Archive for the 'Women’s Studies' Category

To the Death: A Historical Snapshot of Feminists Who Took it to the Extreme

Margaret Sanger. Ethyl Byrne. Genora Johnson Dollinger.

There are women who have dedicated their lives – even risked their lives – for the cause of the women’s movement. Publishing, speaking publicly, and hunger strikes are some of the ways that feminists have placed the greater good of many before their own needs.

Margaret Sanger

In the excerpt from My Fight For Birth Control (in Women’s America, 370-378), Margaret Sanger reflects on her decision to give up her work as a nurse and turn instead to a life of disseminating information about birth control (375). She recalls Mrs. Sach, who died due to a self-induced abortion and how had this woman have available contraceptive information this likely would not have happened to this mother and many others in similar circumstances. She wished to improve the lives of struggling families. Following this, Margaret Sanger committed herself to researching, developing, and sharing birth control information.

In 1918 in New York State, Section 1142 of the law made it illegal to give information to prevent contraception (375). Although Section 1145 allowed physicians to provide this advice, Sanger was unable to find a physician willing to work with her to challenge this law. Challenging the law was inherent with risk. Margaret and her supporters faced arrest and imprisonment and eventually a police squad raided their Brownsville Clinic and plain-clothed officers took Sanger and an associate to prison (376).

Ethyl Byrne, Margaret’s sister, was not at the clinic at the time of the arrests. Her arrest followed the others (376) and it is her commitment that I consider here. Byrne, a trained nurse who shared the work of “advising, explaining, and demonstrating to the women how to prevent conception” (376), took her dedication to the issue further than the others did. Upon her arrest, she declared a hunger strike (377). Jeopardizing her own health and ultimately her life, she realized that drastic measures would offer the issue the attention required to bring change to this section of the law. Byrne believed that the greater good for all women, and hence their families, would be served by her sacrifice. After four days of refusing food, the court ordered her forcibly fed (378).

Sanger quotes Byrne (via her attorney) saying, “With eight thousand deaths a year in New York State from illegal operations on women, one more death won’t make much difference” (377). Illegal abortions were taking a real toll on the lives of women. News about Byrne’s condition was reported on the front page of the newspapers (377), achieved the effect of gaining attention to the outdated law, and garnered support for the cause.

Byrne’s condition deteriorated to critical and Sanger negotiated her release. Byrne was prepared to die for what she believed in, a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her body.

Other women also risked their lives for the cause of the women’s movement. Genora Johnson Dollinger wrote an account of her experience in the 1930s with the Women’s Emergency Brigade. Workers suffered from difficult working conditions and their attempts to unionize were not well received. Dollinger was compelled not only to join the strikers but also to organize actions that she felt used her abilities and contributed to the movement to unionize. Dollinger began a sign painting department, faced police against tear gas, clubs, and gunfire, fought alongside the men with “rocks and car door hinges” (433) and inspired other women to join the fight (434). Her motivational words rallied the women. This increase in strength and numbers was the force that won success for the strikers that night.

This had been a dangerous undertaking: Dollinger describes the gunfire around them and the serious injuries received by some of the strikers. In spite of this, Dollinger refused suggestions that she retreat to safety with the other women (434). (Hear interviews thanks to Sherna Berger Gluck and the Women’s History Project here) Following this success Dollinger organized the Women’s Emergency Brigade. The women in this unit were fundamental to the successes of the strikers. With song, a wall of bodies, and intelligent arguments as distraction for the police, the women of the Emergency Brigade saved the gate and allowed the union to close “the huge and valuable Plant 4 with another sit-down strike” (435). The action that night set the stage for negotiations between the union and General Motors, and the eventual “[recognition] of unions in GM plants across the nation” (435).

Byrne and Dollinger were both willing to risk their lives for their causes: Byrne for women’s reproductive rights, Dollinger for workers’ rights to unionize.

