Challenging Times

Challenging Times: The Women's Movement in Canada and the United States

Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Challenging Times
    Book Description:

    By allowing the reader to draw comparisons between women's movements in Canada and the United States, Challenging Times shows that certain political and theoretical issues transcend international borders, ebbing and flowing between the two countries symbiotically. Topics discussed include the origins of "second-stage feminism," the strength of the women's movement within academic structures, and the challenges posed by racial, ethnic, and class diversity; violence against women; the promise and limits of legal reform; reproductive technology; and economic discrimination. Readers who are interested in the recent history of the North American women's movement will find answers to many of their questions about the victories, defeats, and fundamental challenges facing modern feminism. Those who have been active in the current wave of feminism, either as central participants or serious critics, will find Challenging Times equally fascinating because it endeavours to provide answers to pressing questions about the nature of feminism, the inter-relationships and tensions between different sectors of the movement, and the prospects for future growth. Many of the contributors to this volume have lived through and personally shaped the unfolding of the rich history of North American feminism. In addition to Backhouse and Flaherty, the contributors are Catharine A. MacKinnon, Greta Hofmann Nemiroff, Monique Bégin, Mariana Valverde, Naomi Black, Marjorie Griffin Cohen, Micheline de Sève, Micheline Dumont, Margrit Eichler, Sara M. Evans, Marianne A. Ferber, Lorraine Greaves, Marjorie Heins, M. Patricia Fernández Kelly, Patricia A. Monture-Okanee, Arun Mukherjee, Jean F. O'Barr, Christine Overall, Glenda Simms, and Jill Vickers.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6342-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. 1 The Contemporary Women’s Movements in Canada and the United States: An Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    The contributors to this volume of essays were all participants at a held at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada in May of 1989.¹ The theme of the colloquium was comparison between the contemporary women’s movements in and the United States. As presenters of papers or as commentators, all attempted to answer pressing questions about the of feminism in its current forms, the interrelationship and between different portions of the movement, and prospects future growth.

    An exercise in purely comparative analysis, it would be inaccurate to suggest that this volume of essays constitutes a definitive examination. The feminist...

    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 19-20)

      THE FOUR ESSAYS IN THIS PART ATTEMPT TO EXAMINE THE various factors that provided the originating impetus for the most recent wave of the women’s movements in Canada and the United States. Monique Bégin and Jill Vickers describe the initial resurfacing of the organized feminist movement in Canada in the 1960s, Sara Evans portrays a similar burst of energy in the United States in the decade, and Micheline Dumont recounts the somewhat earlier awakening of feminist activism in Quebec in the 1940s.

      Monique Bégin writes from the perspective of one who lived in the centre of the resurgence. As a...

    • 2 The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada: Twenty Years Later
      (pp. 21-38)

      There have been enormous changes in our collective sensitivity to women’s issues since the tabling of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada (RCSW) in the House of Commons on 7 December 1970, further to the private presentation of a copy, a week earlier, to Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.¹ Among its many contributions to changing our society, feminism is now firmly engaged in reinterpreting and re-evaluating knowledge within almost all of the disciplines of the academy. There is, however, much work still to be done in making scholarship and knowledge accessible to and...

    • 3 The Intellectual Origins of the Women’s Movements in Canada
      (pp. 39-60)

      Much current scholarship sees the contemporary women’s movement as one of “the new social movements” which emerged after the Second World War in the ideological “space” made for them by critiques of the Old Left. This view directs us away from uncovering continuities of thought within a country between generations of women’s movements over their century of existence. Canadian observers argued as recently as 1975 that “the current women’s ‘movement’ ... really has no historical connection with the women’s suffrage movement at the turn of the century. The two are separated by a half century of inactivity on the part...

    • 4 The Women’s Movement in the United States in the 1960s
      (pp. 61-71)

      Participation in conferences is a complex experience for many of us, a complicated exercise in engaged scholarship, where we walk into a room and confront ghosts of ourselves. At the conference from which this book originated, for example, I met Jo Freeman and Margrit Eichler, both prominent social scientists. But I first knew Jo as a founder of the first women’s liberation group in the United States, a group I joined in 1967 about a month after it began. And I met Margrit in 1968 in a consciousness-raising group, and later a childcare co-operative, in North Carolina where we both...

    • 5 The Origins of the Women’s Movement in Quebec
      (pp. 72-90)

      Almost everyone is aware that Quebec is an enigma for most Canadians. Although I am certain that I will not be able to resolve this problem in this essay, after a few introductory remarks, I would like to comment more extensively on the experience of Quebec women.

      The rise of feminism seems to have occurred in waves. The familiar concepts of “first wave” and “second wave” can be found in almost any book on feminism. It has been assumed that the first wave occurred at the end of the nineteenth century and faded after women were given the right to...

