In the Feminine: Women and Words; Conference Proceedings 1983


235 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-919285-30-9





Edited by Ann Dybikowski and others
Reviewed by Janet MacArthur

Janet MacArthur was a freelance writer in Calgary.


In the Feminine includes many of the written papers and oral presentations given at the conference on “women and words/les femmes et les Riots” held in Vancouver in the summer of 1983. Given the importance of language to feminism’s project of cultural revision, it would seem that Canada, a country where language differences have become the mainspring for a program of cultural nationalism, would be an interesting location for a conference of this nature. Though very few commentators seem to explore the specific complexities of feminism in a bilingual country (Barbara Godard is the notable exception), many of the articles do focus on specifically Canadian concerns. For instance, a section on “double colonization” contains articles on ethnicity and race, and on the specific problems of being a Ukrainian, a Black, or a Native homo- or heterosexual female in Canadian society. And in the concluding section we are treated to an interesting account of the struggle some have had to gain exposure for the words of Canadian women, through their work in publishing, distribution, or performance.

The more theoretical sections of this book also have their value, even though there is a little too much genuflecting in the direction of Franco-European feminist theories and experiments, without enough attempt to domesticate them. Such articles would presumably be helpful to someone not familiar with the engaging work of the “new French feminists.” (Luce Irigaray is often cited, especially by the Francophone contributors.) There are several examples of “l’ecriture feminine,” of writing in the “mother tongue,” that provide a fascinating alternative to the passionless “objectivity” of traditional analytical discourse.

The dynamic and polemical content of many of the papers is invigorating. The words of women are so well psychoanalyzed, eulogized, rhapsodized, and deconstructed that there can be no doubt about the erudition of Canadian feminists or their manifold variety. This book could very well be used as resource material for courses in women’s studies.



“In the Feminine: Women and Words; Conference Proceedings 1983,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024,