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Feminist Success Stories - Célébrons nos réussites féministes

Karen A. Blackford
Marie-Luce Garceau
Sandra Kirby

Part VI: What We Have Learned — Partie VI : Leçons de nos expériences

What We Have Learned

Leçons de nos expériences

Karen A. Blackford, Marie-Luce Garceau et Sandra Kirby

Texte intégral

1In the opening chapter of this book, we reviewed Rosemarie Tong’s (1989) idea that feminist theory is demonstrated by action imbedded in particular locations and identities. From this starting point, we introduced each of the sections of the book to highlight the diverse identities and locations of Canadian authors and their various approaches to creating change.

2In each chapter, authors presented their explanations of why and how women are oppressed. Now, in this final chapter of Feminist Success Stories, we review where this text has taken us and identify the collective lessons we have learned.

3Our first major lesson involves the practical experiences the authors have shared as they clarify the areas in which Canadian women are oppressed. These areas include educational systems, patriarchal traditions, institutional processes, individual attitudes, cultural controls, and both written and verbal communication situations.

4Secondly, the authors have also described principles, actions, and strategies that they and other women have used to claim or reclaim power. All of these elements are fundamental to the feminization of institutions in Canada.

5Next, we noted the many themes of Canadian women’s oppression addressed in the articles. As each theme was identified, women’s ways of overcoming particular situations of oppression were also highlighted. In spite of variety in emphasis and differences in worldview, similar themes of oppression and resistance run through every chapter. These themes include the socialization of women and girls, the power of the written and spoken word, the Canadian economy, and human rights and responsibilities.

6The outcomes of feminist change were discussed and include improvements in the lives of women and transformations in many of the organizations and institutions in which they work and live. Given that many improvements and transformations have occurred, it is important to create tools to measure these changes. To ensure that the evidence we provide of feminist success is strong enough to empower future feminist action and thought, we have summarized a number of recurring indicators of success in the process of “feminizing”. Prominent among these indicators are feminist process, education as consciousness raising, respect for diversity, historical context, evaluation, and women-centeredness.

7In our final reflections, we conclude that, in spite of variation related to location, identity, and action, there are many common ideas and theories about the nature of feminism across Canada.

8Dans le chapitre d’introduction, nous présentions l’idée développée par Rosemarie Tong (1989) selon laquelle la théorie féministe se caractérise davantage par une action qui porte le sceau de son enracinement local et de son identité. Ce point de vue ayant servi de canevas aux différentes parties du livre, il servira aussi à élaborer ce dernier chapitre.

9Chacune des auteures présente, à sa manière, les différentes identités des femmes, les multiples lieux de leur oppression, les raisons pour lesquelles l’oppression s’exerce, la façon dont elle le fait et, enfin, les moyens mis en place pour obtenir des changements. Ainsi, dans ce chapitre de Célébrons nos réussites féministes, nous débuterons en montrant certains des lieux communs de l’oppression des femmes : le système d’éducation, le patriarcat, les institutions, les attitudes individuelles et collectives ou le contrôle culturel, etc.

10Deuxièmement, nous décrirons les principes, les stratégies et les actions adoptés par les auteures et les femmes afin d’acquérir plus de pouvoir et d’obtenir des changements sociaux. L’ensemble de ces éléments sont fondamentaux à la féminisation des institutions canadiennes.

11Troisièmement, en parcourant l’ensemble des chapitres, il est possible de tirer certaines leçons concernant l’oppression des femmes et la façon féministe de concevoir le changement social. On trouvera ainsi de courtes discussions ayant pour thèmes la socialisation, le pouvoir symbolique, l’économie canadienne ou les droits et les responsabilités.

12Finalement, même si la moindre transformation des conditions de vie des femmes ou des organisations dans lesquelles elles œuvrent constitue une réussite, celle-ci revêt souvent un caractère mitigé dans une société patriarcale. Il faut donc créer des instruments propres à mesurer les changements accomplis afin que toutes les femmes puissent en bénéficier et qu’ils puissent stimuler les théories et les pratiques en s’appuyant sur des faits et des expériences robustes. En ce sens, les auteures ont proposé un certain nombre d’indicateurs rendant possible la mesure des réussites des femmes. Parmi ceux-ci, certains ressortent de façon plus particulière : les stratégies féministes, la prise de conscience au moyen de l’éducation, le respect de la diversité, le contexte historique, l’évaluation critique et l’approche centrée sur les femmes.

13De ces chapitres, nous pouvons d’ores et déjà conclure que les luttes des femmes, qu’elles soient du domaine privé ou public, sont importantes au plan individuel et collectif. Elles sont importantes parce que chacune des auteures précise, à sa façon, ce qu’elle entend par une pratique féministe marquée du sceau de la réussite.

Sites of Oppression and Feminist Processes. Lieux de l’oppression et stratégies féministes

14Uncovering the various sites of oppression involving any aggregate demonstrates that social change is never a direct or obvious enterprise. Working alone or in concert, the many facets of oppression comprise enormous barriers to women’s efforts to improve the quality of their lives and their status.

15This is true for women in their views of themselves; it is also reflected in societal and physical norms, in homes, in workplaces, and in communities in which women work as volunteers or for wages. For example, organizational and research practices based on the modern ideals of rationality, individuality, and objectivity have created hierarchies and inflexible arrangements which oppress women and girls in the educational system (Epp). These oppressive practices are also evident in research funding institutes and methods (Christiansen-Ruffman et al; Garceau), in political life (Garrett); and in the workforce (Hare and Corbiere, Parsons and Goggins, Briskin). Sexist, disablist, racist, homophobic, Eurocentric, ageist attitudes emerging from these modern values counteract the efforts by women to be in control of important aspects of their lives (Bouchard et Cholette). Women’s bodies (Blackford, Gordon), the family (Miedema and Nason-Clark, Blackford), medical institutions (Blackford; Gagné), the church (Dumas) are likewise sites of oppression. Cultural assimilation has the effect of severing historic connections with religion, language, and other identity and contextual concerns important to women’s cultural origins and strengths (Hébert; Hare and Corbiere). Words, as instruments for communicating knowledge and values (Whitney), are also often sites of women’s oppression. Taken together, these multiple sites of oppression impede efforts made by women to bring about change. For progressive change to occur, it is important that women, both individually and collectively, identify oppression as it exists in their own locations and see themselves as capable of making feminist change as individuals and in concert with other women.

Principles of Change. Principes du changement

16We have chosen seven articles to demonstrate how explicit and implicit principles have guided feminist change. Fulfilment of these same principles serves as measures of success in bringing about feminist change.

17The members of the Better Beginnings, Better Futures project (Reitsma-Street and Rogerson) decided that success for their neighbourhood organization should include achievement of the following six principles: active member participation, egalitarian work relations, dailiness, care for the caregivers, empowerment, and networking. This organization has literally changed whole neighbourhoods by developing affirming and respectful processes through which women along with others have been able to work together and with others. Assessment efforts have always included feedback from the neighbourhood as well as participant involvement.

