A hearty guffaw would be one way of describing my reaction when I came across an opinion piece published by lawyer, former cabinet minister and B.C. Premier, Ujjal Dosanjh.
Entitled “By silencing white men, Canada can’t have an honest debate about equality, race and culture” the author goes on to argue that political correctness is an affliction in the Western world and as “minorities became bolder (how DARE they?), equality became the buzzword and spawned “much-despised political correctness”. According to the author, “the fear of being branded a racist” has silenced everyone.
Aside from the fact that all you have to do is glance at any comments section of any article published pretty much anywhere to know that fear of being branded a racist has silenced absolutely no one ever, Dosanjih’s claim is both counterproductive and untrue.
We live in a world that not only doesn’t attempt to silence white men, their voice is actually what it most values and likes to share.
What are the majority of our politicians? White men.
We may have achieved 50/50 gender parity in Trudeau’s cabinet, and we now have a record number of female MPs in the House of Commons (88), much to the dismay of many traumatized white men who wrote columns about their concerns over merit (an issue that curiously never seemed to concern them when 80 percent of a cabinet was of the male persuasion), yet that number still only translates to a measly 26 percent of women in Parliament, even though women represent 50 percent of the Canadian population. [Yes, I know that sentence was horrendously long.]
What are the majority of news and column bylines?
(Extra points if you feign surprise!) Yup… white men.
How about the majority of TV and radio anchors and hosts?
White men again!
According to the Women’s Media Center report, [The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2014], America’s top three newspapers have four times as many male opinion writers as female. Four. Times. As. Many. What is this silencing you speak of, Ujjal? Even if a few men are self-censoring – as you claim – they can hardly make a dent in a structure that overwhelmingly favours men’s opinions.
Our Canadian reality is no better. A survey of 221 news editors and directors in Canadian media by Rauhala and Ryerson journalism professor Marsha Barber, published in 2008, showed that only 19 per cent, or 42 editors and directors were women.
In a 2013 survey by Informed Opinions, opinion pieces written by women in the Globe and Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Toronto Star accounted for only 11 percent of those published in a period sampled in 2010. Data collected in February – March of 2013 showed a doubling to 22 percent of all op-eds. While an improvement, only 16 percent of the op-eds published in the six papers during the period surveyed were written by women. French media seems to have fared only a tad better, with female columnists representing 15 percent of the regular contributors in English language dailies during that study, and 23 percent in French language newspapers.
The sad truth is, that until May 2014, when Anne Marie Owens took the reins at the National Post, a woman had never even held an editor-in-chief position at a national newspaper in Canada!
It’s even more troubling when one sees how lacking in diversity (in terms of race and religion) our newsrooms are. If it’s mainly white men who shape and control the news, who are in front of the cameras, behind the mics in talk radio studios, and represent the majority of print and online bylines, we are seeing the world through their eyes, their priorities, and their values. And that’s both dangerously misleading and discriminating — particularly when one in two Canadians is female and one in five Canadians is a member of a visible minority.
In 2004, the Canadian Task Force for Cultural Diversity on Television discovered that visible minorities make up only 12.3 percent of anchors and 8.7 percent of reporters and interviewers in English-language news. While it’s almost certain that those numbers have improved in the past decade (I couldn’t find any recent studies on the topic) it’s not happening fast enough.
The majority of “experts” quoted in news articles?
White men? Right again!
Male “expert” perspectives on topics appear in the media four times as often as women’s. This matters, because expert opinions shape public attitudes and perceptions, the angle of many news stories, and determine how governments spend tax dollars.
What do you think the majority of Supreme Court of Canada judges are?
This is starting to get so boring, you guys…
Yup, white men again.
How about the majority of Canadian police officers, senior officers and constables?
White men for the win!
Who do you think gets the majority of main roles in major films and routinely gets cast as the “everyman”?
White men, of course. And why is that? Well, maybe because the majority of film directors are also white men.
How about the majority of authors who get primetime literary reviews and editorial space in mainstream media?
White males, you say? Will this fun game never end? Why, even the entire “vocal fry” debate is nothing more than people trying to get other (non-white, non-male) people to sound more like white men.
The majority of unsolicited comments in my inbox about what to write, how to write it, why I got it wrong, what tone I should take if I want to be heard?
After close to a decade of writing opinion columns, always — with very few exceptions — white men.
White men have been speaking uncontested for so many thousands of years that any attempt to leave some room for those who have been historically marginalized or discriminated against is immediately seen as a threat or an attempt to silence them. Some of them seriously can’t deal.
But giving others a voice is not “silencing white men”. Allowing others the space to express their concerns, their grievances, their points of view, and their priorities is not “oppression”, “shaming”, or the employment of “fear” tactics. It’s allowing the total (not a mere percentage) of our society to impact what we should focus on.
For the record, I am NOT saying that all white men think in an identical fashion (not even close), but white male privilege is a real thing, and whether some people (usually white men) scoff at it and deny its existence, it alludes to very specific and undeniable social, economic, and political advantages or rights that are made available to men solely on the basis of their sex.
Women and visible minorities are now finally making modest inroads and every step forward is usually met with derision, threats, or incessant whining by many white men who were used to having the entire floor with no one contesting or questioning it.
Those of us tired of arguing with them, replying to their online trolling, or their sudden panicked realization that their “glory days” are now perhaps slowly coming to an end, know only too well that “silent” is the last thing they are.
And, seriously… no one wants white men to be silenced. We want you to move over and let us sit at the table too. And to – perhaps – just pipe down for a minute.
You can’t learn something different until you willingly take the time to listen to someone else for a change; someone who doesn’t overwhelmingly look or act like an identical you.