Silly Boys' Club: Steyn and CIC

Insulting women is sport. Should I file our rights complaint?

By Shannon Rupp 9 Jul 2008 |

Shannon Rupp is a contributing editor to The Tyee.

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Steyn: Up with patriarchy!

In late June, the Canadian Human Rights Commission dismissed a complaint a conservative Muslim organization made against Macleans, ruling that the views expressed in a (presumably satirical?) article by Mark Steyn were not "of an extreme nature."

Well, thank God the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal wasn't astute enough to do the same. It would have robbed of us of last month's circus in which the Canadian Islamic Congress and Macleans, two groups prone to airing provocative views, were sniping at each other.

Steyn's wacky warnings

You probably avoided reading Steyn's long and convoluted thoughts on the decline of civilization as we know it because, well, life's short. So here are the highlights.

Steyn makes an amusing absurdist argument that Muslims are prodigious procreators and the rate at which "their" women are popping out pups means that soon there will be armies of ululating young men overrunning Western societies. According to Steyn "our" women have put us all in danger from the dreaded infidels by refusing to be baby factories. The woman-problem is coupled with the socialist-problem that has led, Steyn tells us, to Western countries lousy with the aged and infirm who have been further weakened -- morally and psychologically -- by the molly-coddling welfare state.

"I mean the perfect storm the Europeans will face within this decade, because their lavish welfare states are unsustainable on their post-Christian birth rates," Steyn writes, with a delightful subtlety that leaves so much to the imagination.

I burst out laughing. Steyn's polemic is such a beaut it would give pause to Colbert.

He's suggesting that if we were all just God-fearing enough to rob women of their birth control pills, then we wouldn't have to fear the heathens? Damn that modernization! And those equality laws! Maybe Kansas could export its school board trustees to the Western world-at-large and put an end to those nasty enlightenment ideas and scientific facts in schools. Even better, maybe we should just stop educating women so they won't get those uppity notions…

The supposedly geriatric Japanese come in for special notice from Steyn, as a contrast to those fecund Muslims. Apparently Japan is allowing packs of demented oldsters to wander the island -- and there's no end in sight.

"The difficulty, in a modern social democratic state, is managing which people to lose: already, according to the Japan Times, depopulation is 'presenting the government with pressing challenges on the social and economic front...'" Steyn notes.

Well, let's just cue the ice floes and cull the herd!

Macleans: funny business?

Obviously, Steyn is mocking that coterie of small-minded twits who have embraced the bright ideas of the dark ages. I enjoy Macleans for just such witticisms. Editor Ken Whyte has a delightful sense of humour mixed with a good journo's sense of an arresting headline. One of my faves -- "Hey Lady! What will it take to make you breed? Your government needs to know" -- pulled me up short, guffawing, at a newsstand. And I'm exactly the lady he's addressing.

I remember an issue where a screaming cover-line wondered why we're dressing our daughters in skankwear? A fair question, to which I would add, why are our sons dressed like slobs, and grown men dressed liked slovenly 14-year-old boys? I've long had a piece in mind, "Baseball Caps Backwards: The sign of civilization in decline." Perhaps there's a connection between baseball caps and the low birthrate in North America? Perhaps I should pitch a story to Macleans on this?

I believe it is journalism's job to ask the burning questions and provoke one's readers into thought. Or hate mail. Possibly death threats. It's all good, as long as the chattering classes keep chattering.

Which is pretty much what I would have told the Canadian Islamic Congress had they asked. They're just making themselves ridiculous by launching human rights complaints because the mean men at Macleans called them names. Imagine if a genuinely oppressed group like women launched complaints every time some mean men called them names or opened them to scorn and contempt. (You think the birthrate is low now? Imagine the time it would take to fill out those legal forms daily.)

Guilty of turgid writing

And do not get me started on the irony of the self-appointed spokespeople for a patriarchal religion trotting off to human rights tribunals for a remedy. The CIC supported using sharia law in Ontario, a situation that would have, in effect, denied Canadian women who happen to be Muslim the protection of the Charter Rights and Freedoms. Talk about needing a shield from mean men.

If the CIC had a legitimate grievance, they'd have gone for a conviction under the hate provisions in the Criminal Code, which forbid "inciting hatred against an identifiable group" or inspiring genocide. But they can't make that case since no one is likely to murder anyone based on anything written in Macleans.

Steyn's piece is a tad turgid -- sadly, not his finest writing. He uses "Muslim" as the sort of bogeyman-du-jour the way "communist" was used 50 years ago. The M-word is his catch-all term for immigrants from underdeveloped nations, backward (er, traditional) cultures, and religious wing-nuts in general. He uses it for all sorts of things that can't be specifically Muslim (common sense suggests) because Catholics, Christians and Jews get in on the irrational acts too. You want violence? We were all just reminded of the violent nature of Christians when Dr. Henry Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada this month. The ironically named pro-lifers tried to kill the poor man for practising medicine, fergawdsake.

But Steyn styles himself a conservative loony who longs for the ninth century when the myth and magic of the desert religions kept women in their place. As satirical schtick goes, it's pretty funny. Perhaps not on par with Colbert selling his man juice, or South Park's take on the smug West Coast progressives who get high on inhaling their own farts, but worthy of a giggle.

So I have to assume that the CIC hasn't actually read Steyn. But since their lawyers pointed out that Steyn's stats are fanciful and he's making it all up, I'd say they proved it's satire. The whole thing screams prank. Steyn's book, America Alone, from which the chapter "The Future Belongs to Islam" comes, is printed by Regnery, a Washington-based publishing house that includes Ann Coulter and other Fox loudmouths in its stable.

Does anyone outside the American Bible belt (and select parts of Alberta) take these people seriously? Part of the gag, I suspect, is in getting a publisher like this to pay for his spoof.

File in and file!

But here's my question: If Macleans' critics genuinely believe Steyn is serious, why hasn't anyone launched a complaint on behalf of the other easily identified groups he insults and abuses?

As I followed this story, all I could think was: bloody men! Bloody privileged, self-important men.

Insult the "post-Christian" habits of women, and that's just fine. Rant about the demented Japanese, okey-dokey. Imply a need to turn the elderly into glue, well, why not. But challenge the views of any of the boys who dominate the patriarchy?

"We're being vilified," one half moans. "We're being censored," the other half whines.

This coming from a bunch of guys who delight in zinging anyone who is not, well, them. Women, gays, agnostics, people of other faiths or cultures -- the boys on both sides of this dispute have all felt free to launch offensive views from public pulpits. Frankly, you'd think they'd be allies -- they're so much alike.

The fact that no one from the Girls Guild has launched a legal complaint against Macleans for its recurring theme that Canadian women need to get with the baby-making program, suggests that, like me, the sisterhood has determined that the whole magazine is one big joke.

Ditto, the CIC -- jeez, when will these guys get over themselves? I'm guessing their outrage is due to learning that, despite the deference owed to their penises, there are some guys from other wings of the patriarchy who are even bigger pricks.

As a member of a group with centuries of experience in real oppression, let me pass on the words of wisdom we hear when women complain about sexism in the news media: Can't you take a joke?

I've come to realize it's a fair point -- listening to the outrage on both sides has been pretty funny. So as we await the B.C. tribunal's decision let's take a moment to enjoy the delicious joke of these two combatants demanding society defend the rights of wealthy, powerful men who like to deny the rights of others.

Almost makes me willing to believe there is a God.

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