18Gordon describes a community dance school committed to consensus and cooperation in both its internal and external activities. The inclusive nature of the school means that instructors, volunteers, and girls attending the school have a sense of ownership of the school and that no sharp divisions exist among the three groups. The accomplishments of this organization include valuing and recognition of women’s paid and unpaid work and fostering of communication in spite of age differences.

19Parsons and Goggins provide an example of the importance of feminist process at the local level. Innovative approaches including that of decision-making by consensus which eventually transformed both the women’s caucus, and, subsequently, an entire educators’ union. Working through problems associated with diversity and solidarity strengthened women in their efforts to raise bargaining issues with union executives and with employers; these issues included work-site standards, childcare, benefits for dependents, and accommodation for working union members with disabilities.

20Briskin tells how rank-and-file women gained a voice in Canadian unions through a participatory approach on the part of female union staff. The context of affirmative action legislation, in conjunction with these advances, Briskin argues, placed discussion of representation and shared power at the forefront of the union agenda across Canada.

21Whitney writes that both the process and outcomes of change were integral to the organization of the Girl Guides. Consensus was achieved through negotiations at rallies across the country. Guides as well as their leaders were included in decision-making. While Whitney acknowledges that more changes in these directions are warranted, she likewise remarks that increased democratization of the organization and enhancement of guiders’ self-esteem and self-determination were important feminist goals achieved through these processes.

22La féminisation des institutions canadiennes, particulièrement au chapitre des coopératives, repose sur l’analyse des multiples formes d’oppression des femmes et la lutte qu’elles mènent pour y mettre fin. Le succès de La coopérative Convergence, étayé par Bouchard et Cholette, montre que la féminisation d’une institution est chose possible, malgré les embûches et les difficultés que rencontrent les coopérantes. Ces auteures soulignent que la féminisation des structures, dans lesquelles elles travaillent depuis maintenant quelques années, se fonde sur quelques principes cardinaux : partage des pouvoirs, environnement de travail flexible, inclusion de personnes possédant le moins de privilèges et autonomie des femmes. Toutefois, elles mentionnent également que les acquis des femmes demeurent fragiles. Plusieurs iniquités subsistent encore aujourd’hui. C’est pourquoi Bouchard et Cholette en appellent à la solidarité des femmes et des exclues et à leur commune volonté de changer les rapports sociaux de domination.

23Success for Laiken lies in processes involving clear communication, broad input into decision-making and policy implementation, and milieux supportive of women. In other words, measures of success are tied to emergence and expression of individual participants’ philosophies, followed by negotiation of a group philosophy and construction of an organizational model. Most important is the development of participants’ process skills, safe environments for dialogue, and clearly understood and accepted mechanisms for conflict resolution. Effective decision-making is only possible in the context of long term commitment to an organization, effective communication, and accountability. Together, these factors lead to decision-making through consensus.

Strategies for Bringing about Change. Stratégies pour le changement

24In this book, authors identify a variety of strategies for bringing about change. These strategies include placing women at the centre, partnerships, education including consciousness-raising, respect for diversity, recollection of historical context, and critical evaluation of outcomes. The relationship between sites of oppression and where feminists have chosen to focus their efforts to bring about change are clearly described.

Placing Women at the Centre — Approche centrée sur les femmes

25Kirby, in her analysis of the development of the Canadian Sport Council, highlights the value of placing women at the centre of training opportunities and in positions as spokespersons and government policy-makers. When the climate of change becomes positive, success can be measured by how effectively well-informed well-positioned women contribute. It can also be measured by the existence of gender equity and participant-centredness in mandates, goals, objectives, and policies of organizations. To determine whether women-centred changes have occurred, evaluation is a necessary and long-term activity for the organization. That is, an organization must determine whether its planning outcomes are “window dressing” or catalysts for real change.

26Women are at the core of the Aboriginal community development program described by Hare and Day-Corbiere. They cite women-led meetings as an important aspect of the project.

27Miedema and Nason-Clark demonstrate that it is empowering for foster mothers to describe their situations and perspectives and to voice their recommendations for change. Women-centred approaches are valuable in unravelling state oppression when it involves inadequate funding and consultation with women on the one hand and proof of successful parenting on the other. Miedema and Nason-Clark argue that foster mothers succeed in making an important contribution to society in spite of, rather than with the support of, the social welfare system.

28Bouchard et Cholette montrent l’importance que l’on devrait accorder aux valeurs féministes telles l’absence de hiérarchie, la flexibilité, l’inclusion et l’autonomie dans le développement de nouvelles structures du travail susceptibles de répondre aux besoins des femmes. Leurs expériences comme coopérantes viennent étayer la façon dont ces valeurs changent la structure quotidienne du travail et les relations qu’entretient l’organisation avec l’extérieur.

29Aux valeurs développées par Bouchard et Cholette viennent s’ajouter celles de Garceau : motivation, respect, souplesse, bonne communication, confiance mutuelle, échange, reconnaissance des compétences, partage d’une vision commune. Celles-ci sont autant de gages de réussites individuelles et collectives pour les femmes participant à un processus de recherche-action. Pourtant, on ne saurait trop insister sur l’importance de partager une vision commune centrée sur les problèmes d’un groupe précis de femmes. Pour Garceau, il s’agit de celle des Franco-Ontariennes de 45 à 64 ans, car c’est leur vision commune qui est à l’origine de la transformation de leurs multiples réalités.

30Coholic and Prévost highlight the innovative approaches possible when programs for adult survivors of sexual abuse are women-centred. They describe how counselling on an individual and group basis can move beyond healing of trauma to an examination of sexism in society. Participants’ altered worldviews with regard to power and gender help to strengthen women for the tasks of refraining their experiences and of eliminating self-blame and guilt. Success is evidenced in participants’ heightened self-esteem, their ability to deconstruct and analyze the events in their everyday lives, and their ability to reconstruct social relations.

31Successful change can come from the bottom up or the top down. As Coholic and Prévost illustrate, one of the by-products of a women-centred approach is the ripple effect that feminist change has within an organization. A successful women-centred program can modify policy directions of its “parent” organization so that issues of importance to women are given priority. On the other hand, progressive women-centered state policies, even though they may be federal or provincial/territorial, can also have a strong influence at the level of municipal program implementation. Success emerges when optimal conditions for change exist; these conditions can be created by individual women or state policy.

