The problem with the Pink Book

Chris Wattie, Reuters

The Liberal Women's Caucus has released their 40-page Pink Book, Volume III.

Clearly a great deal of midnight oil was consumed by the Pink Book writers in agonizing about what Canadian women really want from their government. Keen political social observers nearly fell over in shock at the caucus's revolutionary recommendation that Canadian women deserve a "compassionate Canada" where women can achieve "economic and social equality."

Throwing caution to the wind, Michael Ignatieff unequivocally endorsed the heady challenge, bravely announcing that the Pink Book is "a clear statement of principle that we want a Canada that provides a strong, secure future for all Canadians."

The above is sarcasm, in case you were in doubt. The recommendations aren't revolutionary. They're the same old demands we got in 2006, the first edition, and 2007: more help for caregiving for children and the aged, tasks that fall disproportionately to women and a national daycare program.

New ideas include: micro-credit loans of small amounts of money to female entrepreneurs; the re-establishment of a national literacy secretariat; a toll-free national line for women suffering abuse; and a gender equity commissioner.

Starting with the new recommendations: Why do women wishing to start enterprises deserve government-backed credit more than men? Women are as well educated as men in this country, and since they make something like 70% of household purchases, are far better placed to tap into networks and targeted markets than men. Let them get their loans the usual way; if their idea is good, they'll get the loan. If it's bad, why fund hobbies?

As for the toll-free line for abuse, that's a swell idea; how about we make it gender-free? Memo to Women's Caucus: Men suffer abuse from women, nearly as much as the other way around, and there are virtually no resources in this country for even severely abused men. So why should a national toll-free line serve only one gender?

Literacy? This is a women's issue? How so?

As for a gender commissioner, if the Women's Caucus really wants to go there, they might start by recommending the abolition of equity programs in university. Enrolment in most programs is so female-skewed, an outsider might think men have fallen victim to some mysterious plague. And given the dropout rates of boys, one might call it a plague, because gender-wise the education system is sick. Boys are disadvantaged K-12, with teaching methods geared for girls and a very poor understanding of how boys learn best. Just this week Toronto proposed sweeping changes to education to make up for years of apathy toward the eroding performance gap.

Maybe this putative gender commissioner could ask why Ontario health units only screen for abuse in incoming female patients 12 and older, not male patients, even though male adolescents suffer nearly as much sexual abuse as girls.

And how about a thorough investigation of the family court system, where almost 90% of contested custody cases end up with sole custody going to mothers? How about support for equal parenting, a long-overdue gender-fair initiative that can't get traction because groups like the Liberal Women's Caucus aren't interested in gender fairness?.

Because when the Women's Caucus says "gender" they mean "women's interests." If an honest gender commissioner were ever appointed, he or she would recommend the complete dismantlement of all women's government-funded lobby groups.

There isn't a single body of women in Canada that receives federal or provincial funding that is not ideology-driven, and that includes the Liberal Women's Caucus. The Pink Book III is rife with debunked statistics -for example, that old chestnut about women earning 70% of what men make; we know that figure mainly reflects self-selection out of areas of higher personal demand so that women can spend more time with their children.

As for caregiving: Yes, women do more caregiving for those they love and in whose well-being they are highly invested. There is personal reward in the sacrifice. And men do more fighting and dying in Afghanistan and saving people in burning buildings, but somehow we don't hear so much about those crummy jobs whose only reward is honour fulfilled and pride in supporting one's family.

It's almost as if men and women were, you know, different, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and advantages.

Now that is a shocking idea. Of course, to admit it would be a truly revolutionary act, and somehow I don't think we can expect Michael Ignatieff to be supporting those home truths any time soon.