Feminism and Families: Critical Policies and Changing Practices


232 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-895686-76-8
DDC 306.85




Edited by Meg Luxton
Reviewed by Elaine G. Porter

Elaine Porter is an associate professor of sociology at Laurentian


The United Nations declaration of 1994 as the International Year of the
Family (not of families) was often used to subvert gains in women’s
rights in Canada and other countries. Despite the multiplicity of family
relationships that exist, nuclear-family ideology continues to provide a
platform from which conservative antifeminist groups can successfully
attack feminist analyses of families. The feminist movement has produced
searing critiques of the nuclear family as the site of various types of
oppression but has not sought consensus on a coherent family politics
capable of countering the hegemony of nuclear-family ideology. What
would it take to develop one? This issue was addressed by the
participants in an advanced research seminar at York University in 1993
that eventually produced this trail-blazing work.

All contributors to Feminism and Families raise critical questions that
respect the complexity and diversity of people’s efforts to live in
families. Maroney, Peters, Woolley, et al. set out the research agenda
for social policy issues addressing fertility, family, and economic
redistribution, respectively. Luxton and Fox each show the ways in which
parents, lacking collectively developed alternatives, tend to replicate
the nuclear family. Side discusses the consequences of giving analytic
priority to women’s family relationships over friendship relations,
and Hamilton advocates psychoanalytic theory as the means to challenge
antifeminist interpretations of childhood sexual abuse. Arnup, Gavigan,
and Cossman each discuss the dilemmas confronting lesbians and gays who
put on the straightjacket of nuclear-family terminology.

There is no summary chapter that assesses the authors’ collective
response to the challenges posed in the editor’s introductory chapter.
It is left up to the reader to make sense of the potential for
delineating a family terrain. As Cossman asserts, the challenge is to go
about the tasks in a way that allows for celebration and support of


“Feminism and Families: Critical Policies and Changing Practices,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/3387.