Partnerships — Partenariats

32Le partenariat est une composante essentielle du changement social féministe. À partir d’une recherche-action, Garceau présente certains éléments propres à façonner ce genre d’expérience partenariale. D’abord, une telle démarche s’appuie sur l’initiative des femmes qui, en collaboration avec des chercheures, apprennent à valoriser leurs expériences et leurs compétences mutuelles. Dès lors, pour Garceau, les rapports entre les partenaires doivent s’inscrire dans une logique d’égalité respectueuse des différences. Cette égalité implique que les femmes doivent avoir le contrôle sur le déroulement de l’enquête. Celui-ci s’obtient d’abord par la présence et la participation des femmes aux discussions et décisions. Cette prise de parole atteint son apogée lorsque leurs préoccupations deviennent centrales à la fois au processus de recherche et aux stratégies d’actions. La recherche-action devient alors une démarche féconde, malgré ses exigences et ses contraintes, parce qu’elle s’effectue à l’instant et au lieu même où les femmes se trouvent.

33Garceau montre la dimension fort importante du temps qu’il faut accorder à un projet de recherche en partenariat. Ce temps permet aux femmes de se connaître afin que s’établissent des bases solides et nécessaires à toutes les étapes subséquentes de la recherche. Par ailleurs, malgré les difficultés inhérentes à un tel projet, il doit permettre de valider le savoir expérientiel des femmes et leur vision du monde à partir de leur position d’actrices sociales. L’idée défendue est que les femmes, après avoir exploré leur privé, sont capables de s’en abstraire pour construire un pan de la réalité sociale intersubjective et transubjective. Finalement, pour Garceau, le changement social doit être au centre de la motivation et des préoccupations des partenaires.

34Partnerships are a critical component of feminist change. They can be formed to undertake research that has a wide scope; the results of this kind of research have a broad impact (Reitsma-Street and Rogerson; Christiansen-Ruffman et al.). Partnerships can be alliances between academics and community activists. Such partnership ensure that those involved in change are as fully informed about issues and strategies as possible (Reitsma-Street and Rogerson). Partnership can also be formed between organizations and their particular caucuses or committees to bring about change within organizations (Briskin; Moreau; Parsons and Goggins). The most difficult, perhaps, are partnerships formed between women’s groups and/or government or business (Hare and Day-Corbiere, Reitsma-Street and Rogerson; Christiansen-Ruffman et al.). In this last case, the power differential between partners is great. Furthermore, the outcomes of change in such situations may be more direct and salient for the women than for their partners.

35Paid and unpaid individuals often work together to bring about change (Laiken; Reitsma-Street and Rogerson). Artificial divisions based on pay or status or exclusivity need to be carefully factored into the creation of partnerships. This is necessary to ensure that the partnerships are equal in how women are valued, respected, and empowered to participate in decision-making. To be productive and satisfying, partnerships need to be based on a fair sharing of resources, negotiation of desired direction, commitment to tasks at hand, and shared responsibility for outcomes.

36Significantly, some women prefer to act alone. However, when social change involves the work of groups of women, the processes of group interaction are critically important. Some have suggested that the longer it takes to effect a change, the more important it is that egalitarian processes be observed. Others have suggested that process is always important, maybe even more important than outcome.

Education Which Includes Consciousness Raising — Éducation, formation et prise de conscience

37Epp sees how valuable outcomes emerged from the efforts of the feminist faculty network at the university in which she was situated. Although she emphasizes the ongoing need for further education about sexism and women’s issues, she likewise recounts how a Women’s Studies area of study, initially established as a minor elective, has grown to include a Master’s Degree Program. Some faculty members experienced a change in worldview. This new worldview includes a sense of empowerment and belief that change is possible. Although Epp indicates that no radical paradigm shift occurred across her campus, passage of an affirmative action policy is a concrete indicator of feminist change.

38The safety and separate spaces provided by support groups for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse (Coholic and Prévost), a union women’s caucus (Parsons and Goggins), Women’s Studies classes (Epp), and an association of sporting women (Kirby) provide opportunities to revise women’s views of the gendered world (Dumais). Similarly, consciousness raising has occurred at countrywide rallies of Girl Guides and in Guiding executive meetings (Whitney). Even the privacy of family life can provide a space in which to reframe social relations when a parent has a disability (Blackford). These opportunities bring improved understanding of how male-centered political, social, and economic power has been maintained by assumptions about biological differences and socialized roles.

39Selon Garceau, dans toute recherche-action, les femmes arrivent avec des connaissances issues de leurs expériences et méconnaissent le plus souvent le processus de recherche. La recherche peut devenir alors un instrument de distanciation entre les partenaires plutôt qu’un lieu de convergence. C’est pourquoi les chercheures doivent transmettre les principales étapes de ce processus dans un langage clair et accessible et échanger sur l’état actuel de la théorie, de façon à permettre aux femmes de s’approprier elles-mêmes la démarche de recherche qui leur convient. L’idée sous-jacente est de permettre aux femmes d’expliquer elles-mêmes les causes et les mécanismes à l’origine de leur oppression. La formation prend alors une importance capitale.

40Par ailleurs, Garceau insiste sur l’importance d’une prise de conscience des différents enjeux afin de pouvoir agir : prise de conscience réalisable au moyen de la formation et de l’éducation. Du même souffle, elle affirme que cette prise de conscience repose sur le partage et le choc des savoirs et des expériences pour en arriver à l’obtention d’un savoir collectif sur certains aspects de la réalité.

41To empower women to bring about change, the very ways in which we work become critical. Many authors highlight the need for creative environments in which involvement, inclusion, visibility, assertiveness training, consciousness raising, consensus, and cohesiveness are maximized. To establish such practices, discussion of both women’s differences and similarities needs to occur. Some call this consciousness raising. Others call this negotiation of the process of working together. This emergence of female issues needs to occur in safe and fertile environments.

42Women need supports to enable them to act. They need assistance in the forms of increased education (Hare and Day-Corbiere) as well as training in issues that are the focus of change (Kirby) and active participation. They need encouragement to “get to the sites of change.” It also helps greatly if women have good role models and some experience in role-modelling for others.

Respecting Diversity — Respect de la diversité

43Although virtually all authors highlighted the need for equity in the ways women work together, such equity does not mean that all women need to be included in the same manner or that they must undertake equal portions of the social change work. Sameness of treatment is not the issue here. When women work in groups marked by diversity of membership and concerns, the need to negotiate differences is paramount. While every woman should be supported in her ability to participate fully, each may undertake this participation in a different way. Emphasis needs to be upon diversity, openness, respect, maintenance of room for individual differences, and shared efforts and responsibilities in bringing about change.

44Affirmation of diversity among participants, their contributions, and their ways of working together has been basic to the operation of the Better Beginnings, Better Futures project (Reitsma-Street and Rogerson). Whitney points out the efforts made by the Canadian Girl Guides to include diversity in the processes of change. Traditional labour values of equality have been transformed into those of equity by feminists (Bouchard et Cholette).

