Oh Canada! For Once, Political Correctness is Stopped Cold

From Reuters.

Don’t mess with a century-old tradition even if it is sexist, Canadians told the Conservative government this week, forcing Ottawa to scrap plans to make the country’s national anthem gender-neutral.
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For nearly 100 years, the anthem has included the line, “True patriot love in all thy sons’ command.”

In a major policy speech last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government had proposed referring these lyrics to a committee to review its gender neutrality. But

Complaints from irked citizens poured in to radio and television shows, invoking the sanctity of national symbols and tradition.

When I first read the offending line, I took “sons” to mean all of Canada’s progeny, regardless of gender, just as I’ve always understood “mankind” to mean all members of Homo sapien sapien and so on, down the list of words and terms which are purportedly offensive as they are gender-biased.
However, not everyone in Canada sees it that way.

The opposition Liberals called it a gimmick proving the Conservatives were not serious about women’s rights.

Here’s an idea: let’s judge a country’s attitude towards women not by words but by their treatment under law, in politics (in the United States, for example, all parties are eager to have women run for office) and by tradition (i.e., all children regardless of gender having equal standing in an inheritence, unless a will specifies otherwise). It strikes me that the final step to this considerable progress is to celebrate it by entertaining the possibility that genderized words become gender neutral in certain contexts. Including that of a nation’s anthem.

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11 years ago

There is no formally accepted gender-neutral pronoun in English to describe a person generally, so the default was set to “he.” Was this due to sexism? Probably, but it doesn’t ultimately matter which gender was selected as the default or why, just like it doesn’t matter which side of the road we drive on as long as we pick one. I would prefer a gender-neutral pronoun instead, but it’s just not there.
When “forward-thinking” people use “she” to describe the doctor or lawyer or businessperson generally, it’s not that it is just an unusual preference, it is confusing toward the reader and grammatically incorrect.
Don’t even get me started on hyphenated names.

11 years ago

“Here’s an idea: let’s judge a country’s attitude towards women not by words but by their treatment under law, in politics (in the United States, for example, all parties are eager to have women run for office) and by tradition (i.e., all children regardless of gender having equal standing in an inheritence, unless a will specifies otherwise).”
So what is the percentage of women in the U.S. Senate? And why don’t you add economic consideration to your list of metrics? I’d say equal pay for equal work is a good measure by any standard (note, Canada is one of the worst in the industrialized world in this regard), or how about the number women of CEOs or on corporate boards?

11 years ago

Russ, when you control for job self-selection and pregnancies, there is no real disparity. Please educate yourself. There is already exactly what you describe: equal pay for equal work. What you are really talking about is paying women more for equal work as some sort of affirmative action stimulus/handout.

11 years ago

Gee, thanks Dan (notably provided without data).
Self selection is irrelevant in this context (equal pay for equal work, not average or median income). And why should I have to adjust for pregnancy? I say penalizing motherhood is shameful.
You also seem to assume that women should bear an inordinate amount of the childcare responsibility? As a father with small kids, I see this all the time (the assumption at work that my wife should handle sick kids, daycare pickups, etc.).
Some education for you… Women Earn Less Than Men, Especially at the Top

In most jobs, the gap between men’s and women’s earnings narrows greatly when you adjust for factors like career path and experience. But at the top of the income scale — jobs paying more than $100,000 — the salary gap between equally qualified men and women is still vast…
In other words, theorizes Mr. Lee, jobs in which quality is easier to measure are more likely to be compensated based on merit, so equally qualified men and women are likely to receive equal pay. On the other hand, in jobs where quality measures are more subjective, meritocracy may not rule, and men may be better compensated for reasons other than their qualifications. For example, perhaps men are subconsciously viewed as more competent than women, or are more adept at negotiating for raises.

11 years ago

Russ, you misunderstand what I mean by self-selection. Women themselves choose lower-paying, more “comfortable” jobs. 9 out of 10 workplace fatalities happen to men because men take more dangerous or dirtier jobs that pay relatively more, like plumber or electrician. You will never be able to find a man and a woman with the same qualifications in the same exact job position making disparate salaries. Besides being prohibited by very plaintiff-friendly and lucrative federal and state law, it would make no sense for businesses to behave that way. If it were true, why wouldn’t they just hire all women, pay them less for “equal work,” and get a competitive advantage? What you are trying to do is argue across jobs, across experience gaps, and then make broad sweeping statements about “unequal pay”, but the devil is in the details and your argument breaks down when you actually look at individual positions within companies. The article you link to doesn’t disprove this and itself acknowledges that pinnacle-type positions like CEO are more subjective and impossible to measure. It then goes off on rampant speculation about behavioral stereotypes, etc. Nobody is “penalizing” women for pregnancy. What happens is women get in a career path, then they get pregnant. They come back a year or years later and everything has changed. The business has changed, the technology, the law, different people, organizational changes. You can’t just wave a magical wand and make that disappear, and to force businesses to pay women and promote them as if they had stayed at the company all that time is just punishing the companies and putting them in an impossible position. This is especially true in high paying jobs like lawyers in which people can’t just leave in the middle of a case and them come back… Read more »

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