An unconventional take on feminism

Photos by Ana Rancourt.

Jacqueline Perlin

Assistant News Editor

Listening to Diane Watts speak about the organization she has been a part of for three decades, you would never imagine some of its members consider themselves “feminists.”
REAL Women believe in combining so-called traditional values with feminism. Ana Rancourt.

Watts, a researcher and representative of the organization, has been a member of REAL (Realistic, Equal, Active for Life) Women Canada since the mid-1980s, when she became inspired to be a part of an organization that strives to focus on women in the perspective of the family.

Watts explains that the organization values the family as the foremost structure that produces the safest place for women and children and also helps the advancement of men. The family produces a “safe haven” for workers, and therefore the home stands as a great cultural contribution.

Watts explains that REAL Women was founded in 1983 in response to the government organization called the Status of Women, an agency which advises the government in formation of policies.

“The Status of Women claimed to speak for Canadian women, and we felt that no agency could speak for all Canadian women,” says Watts, noting that there are a range of opinions that emerge from women.

“We feel very often that some branches of feminism view the family as oppressive and that’s not our experience or view,” says Watts, explaining that the Status of Women claims females are not fully participating in society because they earn less and engage less in the labour force. REAL Women believes women at home are, in fact, participating more in society than a female would be if they were part of the labour force.

This participation comes via things like volunteering and providing a good environment for their spouses and children.

“[The Status of Women] believe women will be fully participating when they’re equal to men, but we believe women don’t have to be doing the same things as men in order to be fully participating in society,” says Watts, adding that the Status of Women’s take on women’s position in society essentially “narrows everything down.”

Watts expands on this by adding that many women want to stay at home with their children but fail to do so “because they feel like they’re not doing anything important and they have to be working.”

Watts also says that women these days have less choice when it comes to deciding whether to stay at home with their children or be in the public realm of paid labour.

Photos by Ana Rancourt.

This, she says, is a product of society where a one-person wage is no longer enough to sustain a family that is over-taxed.

“When society has a system set up where they want more taxes, that interferes with the choices women make to take care of their family,” says Watts.

Johanne Brownrigg, a volunteer with the organization, is one member who considers herself a feminist. She joined the organization largely to dispute common ideas of feminism, including the notion that a feminist should be pro-choice and advocating for day care so that women have an opportunity to work.

“REAL Women were not for universal daycare, which I agreed with because it was a front for our financial sacrifice of me being at home,” says Brownrigg, explaining that to her, a feminist is simply someone who believes men and women are equal, even though their roles are different.

“Nowhere does it say that a woman has to be financially dependent on her spouse,” says Brownrigg, explaining that the organization is feminist in the respect that it advocates giving women the choice to stay at home.

For Brownrigg, feminism is based on ensuring women are not objectified and therefore she presents the idea that it is possible to be both a REAL Woman, and a feminist.

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