Hunger strikes were among the tactics used by both British and American suffragists. Hunger strikes were a prisoner’s way of having some control over her circumstances and showed her dedication to the cause. The unanimous decision to go on hunger strike upon imprisonment showed the suffragists commitment and their willingness to persevere until women won the right to vote. Not only were there obvious risks of dehydration and starvation, there were also serious risks associated with force feedings.

Byrne and Sanger grew up with the ideology of Victorian womanhood. Domesticity and childbearing were considered the ideal roles for women. Most women lived their lives in service, according to the desires of their fathers, and later their husbands. A woman’s own desire was considered equivalent to what was good for the family and her community/society. As women were considered morally superior, their engagement in community charitable acts developed to include assisting prostitutes and the poor, and joining the abolitionist, temperance, and suffrage movements. Growing up at this time, the two sisters, Byrne and Sanger, would have been greatly influenced by this and likely encouraged to help others. Both took training as nurses. Both would have been aware of the socially constructed responsibilities that, as women, they held for the welfare of those around them. Possessed with the idea of women’s right to control their own reproduction, it is reasonable that these women would seek to help those who did not access to contraception. Upon arrest, Byrne had several options. She could (i) give up the fight, (ii) go willingly to the workhouse and continue the fight upon her release, or (iii) dedicate herself further to the cause, at the risk of her life. Although extreme, Byrne’s choice was automatic. Byrne recognized that many women were dying from unsafe abortions and knew that this would continue until women had access to safe and reliable birth control. Socialized to consider the needs of others, her choice was not radical for her times.

Without a fight herself, Dollinger would continue to live under difficult working conditions. The strikers had everything to gain and in comparison, nothing more to lose but their lives. For Dollinger, this risk was worth it.
There are differences between the strategies and their actors. Dollinger was a working-class woman. Byrne and Sanger were middleclass women with certain privileges. Their status would have placed great pressure on them to display the expected social behaviour for women of their class. This would have had some influence on their choice of strategy – and their potential alternatives. Non-violent action was expected of them. Dollinger was a working class woman, and her action came twenty years after Byrne. She lived under slightly different social conditions, but her reality, that of a working woman, placed different pressures on her behaviour (although values of Victorian womanhood were still pervasive). Each woman’s strategy considered her opponent and the most effective means of persuasion under the circumstances.

These women seem to have acted altruistically. In doing so, they perpetuate the idea of women as selfless, caring, nurturers, willing to sacrifice their very beings for others while showing at the same time that women are certainly not weak and defenseless. While selfless giving seems to be a good strategy for fighting injustice, it is problematic because of the stereotype of women as martyrs that it creates. It is important, however, to recognize the lengths to which women will go to fight for justice.

Works Cited

Kerber, Linda. 2004. Women’s America, 6th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Further Reading

Scholarship about feminist ‘martyrs’ is not easy to find. Because of this, the following annotated bibliography focuses on resources that contribute to the understanding of Byrne’s and Dollinger’s passions and the challenges they faced, as well as information about other women who took on similar challenges. It also includes some sources to encourage further thought about women leaders, particularly who steps forward and why.

Commire, A., ed. 1999. Women in World History: a biographical encyclopedia. Volume 13. Waterford, CT: Yorkin Publications: 778-785.

This reference work provides details about Margaret Sanger, beginning with her childhood and education. It provides background to her later activism regarding women’s reproductive rights and provides dates that were missing in her own recounting of the Brownsville Clinic. It also provides information about what later followed the police raids on the clinic: her activism in organizing birth control clinics around the world and her activity as the first president of Planned Parenthood. It was very difficult to find information about her sister Ethyl Byrne, beyond what Sanger wrote in My Fight for Birth Control. As they worked together to open and run the clinic, inferences may be drawn between the lives of the sisters until information about Byrne, independent of her famous sister, is found.

