Ottawa Citizen

Saturday 21 November 1998

REAL women claim discrimination

Dave Brown
The Ottawa Citizen

Yesterday the feud between members of Parliament suggesting changes to the Divorce Act, and the feminist element opposed to them, landed on the front page of this newspaper.

I saw it as a signal to take another look at the Wendy file. The file started when she told me about the lesbian letter, claiming it showed the feminist agenda was being driven by that element. Although the letter-writing spoof happened more than 10 years ago, I didn't know Wendy Woodcock, a member of the national board of REAL Women, past president of the local chapter and its media relations officer, until a few months ago.

In my writings, I don't normally dabble in areas that are already heavily covered, but Mrs. Woodcock caught my attention with the letter spoof.

With millions of dollars in funding available to women's groups through the office of the Secretary of State, Status of Women, members of REAL Women applied for a piece of the pie.

"We were told we couldn't make an application for funding unless we filled out the proper application forms. When we asked by telephone to have forms sent, we were told we wouldn't qualify because we didn't support the feminist agenda."

REAL Women is a 55,000-member national organization that believes men and women are "equal but different". They believe the family unit is under attack, and they are fighting to preserve it.

They believe if the state is going to subsidize day care, or as Mrs. Woodcock calls it "the warehousing of children," it should also give financial encouragement to stay-at-home parents.

"When we couldn't get an application form for funding, we simply reapplied, calling ourselves The National Association of Lesbian Mothers. We had the form and the funding in a flash. We sent it back, because we got it under false pretenses. But I think we proved a point."

That there's a strong gay influence in the department isn't something hidden. In the Wendy file is a letter to the editor from a publication that covers the capital's gay community, published March 21, 1997. It makes the claim that 25 per cent of the staff at Status of Women, under Secretary of State for Women Hedy Fry, is gay. It's signed by Artur W. Wilczynski, executive assistant to Ms. Fry, and he includes himself as a member of the gay community.

The Wendy file has been gathering dust because to write about such issues is to risk identifying one's self as homophobic. I used to think I wasn't, but as I watch the gay community working out regularly and showing more and more political muscle, I'm starting to worry. Most of us (heterosexual males) fear broaching the subject, because the lines have been blurred between where an opinion is expressed, and a hate crime committed.

If, since its formation, the Status of Women has had one obvious victory, it is that it has knocked the hell out of the status of men.

Waiting on my desk yesterday morning, courtesy of the Gay, Lesbian, Transsexual and Trans Gender Support Group of Ottawa-Carleton, was a large envelope stuffed with Toronto Star clippings from 1996. If absorbed and believed, the majority of heterosexual men are dangerous, out of control beasts. The writers are women.

Are women like Wendy Woodcock and her sisters getting a fair hearing? She says no, because mainstream media fear the gay movement. Mrs. Woodcock says a look at family tax structure shows an attack on the family. "With both partners working and a combined income of $60,000, you're in a 30 per cent tax bracket. With one partner working and one staying home with the children, and an income of $60,000, you're getting close to a 50 per cent tax bracket. The message is strong. Families with a parent in the home are under attack."

She also claims REAL women should get more attention because they represent the largest single block of female opinion. "We have a national membership of 55,000 and can prove it." She challenges any other single group, purporting to represent women, to produce a membership list.

I asked my computer to tell me how many times since Jan. 1, 1996, the Toronto Star used the words "real women". The answer was 25. And for "gays and lesbians"? It came back with 638. For the Citizen, the answers were 32 and 472. There's nothing scientific in this, but it's curious.


Copyright 1998 Ottawa Citizen