45La critique féministe des classes sociales et des catégories de sexe s’est aussi attaquée au racisme et à l’ethnicité. Les textes de Bouchard et Cholette, Hébert, Gagné et Garceau en sont des exemples éloquents. Ils montrent certaines facettes de la situation des femmes francophones vivant en milieu minoritaire. Leur présence dans ce livre et leurs propos témoignent de l’importance d’inclure, au sein du mouvement des femmes au Canada, leur vision du monde, leurs projets et leurs réalisations, pour rapprocher les deux solitudes qui existent au sein même du mouvement féministe canadien. Dans tous les cas, ces auteures s’interrogent sur les rapports d’oppression à partir du vécu des femmes francophones. Elles revendiquent, à partir de leurs expériences ou de leurs recherches, leur francité, leur existence comme sujets francophones.

46Our authors critiques have also identified the issues of sexual orientation, physical and mental health, family composition, age, and religion. Questions of workplace unanimity and equality have led to pursuit of equity and broad consciousness raising.

Remembering the Historical Context — Contexte historique

47Pour Hébert, les succès des femmes dans le milieu de l’éducation doivent s’accompagner d’une compréhension historique et culturelle. En effet, pour Hébert, si le Manitoba francophone contemporain possède un réseau d’institutions scolaires offrant une éducation en français, la situation n’est pas étrangère à la lutte quotidienne, souvent vécue dans l’isolement, des « maîtresses d’école ». Durant la période étudiée par Hébert, les pressions gouvernementales sont fortes pour imposer l’anglais comme langue officielle d’éducation. Or, ces femmes ont joué un rôle considérable pour le maintien et la survie des écoles françaises au Manitoba. C’est grâce aux « maîtresses d’écoles » qu’on peut aujourd’hui envisager leur gestion et poursuivre la lutte pour la protection des droits linguistiques et religieux des francophones. C’est là que réside la réussite des institutrices franco-manitobaines. Paradoxalement, l’évocation des femmes francophones comme gardiennes de la culture, de la foi et de la famille, souvent envisagée de façon négative parce que célébrant les rôles traditionnels des femmes, prend ici l’allure d’une forme de résistance de ces dernières contre l’assimilation de la francophonie en milieu scolaire dans une province majoritairement anglophone. De la recherche de Monique Hébert, on retiendra l’influence des « maîtresses d’école » qui se transmet de génération en génération, permettant aux plus jeunes, à leurs étudiantes et étudiants, de garder cette fierté d’être francophones dans cet archipel manitobain.

48Whitney and the Girl Guides of Canada attended to the historical roots of the Girl Guides of Canada, while removing some of the organization’s historical “baggage”.

49Garrett suggest that the organization she describes in her article about the Needle Women’s Guild should be evaluated within its historical context. The mandate of the Guild was to provide women with the benefits of work as well as enormous quantities of clothing, bedding, and household goods for impoverished women and their families. Garrett argues that the Guild was successful in maintaining distribution of provisions even in times of economic depression, war-time rationing, and public spending cuts. Like other charitable organizations, the Guild filled the gap between what families needed and what was available to them through earned wages and the state. Garrett further acknowledges that a lifestyle of poverty, affecting both mothers and their children, was reproduced within the system of charity. Likewise, the social and charitable associations to which middle-class and upper-class women belonged sometimes reinforced differences between these women and poor women who were on the receiving end of “good works.” Still, the Guild benefited its early members by providing them a vision of the world outside their class location and outside of the home. As well, it provided women with contact with the economic, social, and political issues of the days.

50Pour Dumais, une institution aussi misogyne que l’Église et la théologie qui la soutient a entraîné une marginalisation et un asservissement des femmes depuis des siècles. Elle convie donc les femmes à une communion qui permettra, à force de courage et de persévérance, de transformer cette théologie. Elle invite, par la prise de parole et l’intégration, les femmes à contribuer à l’élaboration d’un renouveau théologique autour des notions que sont l’autonomie, l’égalité, la solidarité, la dignité, l’identité, la croissance, la libération, et ce, au moyen d’une relecture des textes bibliques et évangéliques. Elle les incite à construire une « ekklesia de femmes » afin qu’elles puissent accéder à un réel statut d’égalité. Finalement, elle indique que les femmes, individuellement et surtout collectivement, doivent continuer leurs efforts de conscientisation et de politisation. Leurs réussites seront à la mesure de leur vigilance et de leur détermination à ne rien céder dans les domaines qui sont d’actualité pour les femmes.

51Hare and Day-Corbiere describe the cultural history of Aboriginal women as an important source of their strength. Cherishing the past and learning wisdom from female elders comprise the platform on which the present day entrepreneurship program for Aboriginal women at West Bay is founded.

Critical Evaluation of Outcomes — Évaluation critique des résultats

52To be effective, we must evaluate what has been accomplished. Hare and Day-Corbiere recognize that indicators of the outcomes from their project are important. However, because these outcomes include personal confidence and hopefulness, indicators are difficult to define. They have, however, identified three specific goals: development of the individual, maintenance of Ojibwe community culture, and self-sustaining self-employment. The more general goal set for women in the program cannot be measured in finite terms. Instead, success for Aboriginal women in the program is measured “by what an individual can contribute to the community and how ‘good’ that individual can become while walking this path called earth.”

53The evaluation provided by Christiansen-Ruffman, Descarries, and Stewart of the Social Science and Humanities Federation of Canada’s Women and Work Strategic Grant initiative points out uneven outcomes. The benefits of the program varied from project to project and from one geographic location to another, with large universities in Quebec, southern Ontario, and British Columbia receiving the bulk of research funding. Acknowledging these inconsistencies in “success,” the authors explain that clearly positive outcomes for women include an increase in the number of studies focused on women, and a greater number of women among the successful grant recipients. In addition, approval of partnership grants involving academic and community-based researchers meant funding for independent researchers. This meant the practical advantages for recent doctoral graduates and researchers unconnected with academic institutions where research and publishing generally occur. Such post-graduate opportunities were often followed by academic appointments for these women. SSHRC also opened research funds outside the Women and Work Strategic Grant Area for independent researchers.

54Women researchers, the authors argue, gained significant symbolic power through the legitimation of women’s lives as subjects worthy of academic study. The creation of Women and Change, a new Strategic Grant Area, was a critically important outcome. Although other symbolic gains in legitimation of women’s ways of theorizing, methodological innovations, and collaborative techniques were anticipated, Christiansen-Ruffman et al. argue that these were sometimes lost when researchers tailored their research proposals to meet SSHRC’s approval criteria. They also suggest that more innovative feminist research proposals were screened out. Finally, the potential of the Women and Work Strategic Grant for enhancing the development of Women’s Studies as a discipline in Canada was limited because proposals and innovations recommended by Women’s Studies scholars were not accepted by SSHRC. In fact, the authors conclude, the policy of non-sexist research was eventually dropped.