Crane, V. 2001. “The Very Pictures of Anarchy: Women in the Oshkosh Woodworkers’ Strike.” Wisconsin Magazine of History 84 (3): 44-59.

Women’s roles as street fighters in the Oshkosh strike parallel that of Dollinger and her associates and provide another example of women challenging the ideals of Victorian womanhood to improve working conditions for themselves and their families. Women in the Oshkosh Woodworkers’ Strike acted as strikers, strikebreakers, and in support of the men in their families but the strongest action came from the group who organized as a “mob” to harass scab workers as they entered and left the mill. The women fought with eggs in handkerchiefs, with pouches of sand, with sacks of salt and pepper, and with clubs. This article shows that Dollinger and the Emergency Brigade had predecessors whose struggles and successes were inspirational to the efforts of future women.

Dollinger, G. 1987. “I Want to be a Human Being and Think for Myself.” American Socialist. March 22, 2006.

Dollinger gave this speech at the 50th anniversary of the strike. In it, she reflects on how the women’s contribution was devalued following the success of the strike by authors like the previous speaker, Henry Kraus, who she challenges for misrepresenting the women of the Emergency Brigade. Dollinger reminds us of the influence of those who record history and calls for recognition of women’s contributions here and elsewhere. This piece shows how the risks women took were ignored and forgotten once the union had its demands met. It also provides further details regarding what took place and what the Emergency Brigade accomplished in 1937.

Falcon. 2003. “Only Strong Women Stayed: Women Workers and the National Floral Workers Strike, 1968-1969.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 24.2&3: 140-154.

These women combine elements of the histories of Dollinger and Byrne. Like Dollinger they protested their working conditions, but instead they chose non-violent methods of demonstrating in ways similar to Ethyl Byrne, chaining themselves to a fence to form a picket line. Their experience with tear gas, and their willingness to jeopardize their lives show again women’s willingness to fight against injustice. This example, from 1968, shows that women continue to endanger themselves for their causes, and that causes continue to present themselves.

Freedman, E. 2002. No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women. New York: Ballantine Books.

Freedman’s book is useful because it provides a history of feminism, including background to both the issue of reproductive rights and of women in labour unions. From page 257, in a section called “The Sexualization of Western Cultures” Freedman describes the characteristics and responsibilities of Victorian Motherhood that would have been a strong influence, especially for Byrne and Sanger. In Chapter 8, “Workers and Mothers: Feminist Social Policies,” Freedman delves into the history of women’s involvement with labour unions, from mill girls in the US to lace workers in Great Britain. She includes some global perspective, also including experiences of women in Germany, France, and Russia, China, and South Africa.

Polnick, B. et al. 2004. “Groundbreaking Women: Inspirations and Trailblazers.” Advancing Women in Leadership, No. 17, Winter.

Polnick et al. investigate the characteristics of women like Sanger, Byrne, and Dollinger who become female leaders. By studying female groundbreakers, they hope to address the needs of women in today’s leadership roles. They identified several characteristics common to the women of their study, including courage, resilience, self-efficaciousness, vision, passion, a belief in family first, and advocacy for the under-represented. Sanger, Byrne, and Dollinger are no exception to these characteristics. Understanding the characteristics of groundbreakers gives insight into the personalities of historical figures. This article helps the reader identify and draw parallels between important women in history.

Richards, C. and N. Van Der Gaag. November 2004. Women Who Have Moved Worlds. New Internationalist 373. March 22, 2006.

This website shows that women around the world continue to jeopardize their lives for justice. The list includes Medha Patkar, who, like Ethyl Byrne, almost died during a hunger strike. This website shows that women continue to sacrifice themselves as an alternative to directing violence outward at others. Links to more information about these women would make this site more useful.

Yalom, M. 2001. “A History of the Wife.” New York: Perennial.

