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Friday, August 1, 2014

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Me, MAC and Marois

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Norma Joseph

I want to tell you about my experience with MAC. No, not a Big Mac, and not my MacBook Air.

I intend to write this column about my use of cosmetics. I want to use the specific example of MAC cosmetics to explore how much we tolerate xenophobia. Quebec’s proposed charter of values and its supposed values are my ultimate target.

I’ve been a customer of MAC for many years. I like the product, the store is located conveniently near my office and the company makes a series of items that are long-lasting, so I can wear them on Shabbat. Added to all that, MAC recycles and has a very good incentive policy.

However, recently, I decided to stop buying the product. In fact, I won’t step into the store anymore. This summer, I received advertisements for new products from MAC that were produced in French only. Why? MAC is willing to sell to anglophones. It wants our money, so why can’t it advertise in our language?

I immediately went to the store and told the manager my thoughts. The law in Quebec is clear: the French language must be paramount, but English can appear. Why should businesses be stricter or more restrictive than the law? The minute we go overboard, we yield our political and language rights. We create the platform for further exploitations and misapplications or manipulations.

Eventually, we get a government that feels it can do anything, and big business stands back and complains that it’s losing business. What can we do? Stop them at every turn. Not just by signing petitions. I have very little faith in those. And not just by writing letters to the editor. That’s just wasteful. We write letters to the Gazette. Who reads those letters in the English newspaper? We do, not the Parti Québécois.

I know nobody at MAC cared about my absence as a customer. The store manager asked me to call the main office. I did. I got a phone apology. Nonsense. They don’t care. But if more of us stopped buying at stores that only send French flyers and then let storeowners know why we’re not shopping there, maybe it would have an effect.

We need to let our voices be heard in a myriad of places, including French newspapers.

What values does the charter represent? To be truly secular, the document would profess freedom of religion, freedom from religious persecution and domination and the freedom to practice religion. This proposal displays none of that. It doesn’t indicate any understanding of a democratic secular government, only a fear of one religious community and a misguided sense of gender equality.

If the government truly was worried about women and their place in society, then legislation regarding gender would focus on economic inequalities and not what women choose to wear. Telling women what they’re allowed to wear at work is a form of hegemonic control and of denying them agency. Who’s to know that the hijab is more dangerous than the stiletto heel or the sheitel? What silliness.

And when the one woman in the Bloc Québécois is expelled because she utters a different opinion, is that a sign of allowing women freedom? Or do we have a government that only allows women freedom if women agree with them. That’s not freedom. That’s repression. Unacceptable.

Worst of all is the hidden agenda of Islamophobia. The PQ government playbook is anti-Muslim. It’s unhealthy, anti-human rights, undemocratic and will lead to further abuses. It represents a monolithic view of who is legitimately a Quebecer, pushing all others out. And we Jews will stand with the “others” no matter how many centuries we have been here, no matter how many inroads we have made to be friendly and co-operative.

Finally, what is it really all about? The Marois government has governed poorly. Her record on education, health and the economy is abysmal. Floating this useless charter now has removed key issues from the political agenda and given her a new discussion platform. We have roads and bridges that are falling apart. Our best universities are failing. Waiting lists in the hospitals are health risks. And we’re worried about head coverings?

Something is amiss in Quebec!

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