55Gagné apporte une contribution additionnelle à la recherche et à l’évaluation. Dénonçant le vide institutionnel médical qui laisse les Franco-Manitobaines à elles-mêmes après avoir subi une mastectomie, Gagné montre que la réussite des femmes est à l’image de leur vie quotidienne dans leurs communautés d’appartenance. Privées du soutien de l’institution médicale et privées d’informations des départements de santé communautaire sur les conséquences d’une telle chirurgie et ses effets sur leur qualité de vie, les Franco-Manitobaines de régions rurales se sont regroupées, entraidées et ont échangé afin de transgresser le choc de la maladie et retrouver le chemin de la santé.

56Pour Gagné, si la science médicale mesure et calcule, elle doit aussi tenir compte de la santé des femmes comme sujets. La féminisation de l’institution médicale est donc incontournable et passe par une politique qui, contre l’idéologie fonctionnaliste dominante de l’institution médicale, misera sur l’humanisation des soins de santé. Par ailleurs, Gagné illustre bien le caractère critique que revêt la féminisation, notamment des pratiques médicales traditionnelles, en montrant que les femmes sujets veulent se prendre en main et interpeller l’institution médicale à partir de leurs expériences.

57These different articles portray what is meant by successful feminist change. We now turn to theories about how change occurs as identified by our authors.

Current Discussions in Canadian Feminist Thought. Thèmes actuels du féminisme canadien

58Review of the papers in this book suggests that a number of discussions are currently of interest to feminists in Canada. In this section, we identify and discuss the various themes of women’s oppression our authors have explored. Among them are the following: the socialization of women; symbolic power; the Canadian economy; human rights; and leadership.

59Although our analysis has shown that these themes are threaded throughout all chapters, we do not mean to imply that they are defined, or experienced, or even priorized in a similar fashion by each author. Instead, we respect the unique perspective with which each author comes to these various ideas. Differences in language, geography, ethnicity, and other demographic characteristics blend into but are not lost within the rich culture of feminism in Canada.

60The following is a description of each of these issues. As well, the strategies which different authors have applied relative to each of these areas will be identified.

61Ce livre présente un certain nombre de thèmes actuels du féminisme au Canada. Ceux-ci forment la trame du livre et parcourent l’ensemble des chapitres. Ils ne sont pas toujours explicites ou définis clairement, ni classés hiérarchiquement de la même façon par chacune des auteures. Témoignant de la perspective unique de chacune et du caractère ethnique, culturel, géographique ou démographique particulier de leurs propos, ces thèmes illustrent la richesse du féminisme canadien.

62Nous avons regroupé ces thèmes sous quatre rubriques : la socialisation, le pouvoir de la parole, les femmes et l’économie et, finalement, les responsabilités et les droits.

63Dans cette section, nous présenterons les différents lieux où s’exerce l’oppression des femmes tels que décrits par les auteures et nous verrons comment les femmes ont cherché à transformer leur situation.

The Theme of Socialization. La socialisation

64Many authors in this text identify feminine socialization as a major contributor to women’s oppression. When they are well learned, stereotypical feminine attributes such as fragility, passivity, and humility have kept many women out of physically competitive sports and out of prominent positions when they have entered sports (Kirby). These notions have also precluded many women from leadership in industry and in the labour movement (Bouchard et Cholette, Briskin, Parsons and Goggins). Internalized caring roles have taught some women to police themselves so that they stay in abusive marriages to carry out their duties as wives (Coholic and Prévost). Women and girls keep secret their experiences of sexual assault by family members out of shame and a need for social acceptance. In some dance schools, the stereotype of the waif-like prima donna ballerina encourages girls to maintain undernourished bodies (Gordon). Certainly, domestic feminine stereotypes kept women in the home and out of public life until the turn of the century in Canada (Garceau, Garrett). Most women in Canada remained disenfranchised until the early part of the twentieth century. We learn from Hare and Day-Corbiere about the irony of Aboriginal women who finally enfranchised within the Dominion of Canada but then lost their rights within First Nations communities.

65The authors also discuss strategies which Canadian feminists have used for counteracting the oppressive effects of socialization. These include modelling, mentoring, assertiveness training, and feminist language and definitions. Each of these strategies merits further description.

Action: Transforming the Process of Socialization — Socialisation en changement

Modelling and Mentoring — Modélisation et mentorat

66Some authors have suggested ways of providing girls and women with alternate and/or expanded roles after which to model themselves (Dumais, Gordon). Historically, middle-class women modelled themselves after a few women leaders who were active in community groups (Garrett), in the church (Moreau), and in other social reform movements. Mentoring involving women elders played an important role in the determination and achievements of native women both historically and in present time (Hare and Day-Corbiere). Informal leaders at the local level are encouraged by union staff women who serve as models of assertiveness (Briskin). In turn, local leaders in a women’s caucus inspire other union members (Parsons and Goggins).

67En théologie, selon Dumais, les femmes tentent de sortir du silence millénaire qui les entoure. Elles ont recours aux expériences des femmes afin de présenter de nouveaux modèles. Et l’une des forces de ces femmes est dans l’expérimentation d’une prise de parole qui réinterprète les textes bibliques afin d’y déceler les oppressions vécues par les femmes et qui cherche à promouvoir la transformation d’une pensée trop longtemps monopolisée par les ecclésiastiques masculins.

Assertiveness Training — Affirmation politique

68Political analysis empowers women with knowledge; it also provides them with tools to create change through individual and collective action. Most women’s lives consist of daily events and relationships to which they must apply their analytic skills. Assertiveness training is a method of providing women and girls with opportunities to see links between stereotypic feminine roles and the oppression they may experience in their everyday lives.

69Our authors have noted that assertiveness training has been useful to many groups, such as staff and board members in sexual assault centres (Laiken), adult survivors of sexual abuse (Coholic and Prévost), and union members within a women’s caucus (Parsons and Goggins). These approaches to modifying women’s expectations of themselves and others on an everyday basis brings general feminist principles into specific action.

70Dans le milieu du travail, la création d’institutions qui répond aux besoins des femmes doit assurer leur développement et leur épanouissement et lutter contre les inégalités sociales. Pour ce faire, certaines travailleuses ont choisi de s’impliquer activement, non seulement dans leur milieu de travail mais aussi dans la communauté des femmes afin de favoriser une prise de conscience et une formation continue concernant les diverses formes d’oppression et les problèmes vécus par les femmes (Cholette et Bouchard, Garceau). De cette façon, elles sont mieux outillées pour prendre la parole et lutter contre ces inégalités.

The Theme of Symbolic Power. Le pouvoir symbolique

71Language plays an important part in the identity politics that keep women and other less powerful groups invisible. Les femmes francophones vivant en milieu minoritaire sont des exemples de l’oppression linguistique. Et elles réclament de plus en plus qu’on reconnaisse leurs droits de vivre dans leur langue et leur culture. L’isolement et la réalité d’être francophone en milieu minoritaire sont des éléments particuliers qui ont un impact sur la perception qu’elles ont d’elles-mêmes (Garceau, Hébert, Gagné). Another powerful example of oppression through language is provided by Hare and Day-Corbiere. These authors explain the crude obliteration of Aboriginal identity which resulted from rules against speaking the Ojibwe language in residential schools. While the legal terms in which Aboriginal women are defined are more complex than school yard rules, they are equally powerful in erasing the identity and rights of Aboriginal women.

