Have you heard the one where a government in Canada ran an essay contest designed, ostensibly, to inspire and encourage women between the ages of 17 and 25 to get involved in politics, and awarded third place to a misogynistic screed?
The conservative government of Alberta (now you laugh) is in some trouble. And boy — sorry, male of indeterminate age — did they earn that.
The essay, which for some reason has been scrubbed from Alberta government websites, is nevertheless available online. Peruse at your peril.
I’ve been thinking about this story for the last two days. And finally I said to myself, self, I said, you have to say something. As an AFAB (for the benefit of Alberta conservatives and possibly also some of my exes, this means “assigned female at birth”) who nevertheless does not identify as woman, I have opinions. Not just about the twatteries contained in the piece, but mostly about the prevalent and systemic toxicity that caused several people in government to see this piece as a winner and not bat an eye.
The essay starts out very strong. “Women have a unique strength,” it boldly asserts. “Our ability to give birth.”
Right there I have issues. As I said, I’m a gender-non-conforming AFAB. I have successfully delivered three beautiful babies the old-fashioned way. And while I yield to no one in my capacity to be tough and to push past my limits (do you get it or would you prefer I added some bloody visuals to this description?), I don’t agree my “ability” to give birth is a strength. Or that it’s what defines who I am as a person.
Making babies is not the most challenging thing in the world. I know this because I can see, plain as day, how many people manage to do it — including when they weren’t planning on it. Once you’ve got a clump of cells, it grows and eventually needs to come out. Whether or not you’re “able” to give birth changes nothing to that equation. It’s coming out or you both die.
Not how I would describe empowerment.
I don’t take pride in having been born with the kind of reproductive organs that allow me to grow humans. It is what it is, you know? My strength, past the part where I excrete giant melons, expresses itself in the love I feel for the individuals I spawned and the ferocity with which I defend them against anyone or anything that would hurt them.
Personally I would have been just as happy — nay, much happier — if I could have avoided the whole mess. I love my kids more than words can say, don’t get me wrong. But the whole pregnancy, birth, and all that came after the birth which wasn’t made any easier by the chronic lack of sleep and the permanent scars and the … ah, flab, looseness and generalized inability to sneeze without peeing that will stay with me until I draw my last breath?
Not a fan.
I don’t begrudge people who celebrate pregnancy and birth, the same way I don’t hate people for expressing an undue fondness for quilting. But — to get back to the essential, and without wishing to put too fine a point on it — what the fuck does any of this have to do with inspiring women to get involved in politics?
You’re right! Nothing! Were there only three entries in the entire province, or do we have a problem now that this steaming pile of horseshit was picked as third-place winner in a province-wide essay contest?
But wait, we’re not done. The rest of the essay goes through replacement theory (decrying the “sadly popular” belief that “Alberta children are unnecessary as we can import foreigners to replace ourselves”) and of course good old fashioned sexism (“women are not exactly equal to men”). To conclude, the essay writer says, “As a future parliamentarian, I would promote healthy appreciation for the value that young Albertan women have in their ability to carry our population forward into the future.” Which makes no sense, grammatically or otherwise.
But on the plus side, the essay’s author wishes to deliver medals to people like me -- who’ve had more than two children -- medals “to symbolize their valuable achievement.”
The person who wrote this is entitled to their opinions. That’s what freedom of expression means. I do not question that right at all. My problem is with the people in government in Alberta who thought these opinions were worth rewarding.
They’ve got some serious anti-mansplaining to do.