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19 Oktober 2004 @ 11:49
Voici le hoser, mais où sont les femmes?  

A story on the front page of today's Toronto Star reports on the results of a survey, conducted by the CBC, in which 140,000 respondents identified their choices for the "Greatest Canadians" of all time. According to the article, the top ten, in no particular order, are:

  • Sir John A. Macdonald
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Frederick Banting
  • Lester Pearson
  • Pierre Trudeau
  • Tommy Douglas
  • Terry Fox
  • David Suzuki
  • Wayne Gretzky
  • Don Cherry

There are two facts about this list that I find particularly striking:

  1. No women are on it.
  2. Don Cherry is.

The Star has a fair bit of fun with fact #2, but they make no mention of fact #1. What is truly alarming, though, is what we can infer by considering both these facts at once: in the collective judgment of 140,000 members of the CBC's audience, a loudmothed, bigoted hockey commentator is a greater Canadian than Agnes MacPhail, Susanna Moodie, Catherine Parr Trail, Laura Secord, Jane Jacobs, Nellie McClung, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro, Louise Arbour, Lucy Maud Montgomery, or indeed any Canadian woman who has ever lived. What (if anything) were they thinking?

Nuværende humør: pissed offpissed off
parodieparodie on 19. Oktober, 2004 17:28 (UTC)
This isn't a representative or scientifically done survey - this is the "greatest canadian" show on CBC, where people could call in and nominate who they thought was the greatest canadian. The top ten are the people who got the most nominations. There were 4 women in the top 50 (which is frankly just as appalling), but many more (including most on your list) in the top 100.

As for Don Cherry... i won't waste my breath. I'm pretty sure that Trudeau will win, though personally if weren't going to chose a politician, I would rather chose Pearson. Or maybe Tommy Douglas. :-)
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 19. Oktober, 2004 19:07 (UTC)

Yeah, I went and had a look at the top 100 on the CBC's Web site, and there are twenty women on that list. As expected, there's considerable overlap with the eleven that I thought of, off the top of my head, while composing this post. In alphabetical order, the women in the CBC's top 100 are:

  1. Pamela Anderson (Oh, we're off to a good start here!)
  2. Louise Arbour
  3. Margaret Atwood
  4. Roberta Bondar
  5. Emily Carr (I should have thought of her, and also Doris McCarthy.)
  6. Anne Cools
  7. Céline Dion
  8. Sheila Fraser (Note that our first female auditor general made the list, but not our first female PM or GG.)
  9. Avril Lavigne
  10. Agnes MacPhail
  11. Mary Maxwell
  12. Nellie McClung
  13. Sarah McLachlan
  14. Joni Mitchell
  15. Lucy Maud Montgomery
  16. Emily Murphy (Shoulda been on my list next to McClung and MacPhail.)
  17. Anne Murray
  18. Sandra Schmirler
  19. Laura Secord
  20. Shania Twain

And I know it's not supposed to be representative or scientific or anything like that, but it's still indicative of something—it reflects what people think of first when you ask them to name a "Great Canadian," or perhaps it just indicates who has the most vocal fan base. Either way, it's still discouraging. I'm sure that if the CBC came up with their own list, it would be much more representative of the diversity of actual Great Canadians, but it's a shame that, left more or less to their own devices, the audience came up with such an overwhelmingly male list.

parodieparodie on 20. Oktober, 2004 18:07 (UTC)
Well, I wouldn't personnally chose our first female PM as a great canadian... She certainly pales in comparison to most of the women listed above, and to the other politicians nominated. As for the GG ... I dunno. I'm sure she's done lots of things that are quite admirable, but she doesn't inspire me to think of her as great. I admit that being the first woman elected or named to positions such as PM and GG is an impressive feat in and of itself, but ... they haven't really done anything in the position that's of note, and thus I don't really think of them as great.
I'd personally chose Nellie McClung or (yes, male) Tommy Douglas over Kim Campbell or Adrienne Clarkson.

I think that the hockey stars and models included are kinda pathetic, but they are the people who stick in the public's mind - after, they're the people who show up on tv day after day. I was in fact surprised that so many relatively obscur people showed up in the top 50 list (I haven't seen that list online anywhere, but I watched the show "unveiling" the results where they only presented the top 50). I think there's a lot of positive stuff to be said about this list as well - given how these people were nominated, it's encouraging that 20 women made it on at all, rather than everyone voting for Trudeau (ugh, why do people love him so much? *rolls eyes* we need good history teachers).
parodieparodie on 20. Oktober, 2004 18:13 (UTC)
Incidentally - did you vote? It was all over CBC last spring (radio, tv - though more on tv, there were even printed ads). I didn't vote, because I couldn't figure out who I considered the Greatest Canadian. E.g. yeah, I think Lucy M. Montgomery is an awesome writer, I read her books obsessively and own all of them (I think) or darn close... but the Greatest? I dunno. Maybe not. So while there are many people who I think deserve to be in the top 100, I think the method of nomination selected for the people who would be the absolute top person in a person's mind. And yes, I agree that that currently selects for men -- but I think that's a factor of men having been in a position to do greater things (like put in place universal health care; like solve the Suez crisis).

