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Canadian Review of American Studies 1992Special Issue, Part II "Challenging Times": Complexities of Feminism and the Women's Movement JanetMancini Bi/Ison 317 Constance Back.house and David H. Flaherty, eds. Challengi,ngTimes: The Women's Movement in Canada and the United States. Montreal: McGillQueen 's University Press, 1992. Naomi Black says that "shared history as well as geographical and cultural closeness make Canadian-American comparisons both logical and illuminating ." Indeed, this volume, based on presentations at a conference held at the University of Western Ontario in 1989, takes a giant step toward comparing the women's movements on either side of the world's longest undefended border. Editors Constance Back.house and David H. Flaherty have done a laudable job of pulling together essays into seven sections: The Origins of the Contemporary Women's Movement in Canada and the United States; Development and Interactions of the Women's Movement in Canada and the United States; The Interrelationship of Academic and Activist Feminism; Racism and the Women's Movement; Violence Against Women; Women and the Economy; and Reproductive Rights. These sections reflect the varied foci of the original conference. The last three sections, although they include interesting work, seem to have more to do with the status of women than with the women's movement. The one exception is M. Patricia Fernandez Kelly's "A Chill Wind Blows: Class, Ideology, and the Reproductive Dilemma," which goads us into rethinking the enormous chasm between women created by our polarization around the lightning rod subject of abortion, represented by the prochoice/antichoice movements. 318 Canadian Review of American Studies Not surprisingly, the dominant theme of Challengi,ng Times has less to do with comparative analysis and more to do with women's struggle to be inclusivein our theories, research, and activism. The schisms in the women's movement become painfully clear as one reads through each section: academic feminists versus nonacademic feminists in the community; white feminists versus women of colour and First Nations women; Anglophone Canadian feminists versus Quebec feminists; Canadian feminists versus American feminists; heterosexual feminists versus lesbian feminists; and the listgoes on. In fact, it is clear that the schisms may be more powerful forces, both intellectually and in terms of collaborative action, than the shared realities of women's lives. A comparative Canadian-American analysis would be enlightening, but these essays suggest that the feminist movements in each country are too complex to afford even the best-intentioned generalizations or detailed comparisons. Furthermore, Canadian authors complain that the American authors are insular and ignorant of the Canadian movement, which they in fact appear to be in this volume. For example, Sara Evans's piece on the women's movement in the United States is informative, but fails to relate the American movement to the Canadian movement. Ironically, just as Canadian feminists complain that American feminists are virtually unschooled in the ways of the Canadian movement, so too Quebec authors argue that Anglo-Canadian feminists fail to pay sufficient attention to them and, even worse, speak of Canadian feminism and the Canadian women's movement as if it included the movement in Quebec. Native women and women of colour add their voices to the litany of complaints about the failure to be inclusive. Nonetheless, Challenging Timesis a fascinating and ambitious volume that contains some individually brilliant pieces by thinkers like Monique Begin, JillVickers, and Micheline Dumont. The sense of the conference's exchange between women from two shores--and, obviously, many beaches--who sometimes share the waters, sometimes not, comes through clearly. The most powerful connective element is that many articles include interactive criticismsof other pieces in the volume, as happened at the conference. This renders the whole more dynamic than a string of isolated essayswould have been. Janet Mancini Bil/son I 319 Monique Begin's retrospective article about the radicalizingand energizing effectsof the Royal Commission on the Status of Women is a tourdeforce, a wise and insightful explication of the women's movement in Canada that willbecome a classic. One key point of comparison is that both countries had a special commission assigned to investigate the status of women: The U.S. Commission on the Status of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 317-325
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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