If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know the love-hate relationship I have with "Family Day," a made-up statutory holiday in February, marked by Ontario & several other Canadian provinces. My problem is not so much having a holiday in February (my least favourite month of the year), but the label slapped on it, in a blatant attempt by the various governments involved to pander to "family values." (Click on "Family Day" in the Labels section of the sidebar at the right to see relevant past posts on the subject.)
So I was amused to stumble on an article (with podcast link) in my Facebook feed today -- an interview (about five minutes long) with a member of the Alberta provincial legislature, Ray Park, complaining that "Family Day" discriminates against single people, and proposing an equivalent "Singles Day" holiday.
I thought the guy was being just a LITTLE tongue-in-cheek -- although I agreed with the gist of many of his comments. I was curious which political party he belonged to & tried Googling him, to no avail. I did a little more research & gradually realized that the program the clip came from, "This is That," is a satirical news show on CBC Radio. Well, that explained it ;) -- although if you read any of the comments on Facebook, a lot of people clearly did not get the joke.
As with all satire, of course, there is a point being made, an element of truth in what's being said, if you listen carefully. When you name a holiday "Family Day" and urge people to celebrate their families and spend time with them, you might think you're being politically safe (who has a beef against families, right??) and inclusive (we all have families, right?).
Except not all of us have families, at least, the way most politicians define them, when they talk about "family values" and "hard-working families." Yes, we all have parents -- & possibly some siblings, and aunts, uncles & cousins, maybe some nieces and nephews, if we're lucky. But not all of us are lucky enough to have the children we wanted. Not all of us want children. Are my husband & I a family, in the eyes of these politicians? We might think so -- but I get the distinct impression that policymakers don't share this view. They tend to be fixated on the standard stereotypical image of a family -- mom, dad, 2.1 children and perhaps a family pet. Plus, even if your family more or less fits this definition, there's no guarantee that it's a happy family. Some people may not want to celebrate and spend time with their families -- sometimes for very good reasons.
So you can't blame singles, or childless couples, or people who are estranged from their families -- people whose families don't fit the standard definition -- for taking umbrage at yet one more reminder (as if we needed one...) that, in the eyes of many, we just don't count, that we are somehow lesser-than.
Yes, I know, you can pick holes in anything if you try hard enough. Yes, it's a holiday -- in February! -- and I do appreciate that.
But families come in all shapes and sizes and colours these days. We've come a long way in recognizing and accommodating diversity and making our society more inclusive, in terms of things like gender, skin colour and religion. And we've made a start at recognizing a broader definition of family -- that families can be multi-generational, headed by single parents, that Heather can have two mommies. It's time we started recognizing that singles and couples without children, for whatever reason, can be families too.