Don't you think?
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 20. Oktober, 2004 20:03 (UTC)

I didn't vote; I didn't know anything about this until I saw the article in the Star. (I don't have a TV, and don't listen to the radio very much—usually only when I'm cleaning, which I don't do as often as I should.)

I agree that a lot of the bias can be attributed to the historical effects of sexism rather than to sexism in the voting itself—I would have been (pleasantly) surprised if the top 100 list had shown anything near an equal split between women and men, for exactly the reasons you mention. But the complete absence of women from the top 10 is disheartening. Okay, so no women were in positions of sufficient power to broker a deal in Suez, but there are lots of women who can do, and have done, vastly more impressive things than wear big collars and shout about hockey.

Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 20. Oktober, 2004 19:54 (UTC)

Oh, I agree—I certainly wouldn't have put Campbell on the list, either. (I'd still rank her above Don Cherry, though.) But I was a little surprised that she wasn't there, since she does represent something of a milestone.

w1ldc47w1ldc47 on 20. Oktober, 2004 04:51 (UTC)
Don't be silly, Q. Women don't exist. There're just these things that, you know, have dinner ready when you get home. It's not like they actually *do* anything.

Oh, and Pamela Anderson and Avril Levigne are Canadian? Oy.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 20. Oktober, 2004 14:09 (UTC)

Women have dinner ready when I get home? I've never noticed that... maybe they really are invisible.

w1ldc47w1ldc47 on 22. Oktober, 2004 18:10 (UTC)
Sure they do. Just not at *your* home. S'what you get for not being married. What are you waiting for already?

I'm thinking of that old Doonesbury where Ellie and the boy ... whatsisname? ... Hector? no. Tommy? no. Eli? no. You know the one I'm talking about, the one who was always bugging Ellie and Jeanie. Anyway, Ellie and the boy are playing in a sandbox and the boy is telling Ellie all about how he's excited to grow up because then he'll get a wife... have you seen that one?
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 22. Oktober, 2004 19:13 (UTC)

Howie. And yes, I have.

Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 25. Oktober, 2004 16:08 (UTC)

So I looked it up. The boy is indeed Howie, but he's talking with Sally, not Ellie—which makes sense, actually. Ellie is already too much of a sophisticated feminist thinker to ask the naïve questions that Sally asks in this strip:

Ellie might talk like that if she were being sarcastic, but she's usually pretty earnest.

ateo on 21. Oktober, 2004 00:47 (UTC)
Perhaps they exist, but they certainly are not people.
Back home, in fact, if you ask someone how many children he has, he will say something like, two children. Then you ask him how many daughters he has, and he'll say, perhaps, five. (And if you ask a woman rather than ask someone, you'll get the same sort of answer.)
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 22. Oktober, 2004 20:54 (UTC)

Oy. I wonder what a list of the 10(0) greatest Turks would look like?

ateo on 25. Oktober, 2004 18:59 (UTC)
Most likely it would be Ataturk listed ten times over.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 20. Oktober, 2004 14:41 (UTC)

By the way, feminist_otd informs me that today is Nellie McClung's 131st birthday.

frogofthelakes on 20. Oktober, 2004 17:16 (UTC)
I can't believe that kd lang didn't even make the top 100. Yikes.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 20. Oktober, 2004 20:07 (UTC)
Re: wow

Good point. There seems to be some kind of bias in the selection of female musicians. Avril Lavigne, Céline Dion, and Shania Twain, but not kd lang or Buffy Ste.-Marie? I was glad to see Joni Mitchell on the top 100 list, though.

wolfangel78 on 24. Oktober, 2004 00:16 (UTC)
The only article I read about this made the same comment: Don Cherry and no women? It's also a remarkably English list, which is perhaps unsurprising.

I've met Adrienne Clarkson (admittedly I met her in 1992): I think I'd actually be tempted to put Don Cherry above her. And though I think Kim Campbell got a raw deal, I also think there were better choices than her for one of the women (many of whom were on that list).

Of the 20 there, I'd probably choose Nellie McClung.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 24. Oktober, 2004 16:57 (UTC)
It's also a remarkably English list, which is perhaps unsurprising.

There seems to be a separate French top 100 list, which includes some people who aren't on the English one, like Thérèse Casgrain. But the top 10 listed in the French version are the same as in the English one.