On March 15, 1985 at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Dr. Margrit Eichler spoke on “The Anti-Family effects of Familism on Social Policy.” In this talk she labeled the pro-family movement, consisting of groups such as R.E.A.L. Women of Canada, the Alberta Federation of Women United for Families, and the Saskatchewan Federation for Families, as being anti-feminist. “Familism”is a movement, she said, which argues for restoration of the patriarchal system. With their pessimistic view of recognizing one type of family only, the pro-family movement must necessarily attack homosexuality and sex equality.
Dr. Margrit Eichler is described as one of the foremost Canadian feminist scholars and is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto. Dr. Eichler is the author of four books including The Double Standard: A Feminist Critique of Feminist Social Science, and Canadian Families Today: Recent Changes and Their Policy Consequences. She is a past-president of the Canadian Institute for Research on the Advancement of Women and co-founder of Resources for Feminist Research. She was invited to Edmonton as a Distinguished Visitor through assistance from the Endowment Fund of the University of Alberta.
Dr. Eichler attacked the pro-family movement for charging that the feminists have contributed to the breakdown of the family.
The anti-feminist charge is directed, she said, against the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC), which is the umbrella group of feminists founded in 1972. NAC claims over three hundred membership groups with over three million members and, Eichler pointed out, follows the listed policy on the Royal Report on the Status of Women (as if this explained and justified everything). She stated that opposition to these policies is based on “ignorance or willful distortion.” The syndrome of the pro-family movement, she charged, is pro-fetus, following Judeo-Christian ethics. It is homophobic (against homosexuals) and rejects contraception, sex education in the schools, no-fault divorce, daycare, affirmative action, and equal pay for equal work. The attraction of this movement is oriented towards homemakers.
Work with the feminists
Dr. Eichler has attempted to label the pro-family movement as merely a group of house-bound women who are supposedly ignorant of the legislation passed because of the lobbying activities of NAC. She calls the movement “pro-fetus” because it does not fit her (limited) view of pro-life advocates.
Also, according to Eichler, since we are opposed to abortion, we should be working for widened availability of birth-control and sex education. Her conclusion that the pro-family movement is simply working towards a restoration of the patriarchal system (that is, a system in which a woman has the right to stay at home and be supported), created an interesting speculative probing into divorce and re-marriage. “Does the second wife work so that the first wife can stay at home?” Eichler asked.
Much of this attempt to label pro-family women in Canada as a minority group which misunderstands the true accomplishments of NAC was phony, showing a biased attempt to discredit us.
Apparently, freedom to choose implies choice only under the guidelines established by NAC. By the end of the question period it was clear just how limited our choices are to be. True, it was admitted, there is a shortage of babies for adoption. However, it was countered, there are children available. These are older and perhaps handicapped children, but they are available and implication was that they will do just as well.
The whole evening was not totally against pro-family women. M. Eichler stated that our society does not give adequate recognition to home-makers, children, and older people. Her recommendation is that the pro-family movement should work together with feminists on this issue.