Limited Edition: Voices of Women, Voices of Feminism
Sara Stratton teaches history at York University.
Academic disciplines that are rooted in identity politics, such as
women’s studies, are open to a range of criticisms: they are
exclusionist and myopic, they lack direction, and they forsake
intellectual rigor in favor of activist passion. This introductory
reader will do little to change the minds of those who find fault with
feminist modes of analysis, but it will open the eyes of others to a
feminist world with broad horizons.
The book is divided into four sections: “The Politics of the
Personal,” “The Politics of Science,” “The Politics of
Knowledge,” and “The Politics of Feminism.” Its purpose is to
introduce the reader to the various forms of feminism that exist in
Canada today; the differences among feminists; the origins of women’s
studies; and the directions it has taken, both in subject matter and
methodology. The collection includes essays, both personal and academic,
on working women, Native women, lesbians, motherhood (or, as it has been
effectively renamed by an American historian, motherwork), religion,
popular culture, pornography, literature, psychoanalysis, sports,
economics, science, and technology.
If the task of women’s studies is, as Finn believes, to relate the
experience of women and how they relate to the world, then these essays
serve their purpose. However, having an entire section dedicated to
“the politics of science” is a curious emphasis for an introductory
reader. Examinations of the law, class, and ethnicity would have been a
more logical inclusion. Indeed, in her introduction, Finn notes that she
and her contributors write from privileged positions, and therefore fail
to reflect the full diversity of the female experience in Canada. The
conscious, well-intentioned decision to end the book with essays by and
about historically underprivileged lesbians and Native Canadian women
has a superficial air. Perhaps less effort should have been devoted to
breast-beating and more to filling these gaps.