    • 6 Ripples in the Second Wave: Comparing the Contemporary Women’s Movement in Canada and the United States
      (pp. 94-109)

      Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.

      (Proposed “Lucretia Mott Amendment,” Seneca Falls, New York, 1923)

      All people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin. (Article 14, New Constitution, Japan, 1947)

      Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

      (Equal Rights Amendment, approved by the Congress of the United States, March, 1972)

      (1) Every individual is equal before and...

    • 7 The Perspectives of Quebec Feminists
      (pp. 110-116)

      Comparing the contemporary women’s movement in Canada and the United States, Naomi Black laments the lack of awareness of United States feminists in relation to the Canadian women’s movement. But what about the two solitudes in our one and only country? Black herself does not find the “cultural split” between the French and English fractions of our movement important enough to justify more than a few side remarks, reproducing the same attitude she condemns, nevertheless, in the case of feminists living in a far bigger country, our neighbours but not our compatriots. So, I have to try in a few...

    • 8 Not Always an Easy Alliance: The Relationship between Women’s Studies and the Women’s Movement in Canada
      (pp. 120-135)

      Interviewer:How would you describe the general relationship between feminist studies and the women’s movement?

      Professor:Hmmm. Well. Not always an easy alliance, I guess.

      It is part of our conventional wisdom that women’s studies have emerged “out of the women’s movement,” not just in Canada, but in other countries as well.¹ Usually, this causal connection is stated in the form of an obvious fact that does not require further consideration. A second assumption is that of an ongoing relationship, in which women’s studies is seen as the educational arm of the women’s movement, or as Robyn Rowland says “if we are...

    • 9 Exclusions and the Process of Empowerment: The Case for Feminist Scholarship
      (pp. 136-149)
      JEAN F. O’BARR

      Surveying the evolution and characteristics of feminist scholarship and linking that body of work to the larger political task of feminism are clearly impossible tasks, certainly for a single individual and definitely within a limited scope. Confronting the task of organizing my essay, I realized that I would be clearest starting autobiographically, then outlining what I see to be the current patterns in feminist scholarship.

      While it is obvious that one individual’s experience is just that and thatSigns,as a journal, is one among many, I think that my own travels in feminist scholarship are representative of the roads...

    • 10 What Is the Interrelationship between Academic and Activisit Feminism?
      (pp. 150-156)

      It is a daunting task to comment on the interrelationship between academic and activist feminism. The tensions between these elements of the women’s movement, as described by Margrit Eichler’s respondents, have likely been either observed or experienced by all women. So to introduce a moment of lightness, but a realistic one nonetheless, I want to say that more than one observer has said that the major difference between academic and activist feminists is that the former have access to photocopiers and the latter do not. As well as being a division, this difference may often account for the great deal...

    • 11 Racism and Anti-Racism in Feminist Teaching and Research
      (pp. 160-164)

      There is no doubt that racism is the major issue of the women’s movement as the 1990s begin. Third-World women and women of colour in developed countries have been making their voices heard for some time in specifically feminist contexts, but few white feminists really listened, much less contemplated giving up some space and some power. While white feminists as a whole are probably still not interested in giving up our newly acquired and still fragile institutional power (power to control women’s organizations, to define feminism, to represent women vis-à-vis the state, and so on), women of colour and Third...

    • 12 A House Divided: Women of Colour and American Feminist Theory
      (pp. 165-174)

      Although groups of women who identify themselves variously as women of colour, Native women, Third-World women, African American women, and Black women have consistently attacked the theoretical constructions generated by the various brands of (white) Anglo-American and (white) French feminist theory as imperialist, racist, Eurocentric, and exclusionary, the crisis of legitimation their critiques have caused regarding mainstream feminism is beginning to be felt only now.¹ There are many indications of this development. While major reformulations of mainstream feminist theories that take into account the contradictions pointed out in the theoretical work of women of colour are few and far between,...

    • 13 Beyond the White Veil
      (pp. 175-182)

      Mariana Valverde is in the fortunate position of choosing her racial identity. She has said that she is Hispanic in America and white in Canada. I, on the other hand, am Black in America, Black in Canada and Black wherever I am. I cannot change this identity, even if I wanted to. Arun Mukherjee speaks very eloquently on the perspective of Black women in the United States. Mariana Valverde also spoke about exclusion, the fact that white feminists, no matter what happens, continue business as usual because they find it so impossible to change.

      My argument is that feminists will...

