Monday, July 4, 2011

June Callwood vs Belinda Stranach, 2007

Originally an Eye Weekly editorial, 2007.


That's Enough, Belinda.

As we see the cheap tactics of Stronach hog the spotlight in what we hope is her political curtain call, we can’t help but consider other women that are more worthy; both of our attention and of the feminist moniker.   This week, we’re in need of a better example, and preferably one without the advantage of the silver spoon.

Enter: The Honourable June Callwood (1924-2007)

As she stated this past March in one her last public appearances at the Jane Mallet Theatre, “If you see an injustice being committed, you aren't an observer, you’re a participant… you can’t pretend that you aren’t a part of what’s happening in front of you.” 

This statement referred primarily to social injustice against which she fought over her decades-long career.  However, for the sake of comparison, let us adopt a wider interpretation and refer it to Callwood’s own initiative to become a respected public figure.  This initiative included leaving her modest beginnings in small-town Ontario to become a reporter for the Globe and Mail at the age of eighteen, all of this in spite of never having received a formal education.

The pressures and tribulations of any professional woman indeed are noteworthy.  When you model your career as being a feminist and a champion for the less fortunate, name-calling and accusations are also part of the equation.  It didn’t make Callwood’s efforts any less complicated, but her treatment, however unfair it may have been, was never a road-show, and never an excuse for complaints.

Callwood’s career wasn’t just another model of success and charity, but the very figure in modern Canadian history against which all examples can arguably be set.  Called everything from a “racist” to a “nuisance” she handled it with grace and professionalism, from which anyone can learn.  Contemporary political figures, of course, are no exception.  So we say: respect well deserved.  (Exit Stronach.)