Dr. Dawg

On Laureen Harper, cats and #MMIW

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Given the current insistence upon the equality of women and men, it’s a sobering surprise to hear from so many feminists that women are, in the final analysis, merely the projections of their spouses. Or so it would appear, at least, given the opprobrium being heaped upon Laureen Harper for speaking at a fundraiser for homeless cats. In the middle of her speech she was interrupted by a young protester who raised the pressing issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women. Ms. Harper agreed that this was a “great cause” but noted the purpose of the occasion, and didn’t engage further.

Now she’s the target of on-going critiques across the Internet. Apparently she has time for cats but not Aboriginal women. She probably thinks cats are more important. “Cats are cute and all but wouldn’t it be more helpful for the wife of the PM to actually be concerned about addressing an issue that affects women all across this country such as the lives of hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls?” asks Melina Laboucan-Massimo, whose sister is the most recent Aboriginal victim of a suspicious death.

Should PM Harper himself call a national inquiry into the murders and disappearances of hundreds of FN women across the country? One is well overdue—obviously he should. Does he give a damn? Probably not. We know that, despite his forked-tongue apology for the residential schools outrage, he and his government have done nothing since but obstruct First Nations in every way they can, whether it’s plowing ahead with pipelines that will lay waste to traditional FN lands, or removing key environmental protections for our waterways, or trying to impose FN education reforms from above, or fighting tooth and nail against equal social services for FN kids (and stalking their chief advocate for years), or trying the Great White Father approach to Attawapiskat (and getting slapped down by the courts for their pains).

A few hundred missing or murdered FN women? I doubt if Harper can muster up the energy to shrug.

But that’s not the point.

Laureen Harper isn’t Stephen Harper’s shadow. She’s more than “the wife of the PM.” She’s in fact a cat foster-mom and she volunteers for the Humane Society. She was at a meeting to pursue those interests. She holds no office, but happens to be married to someone who does. We don’t know her views on #MMIW, but there’s no reason to imagine that she considers a cat’s well-being more important than this on-going tragedy.

OK, we know that the CPC wants to “leverage” Ms. Harper. Having given up on ever finding Stephen’s warm side, the backroom folks want Laureen to play a proxy role. No doubt she’s expected to comply, as a dutiful wife should.

But do we care to concede Laureen Harper some agency? Isn’t that a fundamental tenet of feminism, that a woman is more than somebody’s wife, and may pursue interests and ideas that her husband and his minions didn’t assign to her? Or am I simply “mansplaining” here?

I’m not suggesting that I can see into Laureen Harper’s head. Maybe she does think that cats are more important than FN women. Maybe she’s no more than a willing tool in the hands of the assorted spinmeisters and flacks gearing up for 2015. Maybe she’s just a wife, after all, with no further interests or ambitions whatsoever.

Or not. She doesn’t strike me, at least, as someone out of The Handmaid’s Tale, but I could be wrong. In any case, she’s not Stephen Harper. And, hard as this is for some folks to grasp, she’s not accountable for him—or to him. Let’s refocus on the people actually running the country, OK?

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on April 20, 2014 3:55 PM.

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