Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

"Plus Ca Change ...": Graduates' Views of Canadian Females' Opportunities after 50 Years of Change

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

"Plus Ca Change ...": Graduates' Views of Canadian Females' Opportunities after 50 Years of Change

Article excerpt

NEW-LEFT FEMINISM MADE ITS APPEARANCE on Canadian campuses in 1967 (Palmer 2009:299). While Canadian women concerned with their inequality had been promoting change for some time (Begin 1992; Gosselin 2006; Rebick 2005; Robbins et al. 2008; Vickers 1992), in general, prior to that date, university students displayed little obvious sympathy for their cause. Despite this silence, I have shown that the 1967 graduates of Glendon College, York University, in Toronto, Canada, who entered first year in 1963, were in fact well aware of the barriers confronted by female Canadians (Grayson 2014). The current article builds on this research by combining the findings of the 1967 survey with new information collected on students when they entered Glendon in 2013 and four years later in 2017.

In this article, I will show that despite considerable improvement in the position of females in Canadian society over the past 50 years, in 2017, graduates still perceived considerable barriers to female success in the labor force, politics, education, and in the sexual freedom allowed females. In fact, in some realms, more students perceived barriers in 2017 than in 1967.

I will also show that after four years of study, in 2017, more female students identified barriers to women than they had upon entry to the college in 2013. Male students did not undergo this transformation. These findings for females are the likely consequence of students' university experiences on a small campus on which considerable attention was given to the lives of women; large numbers of faculty were female; a public discourse included sexuality and issues of interest to women; and students became aware of the "relative deprivation" of Canadian females.


As noted previously, prior to 1967, calls for change in the status of women had been voiced by Canadian women for some time; however, it was not until that year that New-Left Feminism developed on some Canadian campuses. Prior to that date, students devoted little time to sexual inequalities evident on- and off-campus. (1)

Prior to New-Left Feminism, most Canadian women were prepared to work within the system to effect change. Now it was different. As Roberta Lexier (2009) pointed out, "members of the women's movement came to believe that women needed to be liberated just as minorities and colonial dependencies did" (p. 7). New-Left Feminists rejected ordinary political processes, emphasized consciousness raising among women, and were "antistatist" (Vickers 1992). Most importantly, they subjected all aspects of their existence to rigorous examination in attempts to identify ways in which simply being female contributed to their disadvantage. In essence, New-Left Feminism made the private issue of female oppression a public issue (Palmer 2009:302). While few students readily embraced the message of the new feminism, it represented a possible challenge to the sexual conservatism of most Canadian campuses. It is important to note, however, that New-Left Feminism emerged after the cohort of 1963 had already left Glendon in 1967.


Students who entered Glendon in 1963, and who graduated by 1967, entered a world in which females did not fully participate in various realms of endeavor. For example, in 1963, approximately 13 percent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24 were undergraduates in Canadian universities (Roberts et al. 2005:569). Only 27 percent of all undergraduates were female (Roberts et al. 2005:569, 572). Because of changing categorizations, direct comparisons are not possible; however, in 2013, 32 percent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 were enrolled in colleges and universities. Of this number, 56 percent were females. (3) Clearly, in the half-century since 1967, the female presence in higher education increased substantially.

If upon graduation in 1966 or 1967 females went looking for jobs, they would have joined the mere 37 percent of Canadian women working full- and part-time in the labor force (Roberts et al. …

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