72Au sein de la francophonie manitobaine, les « maîtresses d’écoles » ont historiquement, mais toujours dans le silence et sans pouvoir, orienté leurs pratiques vers la préservation et, à plus long terme, vers l’épaississement d’une trame sociale nécessaire à la négociation avec la société dominante (Hébert). Toujours au Manitoba, les femmes francophones sont aux prises avec une institution médicale dominée par une approche traditionnelle qui la rend sourde aux besoins des femmes et les laisse démunies devant l’obligation de survivre à de graves maladies (Gagné). En Ontario fiançais, les femmes sont aussi invisibles et on méconnaît largement les problèmes auxquels elles sont confrontées quotidiennement, tout particulièrement lorsqu’il s’agit des femmes plus âgées (Garceau). Dans l’Église, des siècles se sont écoulés sans que l’on prenne en considération la parole des femmes (Dumais). Dans tous ces cas, les femmes sont soit invisibles, soit l’objet d’une secrète indifférence à l’égard de leurs situations réelles. Pourtant, dans tous les cas, ces femmes se sont données les moyens pour sortir de l’invisibilité et avoir du pouvoir dans leur vie.

73Government funding bodies, publishers, professional associations and universities have all used their power to ignore feminist scholarship until the relatively recent establishment of Women’s Studies programs in specific academic environments (Epp, Christiansen-Ruffman et al.).

74Miedema and Nason-Clark point out the oppression of foster mothers by state agents who refused to recognize foster mothers’ knowledge about the children in their care. Although these foster mothers wish to contribute to the plans made for the children, they have come to know that the social welfare system has not been organized to include them in consultations about programming for these children.

75Attitudes and practices which oppress the members of a family in which a parent has a disability are based on particular definitions. This is especially true when the disabled parent is a mother. The term ‘proper mother’ implies ‘perfect’ genetic makeup which, in turn, guarantees procreation of ‘healthy’ children. It further suggests a feminine monopoly on family caring. In contrast, the term ‘disability’ frequently implies dependency which some equate with non-human status. Words and definitions such as these make it impossible to bring the concepts mother and disability together. When there is no language which identifies mothers with disabilities, these women and their children are erased from public consciousness.

Action: Gaining and Regaining Symbolic Power — Lutte symbolique et prise de pouvoir

76Identified below are some strategies feminists have employed for taking charge of language both in civil society and in their social relations with the state.

Using Words to Gain Power in Civil Society — Prendre la parole comme moyen d’acquérir du pouvoir dans la société civile

77The Canadian Girl Guides’ decision to modify their law and promise is an excellent example of the power of language (Whitney). Previous wording which had established the social expectation of girls in a serving role has been replaced with phrases which foster girls’ individual levels of growth and leadership.

78Miedema and Nason-Clark provide an example of validation for women who do work that is often undervalued. Through the experience of reviewing their ideas with these authors and knowing respect from this academic audience, foster mothers gain symbolic capital. They describe their experiences in their own words and in their own ways.

79According to Miedema and Nason-Clark, previous feminist authors have sometimes contributed unknowingly to the oppression of foster mothers by describing them in simplistic terms as victims of the state. Instead, Miedema and Nason-Clark emphasize that these women are empowered by an opportunity to define their own tasks, purposes, and outcomes.

80We have only a glimpse of the historical experiences of Black women in Nova Scotia because few of their stories have been recorded in written text. However, Bernice Moreau tells how Black women sometimes learned how to read when the white middle-class women for whom they worked wanted someone to help with children’s homework. Or, they learned to read recipes. After gaining the power of the written word, Black Baptist women transmitted this power to others in the Black community. Aboriginal women, in both informal and formal social relations, are regaining power by attaining formal education while honouring their Ojibwe language and ways of knowing (Hare and Day-Corbiere).

81Ce qui caractérise la réussite de la recherche-action discutée par Garceau est le fait que les participantes ont d’abord pris la parole pour produire des changements individuels et sociaux. L’absence de connaissances sur les Franco-Ontariennes de 45 à 64 ans était telle qu’elles ont eu recours à une approche fondée sur leur propre reconnaissance comme sujet porteur d’histoires spécifiques pour pallier ce manque. Appartenant à ce groupe d’âge, c’est par la mise en commun de leurs expériences personnelles que les femmes ont pu construire collectivement les aires de vie sur lesquelles elles ont enquêté dans les étapes subséquentes de la recherche-action. Elles ont donc déconstruit les fondements de leur exclusion pour se mettre en évidence et forcer la création d’un savoir rendant compte de leur présence.

82A concrete symbol of women’s success in a union women’s caucus is the significant role of women played in the design, revisions, and distribution of a union poster representing inclusiveness. This poster design became a rallying point for women mobilizing against what they viewed as the informal oppressive communication patterns which governed much of the social relations in their union. Taking charge of words and images in this manner is an excellent demonstration of women gaining symbolic power.

Using Words to Gain Power in Relations with the State — La parole comme moyen d’acquérir du pouvoir face à l’État

83The major critique of treaties and other legislation related to the Indian Act provided by Hare, Day-Corbiere, and other Aboriginal legal experts exposes state oppression embedded in public documents. Moves toward the empowerment of First Nations and Aboriginal women have emerged from the work of these women.

84In their discussion of federal research funding, Christiansen-Ruffman et al. provide an example of the power of language. They identify the symbolic importance of recognition from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of research by, for, and about women.

85The language commonly encouraged by government in proposals for funding of sexual assault centres has discouraged organizational structures that vary from traditional boards of directors and management hierarchies (Laiken). Reitsma-Street and Rogerson point out that research fund holders have the power to accept or reject research reports written collectively and reflecting participatory research, such as the report from Better Beginnings, Better Futures. The power to define and constitute as authentic various feminist contributions relates to the use of particular language. An analysis of discourse has aided women in understanding and, in some cases, altering gendered balances of power.

86Les institutions traditionnelles avec leur mode de fonctionnement spécifique et leur vision du travail ne répondent pas aux besoins et aux aspirations des femmes. Afin que les femmes qui y travaillent aient des structures qui leur ressemblent, elles doivent, selon Bouchard et Cholette, mener de l’intérieur la lutte pour et par la féminisation. Pour ce faire, elles doivent utiliser des stratégies telles la prise de parole, la participation active, la culture de la mémoire et la prise de pouvoir.

The Theme of the Canadian Economy. L’économie canadienne

87Oppression of women at the economic level is exemplified in the low incomes of artists and dancers (Gordon), of foster mothers (Miedema and Nason-Clark), of sole support mothers, and of disabled parents (Blackford). Lack of job security, inadequate occupational health and safety programs, inequity in hiring and promotion, and unequal power within labour groups are all facets of the workforce for many Canadian women (Parsons and Goggins; Briskin). The rates of poverty and unemployment among the disabled women and Aboriginal women to which Hare and Day-Corbiere and then Blackford refer are the highest in the country. The inequity of who does unpaid work in terms of race (Moreau), gender, and disability (Blackford) are other feminist economic concerns raised by articles in this text.