    • 14 Feminist Approaches to Sexual Assault in Canada and the United States: A Brief Retrospective
      (pp. 186-192)

      Even alone, women find ways to resist sexual violation. Organized women’s movements, in varying vocabularies, have also opposed abuse through sex as essential to women’s freedom. These struggles leave a trace only when they surface, are noticed, and recorded. Such recognition is rare. A distinctive feature of the contemporary women’s movement is its focus on making sexual abuse visible. As a result, for the first time in history, we are beginning to have real information on the extent, interconnectedness, and etiology of the problem. Contemporary feminism has also distinguished itself in the extent of its attempts to intervene in sexual...

    • 15 The Violence We Women Do: A First Nations View
      (pp. 193-200)

      This topic “violence against women,” it mystifies me. I am not mystified because I do not understand the meaning of violence. I know what rape is. I know what assault is. I know what pornography is. I know what sexual abuse is. I know what these things are vis-à-vis First Nations and First Nations women all too painfully well. I understand the theory and the real life experience. But, I also understand what racism is. I know the result of racism is violence. The violence of racism often echoes in a silenced world. What I do not understand is violence...

    • [PART SIX Introduction]
      (pp. 203-204)

      THE SECOND AREA CHOSEN FOR PROFILE IS WOMEN AND THE economy, an area of undeniable importance for feminist analysts and activists in both Canada and the United States. Economic issues have been a focus of feminist attention in North America since the nineteenth century, and the current wave of feminism has inherited some of the historically prominent matters such as wage disparity and access to a diversity of occupations. The contemporary women’s movement has also begun to address some new economic issues, such as pay equity and affirmative action. These essays examine the barriers to women’s full participation in the...

    • 16 Women and the American Economy
      (pp. 205-214)

      The “traditional” family, with a husband who goes out into the world to earn a living and to manage the affairs of state, while the wife and mother takes care of the children and tends to hearth and home, making sure it is an attractive, comfortable place for the head of the family to retreat to from his toil and struggles, developed late in human history, was never universal, and proved to be rather shortlived.¹ Prior to the industrial revolution, men and women were both providers who worked hard, at times side by side, taking care of the needs of...

    • 17 The Canadian Women’s Movement and Its Effortsto Influence the Canadian Economy
      (pp. 215-224)

      The issues of the women’s movement in Canada in some respects have not changed. The problems which were highlighted in the 1970Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Womenare still with us.¹ This report documented women’s inequality in Canada under the law and in the work-force. It showed that women were poor because we did not have equal access to jobs, equal pay for the work we performed, or adequate public child care, and that we were treated unfairly in property and tax legislation. The most important result of this document was that it enabled women’s...

    • 18 Affirmative Action and Women’s Rights in the Reign of chief justice William Rehnquist
      (pp. 225-236)

      I am humbled by the task of addressing the current state of sex discrimination and women’s rights law in the United States, not only because of its complexity, but because there are probably as many different views to hold on sex discrimination and women’s rights as there are civil rights lawyers – a notoriously contentious bunch – to take them. My account, consequently, will be impressionistic, and naturally will highlight those issues that I find particularly wrenching politically or intriguing intellectually.

      This essay will discuss two interlocking subjects: first, affirmative action as a legal concept and a social practice in the United...

    • 19 Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Reproductive Rights in Canada
      (pp. 240-251)

      I approach the discussion of the women’s movement and reproductive rights as a feminist philosopher who has been concerned, over the last eight years, with moral issues and social policy questions pertaining to reproduction and reproductive technology. I am particularly interested in investigating both current ideas and ideologies about reproduction, and the values and goals most relevant to feminist action with respect to reproduction.

      In this essay I shall examine the concept of a “reproductive right,” a notion which plays a central role in discussions of issues relating to women’s reproductive health. While the concept of rights in general does...

    • 20 A Chill Wind Blows: Class, Ideology, and the Reproductive Dilemma
      (pp. 252-268)

      This essay stems from my own apprehensions about the polarization of discourses on abortion. Those who share my discomfort include more than men eager to perpetuate power over women and more than fanatics. Ambivalence about the limits of choice and the value of life also extends to millions of individuals, of both sexes, wrestling with integrity over moral alternatives.

      As a feminist, and a woman, I value political action that aims at enhancing human life. For the same reason, I believe in the merits of choice, particularly as it refers to the ability of women to bear children. But choice...

    • 21 That Which Divides Us; That Which Unites Us
      (pp. 271-288)

      This introduction is neither a disclaimer nor a complaint; rather it is an account of how I organized myself to make the closing remarks with some semblance of coherence at the conference at which the essays in this volume originated, and why I have structured what follows this way. At the conference, I took note of every presentation and of the responses and discussion which followed each offering. The spoken word has different weights and colourations from the written one and, frequently, it was the oral presentation, the response to a comment, the intervention from the floor, which brought the...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 289-326)
  16. Index
    (pp. 327-335)