The War on Women: Elly Armour, Jane Hurshman, and Criminal Violence in Canadian Homes.
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
Margaret Kechnie is head of the Women’s Studies Program at Laurentian
University and the co-editor of Changing Lives: Women in Northern
It has been 25 years since members of Canada’s House of Commons laughed when Judy Erola brought the issues of wife battery to public attention. The issue is not foreign to the author of this book. Vallée wrote Life with Billy (1989), the story of Jane Hurshman’s abuse at the hands of her husband, and followed with Life After Billy (1993, 2008). Politicians would not laugh at wife abuse today, but even though we as Canadians have been attempting to address the issue of what Vallée terms “domestic terrorism,” just how commonplace it is continues to shock him.
The War on Women is Vallée’s attempt to try and understand why the abuse of women continues on the scale that it does. He also wants to personalize the abuse by making connections between the numbers and the women who experience it. Certainly Vallée sees the value of statistics, and while he personalizes each chapter by beginning with a short overview of the experience of an abused woman, he says that understanding “why” involves more that this. Vallée puts forward a strong feminist analysis of wife abuse when he says that in order to understand it we must recognize that the root cause is gender inequality. He argues, as does Stephen Lewis in the foreword to the book, that it is this latter point that governments just don’t understand. Vallée argues that while inequality is the main issue, violence against women is “the most terroristic of the tactics that men use to keep women in their place.”
In the book’s foreword, Stephen Lewis supports Vallée’s thesis: “We’re not just fighting for women’s human rights; we’re fighting for women’s lives.” This is an important book, and a book that can be clearly understood by anyone interested in coming to grips with why domestic violence continues to plague not only Canadians but all societies.