Chapter Five in Yalom’s book describes the Victorian woman in America and chapter Eight includes discussion of Margaret Sanger’s work. Yalom’s work shows how the efforts of Byrne and Sanger influenced relationships, particularly the emerging concept of companionate marriage, and the idea of women as sexually passionate individuals.

We Will Not Be Silent! Media Violence Against Women Must End!

This text was written collectively by Actiongirls, a student and community group based out of the University of Windsor in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. This action has consumed us for the past month and we need your help. Please read through to the end and help us in our campaign however you can. There are some ideas to get you started at the end of the post.

Thank you from Candace & Actiongirls


In recent weeks, posters could be seen all over Windsor, Ontario, claiming that three women were Missing. The posters included photographs of three local women, along with their names, ages and identifying features, but were not in fact a Missing persons report or alert and instead were an advertisement calling for a mock ‘Search Party’ at a downtown nightclub to ‘celebrate’ a local band’s single and video release there.

missing women poster

The three women featured on the Missing poster are actually actors in the band’s video. Both the poster campaign and video were created by a media consultancy company in Windsor, Mimetic

video poster for Held Back

The video featured at the release party, is made in the genre of a snuff film – the women featured in the Missing posters are each violently kidnapped, and held captive, bound and gagged in a basement. Each woman represents a former girlfriend of the lead vocalist, and he blames each for his present mental state. He attempts to possess them, stroking and fondling them while they are terrified and physically captive and restrained, unable to defend themselves or escape. Following this torture, he leaves and a heavy steel door slams. He leaves the women to their fates – death from starvation and dehydration. As he leaves, we see the man carrying a rose for his next victim.

An awareness campaign was launched in Windsor soon after discovering this Missing poster marketing gimmick and its association with a violent misogynist video. This campaign – launched by a local feminist collective Actiongirls – aims to highlight the reality of missing women and the role of media violence in perpetuating the victimization of women. This reality is callously disregarded in this advertising campaign and video.

end media violence against women signs

Actions so far have included a march at night through Windsor’s nightclub district, with a small group of women activists carrying noisemakers and signs protesting profit from tragedy, media violence against women and calling for ethics in advertising. This march was met by a small counter-protest. Two women from Actiongirls were also interviewed on local CBC television news (Friday, 10 February, 2006).

The backlash:

Activists from Actiongirls have been continually harassed since their campaign against these fake Missing posters and the video began. Continual attempts are being made to intimidate us and silence our protest – whether in the form of letters to the University of Windsor hierarchy (the group is based on campus) alleging that protest activity is slanderous and calling for Actiongirls to be reprimanded; or in the form of derogatory online anti-feminist backlash; or ingenuous and insulting plays at placation – for example, coffee and cake with the director of the video! We do NOT take candy from strangers,



The kidnapping, beating, rape, torture, and killing of women is a real horror – one that should not be exploited for profit by anyone. With more than 500 Aboriginal women missing in Canada alone, and thousands of women kidnapped for use in the sex trade or worse, the use of an advertising campaign depicting women as falsely Missing is a dismissal of real pain and terror. Depicting this pain and terror in a music video goes further to justify the continuance of violence against women and especially to justify this kind of treatment of women by men.

image of fighting woman


What can you do to support this activism against media violence and the use of missing women as a marketing tool?

  • Contact the company and tell them what you think of their Actions:
    Mimetic Productions:1677 Albert Road, Windsor,
    Ontario, N8Y 3R4; Fax: 519-254-3904;
  • Contact MuchMusic and voice your concerns about the gratuitous depiction of violence against women in this video before the video is added to their rotation:

    Craig Halket, Senior Music Programmer,
    Much Music, 299 Queen Street West,
    Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2Z5; Fax: 416-
    591-6824; email:

  • Contact your local media outlets to alert them to our awareness campaign and the subsequent attempts to silence it, or contact The Windsor Star, who continues to support this company and refuses to publish community complaints:
    The Windsor Star Group Inc., 167 Ferry
    Street, Windsor, Ontario, N9A 4M5; Fax:
    519-255-5515; email:
  • Come out and join us for a march to express community solidarity in opposition to media violence, violence against women and profiting off REAL missing women!