88Epp’s description of the pressure under which women faculty work points out how budgetary constraints have overloaded women in their occupational responsibilities, and drawn energy and attention from their efforts to make feminist change. While Epp describes women in a university setting, preoccupation with occupational expectations affects women in most work settings.

89Male dominated administrative responses have meant reduced resources for women. This includes less spending on children’s daycare centres and attendant care facilities at work sites. Such facilities can make employment possible for women and people with disabilities by recognizing the additional caring roles and needs they may have.

Action: Transforming the Economy — Transformer l’économie

Women in the Workplace — Femmes et travail rémunéré

90Briskin provides an overview of women and Canadian unions, and explains the background and circumstances in which women have chosen to make alliances. She also makes clear how women have chosen to organize as separate groups or caucuses within unions. She describes the struggle of women workers which continues in the present day. Some of the goals they have achieved include acceptance in the workplace, membership in unions, legislated pay for equal work, benefits equal to those of men who perform comparable jobs, and, more recently, a voice in union leadership.

91Parsons and Goggins provide a more specific and personal account of achievement by a women’s caucus in an educational sector union of contract employees. They reveal their success in maintaining mutual respect and unanimity among a diverse group of women’s caucus union members, in spite of an environment dominated by the oppressive and competative social relations of male dominated union executives and employers.

92À partir de leurs expériences, Cholette et Bouchard montrent qu’une coopérative gérée entièrement par des femmes peut adopter une structure fondée sur le partage des pouvoirs et des avoirs. En adoptant le principe de flexibilité, les coopérantes peuvent s’entraider et partager tout en étant sensibles aux transformations qui s’opèrent à l’intérieur du groupe de travail. Elles montrent aussi qu’une structure favorisant l’autonomie permet aux femmes de se développer personnellement et professionnellement.

93The success of Ojibwe women (Hare and Day-Corbiere) in establishing an employment development project tailored to the specific situation and culture of Aboriginal women will make an important positive economic change in the lives of these women and in their communities.

Recognition for Women’s Unpaid Work — Femmes et travail non rémunéré

94One outcome of the Women and Work SSHRC Strategic Grant was the public and formal acknowledgement that women are a large part of the paid workforce. More radical was the insight that women’s work at home and elsewhere is also worthy of recognition and study. Though unpaid, this work makes an important contribution to the economy and to society in general.

95Gordon identifies the unpaid work of volunteers in a dance school as important to the school’s function. She describes the school’s policy of recognizing the volunteer labour provided by the mothers and friends of dancers as feminist work.

96In order to acknowledge the value and impact of unpaid work, the Better Beginnings/Better Futures Project has chosen the unpaid contributions of its volunteers as the focus of a research study (ReitsmaStreet and Rogerson).The study will ‘cost out’ unpaid contributions and make visible what is usually hidden in economic reports.

97The goals of women in unions (Parsons and Goggins, Briskin) include achievement of benefits such as sick leave for a family member, workplace childcare opportunities, and job sharing options. These goals are premised on the belief that womens unpaid work in the family, as much as their paid work in the employment setting, is of value. Womens work in charitable and voluntary organizations such as the Needle Women’s Guild (Garrett), la Fédération des femmes canadiennes-françaises de l’Ontario (Garceau), the Girl Guides of Canada (Whitney), and the Canadian Sport Council (Kirby) are evidence of the benefits of unpaid work and of the high quality and volume of volunteer work which Canadian women undertake.

Fighting Against Cut Backs and Privatisation — Lutte aux compressions budgétaires et à la privatisation

98Laiken raises the question of the effects that economic factors will have on feminist organizing. Laiken argues that women, by acting collectively, are bringing private troubles into the public sphere. She, along with protesters in Child Care Advocacy groups, Womens Centres, and Sexual Assault Centres, brings to the public information that is needed to organize against government financial ‘cut backs’, ‘claw backs’, and other reductions in services. She points out that accomplishing goals using a consensus model is made almost impossible when time and financial resources are not sufficient to guarantee long term continuity in staff or board member participation. Economic down turns have increasing constrained voluntary non-profit boards and contract workers in terms of time and resources.

99Early attempts by women in Canada to ameliorate the poverty they observed have resulted in the formation of charitable organizations such as the Needle Women’s Guild. This organization placed concern about individual children’s and families’ poverty in the domain of public concern. Subsequent efforts involving taxation and income supplement have made poverty an official concern for all Canadians. In calling for equality and then for equity and in exposing the public/private dichotomy as a myth, feminists now see a need to end poverty and lifestyles impoverished by the threat of unemployment and reduced local decision-making. Poverty and multinational power are now seen as barriers to health and to the liberation of women.

The Theme of Women’s Leadership. Femmes et leadership

100The authors of this book almost unanimously identify leadership as essential to the creation of feminist social change. Labour unions (Briskin; Parsons and Goggins), business firms (Cholette et Bouchard), social service administration (Gagné, Coholic and Prévost), women’s organizations (Garceau), schools (Hébert), and churches (Dumais, Moreau) have all, historically, been dominated by men. Male visions of what should be and patriarchal ways of organizing in the world of work have restricted union demands for childcare and work sharing and have perpetuated hierarchical workplace decision-making (Briskin; Parsons and Goggins). For exemple, Black women in Nova Scotia were invisible within Baptist male-led churches (Moreau). Middle-class Canadian women were not accepted as contributors in public social matters (Garceau, Garrett). The theme of women in leadership positions is prominent among the issues raised by the authors in this book.

Action: Establishing Women’s as Leaders — Femmes de tête et modèles

Preparing Girls and Women far Leadership — Former les femmes au leadership

101Self-esteem and assertiveness are characteristics which progressive community dance schools (Gordon) and Girl Guide troops (Whitney) promote so that girls will grow in leadership ability. Teaching by and role modelling of experienced women have been important to the development of women Aboriginal leaders (Hare and Day-Corbiere) and Women’s Studies faculty members (Epp). Out of the mutual support women gained as they drew together at a public well in Nova Scotia, Black Baptist women leaders emerged and won the respect of a male dominated clergy and congregation (Moreau). In similar fashion, the provision of education for women union members at the local level has prepared women to take leadership roles in labour organizations at the national level (Briskin).

102La prise de conscience menant à l’action, l’estime et l’affirmation de soi sont les résultats tangibles liés au processus d’empowerment vécu par un groupe de femmes de l’Ontario français. Ces acquis ont propulsé à l’avant-scène certaines d’entre elles et leur ont permis d’occuper subséquemment des postes de pouvoir et de responsabilités dans leur communauté respective. Depuis, ces femmes n’ont de cesse que de continuer à s’affirmer socialement (Garceau).

