“Peter MacKay has done it again,” said Peter Mansbridge, defender of the fairer sex. “He’s been exposed as a blatant chauvinist who is completely out of touch with modern families,” according to Margaret Wente, noted feminist. He authored “unreal messages from the 1940s,” and other crimes against contemporary society. So what did he actually say?
Well, as it happens, nothing. He didn’t even write them according to today’s developments.
The emails in question, one for Mother’s Day and one for Father’s Day, were written firmly entrenched in casual, everyday, commonplace gender norms.
The mother’s day email featured horrors such as:
Terrifying stuff, saying that women essentially work two jobs.
Well, what was the Father’s Day email?
Wait, hold on, Peter MacKay says that women are “hardworking,” and that through their work they “benefit” all Canadians and their families. He doesn’t say anything like that about men! In fact, in his Father’s Day email, he doesn’t even mention the work men do! It’s almost like he has a respect for the contributions of his female employees, but not his male ones? Or am I maybe reading too deeply into it? Other people apparently think his offensiveness was the other way around, in implying only mothers take care of children, while men are leaders. Either way, clearly a horrific misstep.
On top of that, he did not write these comments, a female staffer did, and he just gave them the thumbs up. On different days a month apart. With no comparison too realize how…terrible they are? The real scandal is that he made a woman write these sexist remarks, or made the staff lie and say that a woman wrote it, or something that ties these hateful comments directly to MacKay.
But, in actuality, these comments are not particularly unrepresentative of what Canadian society actually is. Statistics Canada reports show that women on average spend 84 more minutes than men each day on “household work and related activities.” So, when Mother’s Day comes around, should we take the opportunity to froth at the mouth about gender inequity or take the time to thank mothers for spending that additional time each week? Mothers also spend 80 minutes more per day with children under 12 years old than fathers do. Should Peter MacKay thank them for this work, or ignore it?
It seems to me that the staffer already thanked mothers for everything involved in the bulk of child-rearing, and rather than write a Father’s Day email with the text “Thanks for putting in statistically less time into raising children than your wives,” the staffer did what all communications professionals do, frame the role as some of kind of back-seat macro-idea thing, i.e., do no real work but get credit anyways.
Now, the reason these messages that he did not write that had nothing wrong with them is a scandal, is because last week MacKay got in trouble for allegedly saying that women aren’t applying to be Supreme Court Justices because they don’t want to spend time away from their children, due to a “special bond.” When pressed, he had the audacity to say that “at early childhood, there’s no question I think that women have a greater bond with their children!” Is this a stupid reason for why more women are not on the bench? Yes, absolutely. But it is true that women aren’t applying in the same numbers that men are.
Currently, of all 1120 judges in Canada, 383 of them are female (34.2%). It is worth noting that this number was 29% in 2006, and that MacKay has seen a steady and solid increase in representation during his tenure. This low proportion is a far cry from ideal, but it is where we are starting from. From that pool, judges are picked and nominated to the Supreme Court of Canada. Lo and behold, three of the eight Supreme Court of Canada judges are female (37.5%). This is not a coincidence, the proportion on the Supreme Court should realistically reflect the proportion in the entire system. Unless gender equity advocates believe women are more naturally fit for the bench, the results we see are exactly what we should expect.
Can this number be improved? Absolutely, but that begins with wider representation in the entire pool, which means taking a look at the appointment system (a convoluted mess of secret judicial appointment committees which Christie Blatchford says requires “sucking and blowing“). Justice Minister Peter MacKay deserves plenty of blame for a lack of representation on the courts, but it comes from a broken system he inherited which he hasn’t fixed, and not from comments he denies ever saying.