Actor, broadcaster and narrator Barbara Budd was co-host of As It Happens on CBC Radio One from 1993 to 2010. On July 10, she hosts the Storytelling Workshop at Factory 163 as part of the Stratford Festival.
Are you glad you are a woman?
Absolutely. I don’t know anything else, to be honest. There have been times in my life when I wonder how my life would be different if I were a man.
Different or better?
I think I have a great life. I don’t know it would be better if I were a man.
Is Canada a good place to be a woman?
I think Canada is a fabulous place to be a woman. The best place to be a woman is where your voice is heard, where your feelings are respected, where you have community support and where you are allowed to become the best person you can be or person you want to be.
In a recent survey, Canada ranked 21st out of 135 countries as best place to be a woman. Have you visited countries that appeared much less positive places to be a woman?
I wouldn’t want to have been born in China, where little girls are dispensed with because of the birth ruling [one child per family] and there is a mindset to have sons. I find it appalling.
There was a time in Canada where farmer families wanted boys that could work on the farm. They didn’t dispense with the girls, but they might not have been given the same advantages.
Five of the 10 provinces now have female premiers. Does it change the quality of life for you, for women, to have women in power?
To have a woman’s voice is vital, whether it is in a family, a book group or an investors group, because women and men are different, have different interests, different sensibilities. If only one view is ever allowed, you’re missing something. [With women leaders,] everybody’s life is going to change to a degree.
For the better?
That remains to be seen. Look at Margaret Thatcher. She was a fearless leader. She was an outstanding force in the world, but there were many for whom Margaret Thatcher was frightening. It depends on the person.
The country with the greatest gender equality in the handling of domestic chores is Denmark. Would you move to Denmark for relief from vacuuming?
If a vacuuming Dane were to move to Canada, I would anticipate he would bring all of his wonderful vacuuming skills, but then he would integrate into our fabulous culture and I suspect that before long, if the other guys weren’t vacuuming, he would say that he wasn’t going to either!
In Canada, we also have a hell of a lot more men who are fabulous hands-on fathers, who do share the domestic work. I know women who prefer that their husbands do all the cooking and they are the ones who pick up a hammer or change the windows.
In Germany, new parents qualify for three years of paternity leave split between the parent with the first three months at full salary. Do you envy the German women that?
Yes. I envy a culture that supports family in such a huge way. Those things are hugely important for the development of a child. Who do these children become who have parents staying at home with them? That is a benefit to the future.
According to that survey, the country where women stay single the longest is French Polynesia. They marry at an average age of 33. Is this a positive, liberating factor for women?
Maybe I have some French Polynesian blood. I’ve never been married. I absolutely, 100 per cent believe in marriage. Children are raised best by two parents. I chose to become a single parent because I hadn’t met the man that I knew I should be married to, but I knew that I wanted to be a mother. My own father died when I was 8. I have always wished that I had a husband and father for my child, the right husband and father for my child. That’s the first question I ask God when I get to heaven. “Where was he? Did I miss him?”
The survey found the best place to be a single mom was Norway, where only 4 per cent of single-mom families were deprived of good quality of life. How does Canada fall behind?
In Canada, or anywhere in the world, one of the most important things a child can have is the support of the community, friends and family. In Canada, there are supports for single parents there weren’t years ago: daycare, subsidized day care, even food banks.
The problem is there is still a stigma of some kind attached to single parenting. Some licence is given to people widowed, but if you choose to have a child alone as I did, then you don’t deserve the support – and that’s bullshit! There are supports for a single parent in Canada, but there needs to be a greater embracing of what it means to be a single parent.