Dr. Dawg

Our national anthem, mansplained

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Thanks a bunch, Thomas Mulcair, for this condescending load. It’s too easy to kick out the rusty props from every one of your lame, dudebro comments. But I’d like to tell you a story first.

Once upon a time there was a Charter of Rights. But it was only in draft form then, and the Trudeau of the day had to consult with the provinces and get assent for it to be added to our spanking new Constitution Act. Women gathered in Ottawa to demand that the Charter unequivocally recognize their equality under the Charter. Section 28 was then added to the draft. It said, simply, “Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.”

But the NDP Premier of Saskatchewan, Allan Blakeney, knew best. He insisted that this Section be subject to the “notwithstanding clause” (Section 33) so that legislatures could override it if they felt like it.

The draft was modified to please Blakeney, and then all hell broke loose. If you want the definitive account, now almost lost in various official revisions of history, read Penney Kome’s book, The Taking of 28. Women from coast to coast, of all ages, and from all walks of life, rose up. They sent tens of thousands of telegrams to Ottawa and to the provincial premiers, wrote letters, signed petitions. There were rallies and demonstrations across the land. One by one, the Premiers caved. Blakeney was the last holdout, still mansplaining that the clause might prevent affirmative action programs for women.

After two weeks, he was handed an extremely bruised nether portion of his anatomy, and the non-overrideable Section 28 was restored. Thanks to the determination of Canadian women, they now have equal access to all of the rights in the Charter, and no politicians, provincial or federal, can take that away.

Fast forward to the present day, and here’s another NDP leader who knows best. This is what Tom Mulcair has to say on the subject of “O Canada,” and a proposed two-word change to include women:

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said Tuesday in Ottawa that the anthem is “wonderful” and “extraordinary” as it is and shouldn’t be altered when it comes to gender….

“I think that when you start tinkering with an institution like a national anthem, that you’re looking for problems,” Mulcair said when asked about the proposal.

“We seem to have agreed on the English and French versions as they are and I think that’s probably a good thing.”

I’ll leave his vapid “wonderful” and “extraordinary” adjectives alone. À chacun son goût. But is he not aware that there has been “tinkering,” as he calls it, ever since the lyrics were first penned by Robert Stanley Weir in 1908? “Sons” was added in 1914—the text had been gender-neutral up till then. And O Canada only became our official anthem in 1980, when eight new words were added: “from far and wide” and “God keep our land.”

But an easy amendment that would include 51% of Canada’s population in our anthem? To Mulcair, that’s “tinkering.” He seems to think that, like the Meech Lake Accord, even a small further change would make the whole thing unravel.

His final lordly, patriarchal “we seem to have agreed,” is almost the very definition of mansplaining. As Tonto says in that old joke, “What do you mean ‘we,’ kemosabe?”

I suspect a lot of women—and men, too—are asking that right now. Should be interesting. Better shift your public stance, Tom, while there’s still time.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on October 2, 2013 10:38 AM.

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