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As Wente Gets Caught Again for Plagiarism, Don't Forget Her Racism and Rape Apologism

Globe & Mail confirms columnist plagiarised in April 23, 2016, column

by David Gray-Donald

Appearing in Globe and Mail, Monday April 25, 2016.
Appearing in Globe and Mail, Monday April 25, 2016.
Margaret Wente plagiarised in a recent article, the Globe and Mail admitted on Monday, April 25. And much will be said about this, seeing as it is not Wente's first time.
But let's take a minute to remember a few other notable Wente moments. Because while stealing intellectual property is bad (especially for "Canada's National Newspaper"), much of what she has said from her pulpit over the years is arguably much worse.
Rewind to 2008. 
Wente put forward arguments that Indigenous cultures on this continent 400 years ago were inferior to European and Chinese cultures in her article "What Dick Pound said was really dumb - and also true".
Drawing almost exclusively on the work of a pair of anthropologists, Wente said the languages, customs, ways of knowing, agriculture and so on that existed here for millenia cumulatively were not equal to the fruits of European culture, they were beneath. This is, by definition, a supremacist argument.
Furthermore, she tried to make the case that it was Indigenous peoples' attachment to their long-existing cultures that was causing despair and squalor for them today. Her message was essentially a call for assimilation into European-Canadian whiteness. Historical facts like land theft, residential schools and the Indian Act were either not mentioned or deemed irrelevant by Wente.
"The piece is most definitely an indictment of native studies, traditional knowledge and elders finally working in systems of Canadian education and government: the halls of power in this country on native land," wrote piKe krpan for Shameless Magazine at the time.

"The romanticization of Aborginal peoples that she describes is part and parcel of infantilizing them. This paternalistic approach capitalized on taking away Aboriginal rights to self-determination, culture, language, environment, dignity and hope for the future."

It is worth noting too that the European culture Wente is putting forward as superior is the same one that for hundreds of years has been breaking treaties to steal lands from Indigenous peoples, and calling it legal.

I would be remiss, and sexist, if I did add to this critique that Wente's sort of thinking has been prevalent at the Globe and Mail for years, and put forward largely by men. The most clear contemporary incarnation of this may well be Jeffrey Simpson, who is adamant that First Nation readings of treaties be ignored, and that their resources must be developed by settlers.


Defending Rape Culture

Next stop on the Wente timeline: 2015. Dalhousie University is shaken when it is uncovered that the men of the Dentristy Class of 2015 have been discussing raping unconscious women and "hate-fucking" classmates. Understandably, a media frenzy ensues. Thirteen students were suspended for their conduct.

At a protest on the campus in early January, Dalhousie Student Union Vice-President Jennifer Nowoselski tells the crowd, "We deserve to sit in a classroom where our peers have not discussed raping us," the Chronicle Herald reports. At the request of women in the program, a restorative justice approach to working through the problem is embraced by the university.

Wente could have taken this moment to help confront rape culture and work through it while supporting survivors. Maybe her thinking had changed since arguing two years prior that rape culture was an over-hyped issue because reported cases of sexual assault and rape at universities were down.

No. She turned the Dalhousie incident to around in her column to argue: "We need to stop monsterizing men." Her conclusion was that men will behave badly and there's no stopping that, so we should give up trying to make women feel comfortable in our culture.

This is the culture she previously claimed was superior to all Indigenous ones. Recall that, in some First Nations (Mohawk, for example) which operate in a matrilinial system, women are revered community leaders, not property, as was the case in European culture until quite recently. 

Anne Kingston took Wente to task in Maclean's at the time. "Protecting those accused of abusive behaviour is a hallmark of rape culture. So is dismissal of those subject to abuse."

Again, it is worth noting that Wente's position on this matter is held by many men as well, and those positions are equally inexcusable.
Writing for "Canada's National Newspaper" The Globe and Mail, Wente actively upholds rape culture as acceptable, and enables racist thought towards Indigenous peoples.
Yes, she also steals intellectual property. But this latter crime, embarrassing for sure, shouldn't distract from her more heinous acts. 


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