    We will not be silent!

    Saturday March 25th, 2006
    Dieppe Park
    (corner of Riverside Drive and Ouellette)
    Windsor, Ontario

  • Create anchor text on your own site or blog that links Mimetic Productions to this post. Use this code if you want a quick and easy cut and paste:

    <p>Media Violence Against Women Must End! What you should know about <em><a href="" title="We will not be silenced">Mimetic Productions</a></em>.</p>

For more information contact:

When I Need Help Getting Happy

When I need help getting back to feeling good about what I’m doing, I like to read’s FAQ page In clear language, they summarize the reasons why we’re doing what we do as feminists:

We would like to live in a world where women weren’t subject to male violence; where work of equal value was paid at an equal rate; where women had real options in respect of work-life balance; where reproductive healthcare didn’t have to be fought and refought for; where women were represented in public office and at senior levels in insitutions; and where economics, jurisprudence, and public policy took cognisance of the realities of women’s lives.

They identify the backlash that comes when people don’t like our actions (this takes the forms of the actual frequently asked questions). The page is like a quick overview and reminder of what I’ve studied in feminist philosophy and epistomology:

So much of claimed rationality is in fact androcentrism masquerading as value-free objective analysis. The idea that an emotional response is inappropriate should in and of itself be interrogated.

Sometimes this is enough to get me back on track when I start to get run down.

Thank you Emma and Emmy. And like I said in the comments to your Buffy piece, welcome to WordPress and great choice of theme.


I have slept most of this weekend. I am in the midst of midterms and struggles with life, work, love and have no energy for any of it. I’m ready to quit it all and crawl in my hole (yet again) until I’m stronger.

But of course, I don’t get that choice. The exams require my presence, the jobs must be done, and you can’t not deal with life just because it’s hard. It’s just not fair.

This week, for the first time since I started this degree, I considered not handing in a paper. I figured one mark a day is the usual penalty and a quiet weekend to work on it would make it a much better paper than the draft I had so far…but then I checked the syllabus: “papers handed in after the due date will not be accepted.”. Of course I started to cry and then worked until 3:30 a.m. at which time I fell asleep in the chair for a few hours. I woke up at 5 to finish it and then at 9 a.m. handed in probably the worst paper of my career. The paper wasn’t difficult which is why it makes it so much harder to take. It came down to not having had sufficient time to work on it. Sufficient days, yes, if I didn’t have other responsibilities, but not with the life I currently lead. (Hence the previous post about having to Cut Cut Cut from my list.)

Did I mention the uti? Read more »

Is being feminist ‘enough’?

When I was an unruly teen my father used to frustrate himself with my determination to always root for the underdog. This has redefined itself in my adulthood as a call to issues of social justice. I feel strongly about issues – in other words – give me an issue and I’ll feel strongly about it. Whether it’s porn on an ipod or fairtrade coffee or debeaking chickens or dealing with feral cats – I’ll carry it with me and it will colour most everything I do.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we support more than one cause when possible. Read more »

Am I a bad person?

This past weekend I was in Ottawa for a conference. Ottawa is part of Canada. Canada is cold. And snowy. Especially in the winter time. Like the third weekend in January.

Even if the instructions say: “dress warmly and bring boots” there will be variation in how people interpret “boots”. My roommate for example had mukluks: very warm, and very dry, as well as reflective of her culture. I had above the ankle hiking boots (they were seconds at Columbia earlier this winter when my 11-year-old daughter shockingly grew into and confiscated my wonderful Sorels). Because of a killer blister on my heel that just won’t get better I alternated boots outdoors with birks and socks indoors.

Wondering where this is going?

