There are moments in history where women have proven themselves to be forces of change. These moments give me goose bumps — when I think of what these women fought for, what they sacrificed so I could be in this position: a woman editor of a news publication, a woman who can vote, and a woman who has equal rights.
On this Remembrance Day, I’m reminded of the role women played during the war efforts. They worked in construction, took over their husbands’ jobs in farms and factories, and manufactured shells and ammunitions for the men overseas. They sold souvenir stamps and knit clothing for military personnel. Throughout both World Wars, over 50,000 women joined the Canadian Armed Forces. They served as soldiers, nurses, and artists.
Their contributions not only played a large part in the success of the war effort, but it also helped laid the foundations for women’s movements to come. These were the same women who fought for the vote and the opportunity to work alongside a man. They set the groundwork for women to become active members of the military. They were just as brave as the men on the front lines.
Last year, I wrote a piece about how Remembrance Day is impacting future generations. Groups of students and families with young children gathered at Queen’s Park around 11 a.m. to watch as veterans and politicians acknowledged the sacrifice of Canada’s men and women in uniform — the people who fought so that we could be free.
This year, I’m a bit more cynical. I still admire and respect every single person who contributed (and still contributes) to the Canadian military. But, as a society, I feel like Canada still as a long way to go.
Celebrating women in the military is often an afterthought —the words “and women” are thrown into most public speeches about military service and sacrifice, but very little is said about their dedication to the cause.
The women being celebrated on Remembrance Day sacrificed much more than anyone should have to. They served during a time when their service wasn’t recognized, where they were simply considered stand-ins for men who were being forced to go oversees. Women with pilot licences were still unable to serve in the war effort during the Second World War, despite being active members of the Royal Canadian Air Force – Women’s Division. So, why not recognize their service now?
While watching CBC’s live-stream of the ceremony in Ottawa, I noticed that their banner included a number of photographs from various war efforts, from the Boer War in 1899 to our peacekeepers and soldiers fighting against ISIS. The pictures are touching, but they also don’t include any women. No female veterans were interviewed prior to the ceremony either, or featured during the hour pre-show.
Over the last few years, instances of sexism and harassment against women in the military and the RCMP have been widely covered in the media. As of 2014, women only made up 14.8 per cent of the Canadian Armed Forces, 18.7 per cent in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and 18.4 per cent of the Royal Canadian Navy.
But, that doesn’t stop women from joining up. It doesn’t stop women from going through the training and overcoming all of those obstacles. And this should be celebrated and remembered.
The last year has been challenging for women. In the United States, women watched as a sexist man was elected President. In Canada, sexual assault cases were thrown out because the word of women could not be trusted. Female reporters are being targeted and attacked on air be men shouting obscenities. There is a real and inexcusable lack of respect for women, despite it being 2016.
On this Remembrance Day, let’s use this opportunity to renew our sense of togetherness and respect. Let’s honour the sacrifices of men and women equally, and continue to fight for total equality.
Let’s not let anyone’s service be forgotten or go unrecognized.
Lest We Forget.