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26% of Canadians believe that men are superior to woman! (And the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor)

Categories: Alain Giguère

Posted on 03-10-17 at 5:32 p.m.

Sexual equality isn't here yet!

International Women's Day on March 8 inspired me to put a survey question that has always intrigued me into perspective: "Whatever people say, men have a certain natural superiority over women, and nothing can change this." One in four Canadians (26%) agree with this statement. Almost one in three people in Québec (31%) agree with this statement, the province with the highest level of agreement, while the Atlantic region has the lowest level of agreement (at 20%).

What I find most curious is that young people, the Millennials, are the most in agreement with this statement (32%, or one in three). Could this be this due to the influence of Hollywood? Immigrants (people born outside Canada) and technical and blue-collar workers also stand out in being particularly in agreement with this statement.

Over the many years that we have been following the results of this question, the proportions have remained virtually unchanged (23% of the country in 2000), suggesting an entrenched background sentiment of male superiority.

We should also point out that very similar proportions of women agree with this statement (24%), leading us to conclude that Tarzan will have no trouble finding his Jane here!

Superiority or difference? The values and hot buttons underlying this view

It has already been pointed out that to any chauvinist interpretation of the results of this question, you can object that men's physical strength confers a "certain superiority" (men and women compete separately in the Olympics, for example). Others who share a feminist or less chauvinistic point of view consider physical strength more of a difference than a proof of superiority. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy and even in traditionally male jobs, women are performing as well as their male colleagues.


Click here for detailed results

Most telling in this debate is the value profile of the individuals who agree with the above-mentioned statement: they could not be more conservative.

They also express great difficulty living in today's world: they feel they have little control over their lives; they have trouble living with the change and complexity of life today. For them, society no longer has guideposts, standards, morality; people's roles have become unstructured. Women's emancipation beyond their traditional roles is proof positive for them that our society is losing its way!

Status is also an issue, along with a great deal of social-psychological nostalgia-for an era where men played the dominate roles and had the highest status in society. These individuals still crave an enviable social status, which underlies their interest in traditional roles where men and woman have clearly defined functions (corresponding to antiquated stereotypes).

We also find a significant proportion of immigrants among the people in agreement with this statement. Immigrants often come from societies espousing more traditional values and that continue to impose highly predetermined roles on men and women.

In short, we can conclude that those in agreement with this question truly see the statement as expressing the social superiority of men versus women, in the traditional, stereotypical roles they believe in!

The opportunities for businesses and organisations

I do not pretend to have the solution to the problem of sexual equality in our society; others have taken up that banner. However, given my strong concern for corporate responsibility (I sincerely believe that companies need to take this on), I see this issue as providing some very promising avenues.

All companies and organisations are founded on values. In 2017, I'm sure Justin Trudeau would agree that equality and equal opportunity must inform the fundamental values of every organization, and that concrete practices must be put in place to ensure that this value is incorporated into organizational cultures. In companies with technical jobs, and with young and immigrant employees, in particular, promoting an organizational culture based on sexual equality would surely help the situation evolve-especially since the results of our question have barely moved in 20 years.

For brands, too, promoting sexual equality can only be beneficial in today's marketplace. One example is the delightful ad run by Audi during the last Super Bowl (http://www.superbowlcommercials.co/audi/), surely one of the least feminist media placement venues around. The ad highlights the company's commitment to equal pay for equal work: "Progress is for everyone."


Click here to consult values profile

The mad scene in the opera, Lucia di Lammermoor

To illustrate just how far women have come over the centuries, I have chosen a clip from the opera, Lucia di Lammermoor, by Gaetano Donizetti. Italian opera in the 19th century usually depicted women as hysterical, neurotic and unstable. In this excerpt, Lucia has effectively lost her mind! Her brother has forced her to marry a "good catch" to raise the family's social standing. The evening of the wedding, Lucia, in a deranged state of madness, kills her new husband and sings her joy at soon being reunited with her former lover! Known as the "mad scene," it is a melodic jewel.

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor / Netrebko, Beczala, Kwiecien, The Metropolitan Opera, New York, 2009, Deutsche Grammophon.