Monday (March 8) marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, andthe timing could not be better as so many Canadians still ride the high of the 2010 Winter Games medal count, due in large part to women athletes.
On Feb. 26, with only two days left to the Games, Canadian women athletes - totalling 43 per cent of Team Canada - racked up 80 per cent of the medals. Not to be outdone it seems, the men came roaring back to even out the medal haul, and we loved every minute of it.
Olympic columnists were both boastful and defensive when describing Canada's wins along gender lines, and everyone took it in the spirit it was meant, which was, for the most part, tongue in cheek. It was delivered as a jovial rivalry among equals.
But truth be told, it could be pointed out that the women's triumphs of physical prowess and patriotism were historically associated purely with male achievements.
It now seems so passé to put athleticism solely in the realm of male objectives. Many North Americans, male and female, would want to wipe out any notion that women were ever thought of as inferior to men. They want to say, once and for all: "Let's just let bygones be bygones," and forget the time when women were not given the same freedoms as men.
And who could blame them? That would be some Utopia.
Unfortunately, the reason that era can't be forgotten is that there are countries around the world that just won't give it up. They feel it's their duty to relegate women to ignorance by barring them access to education, to force them into sexual submission and to torture them should they disobey.
These countries also, by the way, bar women from competing in the Olympics.
And pondering this past month's glorious moments, just imagine the disservice they are doing themselves as nations.
Imagine this past month without Joannie Rochette, without Clara Hughes, without Tessa Virtue, without Ashleigh McIvor, without Maëlle Ricker, without the entire women's hockey team - we can go on and on, and these are just the Canadians.
Chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee Chris Rudge is exactly right when he pointed out that overcoming cultural challenges that limit female participation in sports isn't easy, saying: "We can't force countries to change the way they are."
That's why athletes themselves are, collectively and individually, the strongest arguments for placing women in the spotlight rather than imprisoning and shaming them.
Given the opportunity, both women and men can be the pride of their nation. Who can resist celebrating its own people as the best in the world? Certainly not we Canadians.
- Sylvie Paillard