe there is nothing more oppressive than marriage, and you know what? You're entitled to your opinion on the subject. Think what you want. But to take someone's words, a simple compliment like "you're going to make a great wife" and try, through conjecture and rhetoric and nonsense, to turn that into some sort of sexist, malicious comment is a little bit insane, no?
I know so many women who are absolute feminists and they are awesome. They are also wives and mothers. They want to be good wives and mothers! I'm sure it's amazing to get the compliment "hey, you're a great wife/mother." I know some women that would KILL to hear and feel that on a daily basis.
I want to be a wife. People look at me funny when I say this, but it's true. I want to be a wife one day, and dammit, I want to be a good one. If ANYONE told me I was going to make a good wife one day, I'd be happy. I wouldn't take the time to evaluate the f ing context. White, conservative male says I will be a good wife? How dare he! My mom says I will make a good wife? Cue the happy tears!
In addition to being a wife though, I want to be other things. I want to be a writer, I want to maybe underwrite insurance policies, I want to be a talk show host, I want to be something. I don't want to be "just a wife" anymore than I want to be "just a writer." I want to be good and do all the things, you know?
I think there are more women out there like me, ones that want to be wives and have careers and interests and things that happen outside the home, than there are women who want to revert to the 1950s-style wife, or than there are militant feminists who will never, ever waiver in the stance that marriage is oppressive to women.
We all want different things from our lives, and through the work of feminists, we can have those different things. We have the options to do what we want. So just let people do what they want, and instead of being so willing to jump down some politician's throat over a HARMLESS comment, maybe focus on the fact there are still real issues for women in this country.
L.L. is a Winnipeg blogger who loves and loathes downtown in the same breath. Follow her blog at shiftlessandlazy.blogspot.ca
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2013 A10