Outcomes of Women’s Leadership — Leadership des femmes et résultats

103Briskin describes the progressive transformation of labour organizations as a whole through informal and formal leadership of women at the local level. Coholic and Prévost point out the organizational effects on a generic family service agency because of the impact of feminist leadership within one of the agency’s sexual assault counselling department. Two whole neighbourhoods in a northern Ontario city have been revitalized by a woman leader modelling consensus decision-making in the Better Beginning, Better Futures program. There is shared vision for a more just society for low income families (Reitsma-Street and Rogerson). The outcomes of Black women’s organizing in Nova Scotia include improved education and economic opportunities for people in the Black community (Moreau).

The Theme of Human Rights and Responsibilities. Droits et responsabilités

104The theme of human rights and responsibilities speaks directly to disability-related issues. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects women with disabilities who choose to have children in spite of prejudice against their parenting capacities, parents with disabilities who seek access to teacher/parent interviews related to their children’s school progress, and parents who wish to accompany their children in accessible leisure activities (Blackford). Rights, such as those to a formal education (Moreau) or to an education which reflects one’s own language and culture (Hare and Day-Corbiere; Hébert), have been denied to large number of women. Furthermore, what has becomes clear in the articles is that, along with rights, the personhood and the humanity of women in these groups have been repressed. Women, along with people of colour (Moreau), Aboriginal people (Hare and Day-Corbiere), and disabled persons (Blackford) have during various historical periods been treated as non-persons. They have been seen either as unworthy of recognition or citizenship, or incapable of holding office.

105Other ways by which the personhood and humanness of women have been ignored are related to our previous discussion of invisible, domestic work. Women are expected to be caregivers to others, often caring for others at work and later the same day at home. Often, their own needs are overlooked. Important concepts such as human interdependence, mutual caring, and spirituality or harmony with nature have been overlooked in the quest for patriarchal social relations and individual goals.

Actions Claiming Human Rights and Responsibilities — Réclamer nos droits

Valuing Caring and Interdependence — Interdépendance et soutien mutuel

106Gagné montre comment le quotidien des femmes ayant subi une mastectomie suite à un cancer du sein est marqué du sceau de l’entraide et du soutien des autres femmes partageant un vécu similaire. Comme elles ne trouvent pas, au sein des institutions médicales et communautaires, le support et les ressources nécessaires leur permettant d’affronter la maladie, elles les développent en échangeant leurs expériences et en se transmettant l’information. En ce sens, ces femmes deviennent un modèle pour le développement des programmes de santé communautaire.

107Miedema and Nason-Clark indicate that foster mothers are fully aware of injustices due to inadequate provincial funding. They see that much of society fails to recognize the high value of the work done by foster care mothers. Yet, these authors are adamant that, in spite of lack of recognition by others, the women they interviewed have a sense of personal empowerment because of their relationships with the children entrusted to them. Foster mothers are hopeful about the future and certain of their competence; they know they have had an important and positive impact on the lives of children. In spite of injustices which need correcting, these women do not deserve the misnomer of “victim.” Rather, they should be identified as richly human. The complexities of caring for and about others, mutual respect, and shared responsibilities are what Miedema and Nason-Clark challenge us, as feminists in Canada, to consider.

108Garrett points out that, although women, as members of the Needlewomen’s Guild, did not play a public and formal role in reducing child poverty historically, they gained a strong sense of purpose and a positive sense of worth sewing and knitting garments for impoverished children and their mothers. Their personal contributions of time and labour were important steps toward creating a more humane society.

109While the group action and interaction of the Aboriginal women’s economic renewal project benefits individuals, there is also great benefit to other group members and to the First Nations community (Hare and Day-Corbiere). This situation brings to native women a strong sense of community as well as respect from others for their work as leaders.

Dailiness — Quotidienneté

110Reitsma-Street and Rogerson describe dailiness as taking time and acknowledging one’s feelings during everyday work and in community interaction. The process of beginning group meetings with circling in shows respect for individual intentions and concerns. This practice acknowledges that it is the whole person who makes a contribution to a group. The group, therefore, takes responsibility for recognizing the humanity and the reality of each community member.

111The practice of “circling in” which allows time for acknowledgement of all group members originated in traditional Aboriginal social relations. The practice remains part of the economic development project currently in place in northern Ontario. This practice is part of what Hare and Day-Corbiere call an “enabling environment” for the women in their project.

112Taking time for others in the family often becomes part of family social relations when a parent has a disability. The age, physical condition, and circumstances of each member requires that time, attention, caring for, and caring about are made available for all family members (Blackford).

Clarifying Responsibility Within an Organization — Rôles et responsabilités dans les organisations

113Women know that with rights come responsibilities. Laiken feels that feminist work will not be done effectively unless the ideal of shared decision-making is balanced with clarity about who is responsible for initiating and carrying out decisions. Her emphasis is accountability in the context of open communication and mutual respect.

114Foster mothers in Nova Scotia express a strong sense of responsibility for the children in their care. As caring mothers, they also feel a responsibility to contribute to the future of the children (Miedema and Nason-Clark). Thus, they wish to contribute their ideas and knowledge as program plans are developed about the future of these children.

115First Nations women have a keen understanding of the close tie between responsibility and rights. They underscore the responsibility of the Canadian government to honour treaty agreements and to return land and resources to First Nations people. At the same time, they take pride in knowing that they share responsibility for other community members. It is “Aboriginal women who maintain the life and stability of their people...” (Hare and Day-Corbiere). Aboriginal women see themselves as “keepers of the cultures so that the culture will survive within the changes of modern times. For, it is the Ojibwe women who breathe the air for each life that only they as women carry within. Their responsibility goes unchanged from one generation to the next, for the nurturing of a healthy people” (Hare and Day-Corbiere).

Pursuing Harmony with Nature — L’écologie

116Women’s rights to health and a healthy environment are perhaps the most overt connections among the various issues raised by the authors in this book. Also of particular importance is recognition of the body in all its variations and the physical contexts in which women are situated. Hare and Day-Corbiere protest articulately against destruction and pollution of First Nations land by colonists. The argument they present about rights to and responsibilities for land and people shows a link with spirituality and a sense of working in harmony with nature. Native spirituality is based on honouring nature. Moreau also notes that the spiritual pathway of Black women includes a relationship with nature.

117The idea of working together with nature rather than controlling it is a cornerstone of what has been called ecofeminism. The idea of ecofeminism is also connected to this book’s discussions of respecting the body in its diversity. This diversity includes disability (Blackford), race (Moreau), and the “ideal body image” in dance (Gordon) and in sport (Kirby). Ecofeminism contributes to the notion that our responsibility extends beyond today and further than ourselves.



Tong, R 1989. FeministThought: A Comprehensive Introduction. Boulder Westview Press.


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