On Saturday it snowed. All day. The sidewalks were covered in snow. Read more »

“Feminism for Sale”

THIS magazine, “the leading alternative Canadian magazine of politics, pop culture, and the arts” still says that Heath and Potter’s article “Feminism for Sale” will be online soon. Harumph. I’m about ready to give up. I’ve been waiting since at least November for it to go public to put up this post. How can we have a thorough discussion of the article and its issues until the editors make it available? I read the print article and was blown away by it – there’s no way that these two can be taken seriously. With this week’s Carnival of Feminist being about Feminism and Pop Culture I figured now was the perfect time to post it – maybe the article will still make it up someday. Or maybe THIS Magazine has changed their mind following the backlash in their letters section. john_d at the THIS Magazine blog says, “I don’t know if any THIS Magazine article has ever received more letters of complaint than Feminism for Sale.”

So in case you haven’t read it: Heath and Potter provide a superficial overview of the second wave feminist movement. Although they make reference to some ‘big names’ and a partial agenda of the 1960s and ‘70s women’s movement, they do not give credit to the depth of issues interrogated, the progress made, the personal empowerment of large numbers of women and the impact second wave feminism has had around and beyond the American borders.

It is hard to have a neutral reaction to this piece. Whether or not a reader believes that feminism has lost its steam and that the women at the forefront of the second wave have sold out to the technocracy (THIS Magazine, September 2005, p. 220), readers will definitely find themselves engaging in (and I hope vehemently objecting to) the writing of Heath and Potter.

Within any activity or organization, there are always pieces to criticize, feminism and feminists of yore included. However, Heath and Potter hardly present both sides of the story, preventing readers from drawing their own conclusions. Perhaps because this piece was written for publication in a magazine it draws more heavily on emotional persuasion through its chosen topics and the style of language used. Its purpose is not to present facts or inform but to persuade, challenge, and even enrage. THIS Magazine’s focus is alternative pop culture and political issues and certainly feminism and the second wave fall into these categories. Unfortunately, because their approach is to enflame rather than methodically critique the second wave it is difficult to accept their article as a legitimate critique of contemporary feminism.

The first question to ask regarding this article is who are Heath and Potter? What authority do they have to speak of – and comment on – feminism? Whose voice do they represent and whose interest do they protect? Further, whose voices do they present? The authors do not provide first-hand experience with either the second wave or third wave women’s movement. To truly understand a movement or a perspective it is necessary to enter it and participate. Heath and Potter show no indication of actually having spoken to today’s feminist activists. There are no personal anecdotes of third-wavers, no quotes, nothing. Where are the women????? Again and as always, they are hidden beneath the voice of patriarchy, the very voice Heath and Potter represent. Their failure to situate themselves weakens their credibility.

And another thing! Where are the Canadian voices? THIS Magazine is a Canadian publication yet the feminists Heath and Potter discuss are all American. Everywhere we turn, Canadians are subsumed by Americana: culture, technology, politics, and the arts. Here, in this counterculture magazine of all places, an effort be should made to include Canadians and Canadian content, whether or not the authors support or recognize their activism. Given that the majority of Canadians will never pick up a copy of Herizons, where will they ever read about their Canadian foresisters? Heath and Potter do their best to make sure it is not going to be in THIS Magazine. Canadian women are alive and kicking and it is time that this is recognized.

Regarding the issues discussed in Heath and Potter’s article, I want to address these that I think are especially significant: women’s self-esteem, rape/pornography, and the thrust of the second vs. third wave movement:

Heath and Potter claim that women have easy confidence, and are taking over universities and preparing to dominate the job market (214). Many women that I know struggle with their self-confidence and feel an incredible pressure from their surrounding culture to look and act a certain way. Where are the women to whom Heath and Potter refer? The rates of eating disorders among young women in Western society show that self-esteem hardly comes “easy” to women. Although there are increasing numbers of women enrolling in universities, these enrollments are hardly spread equally across all disciplines. Men still dominate engineering, science, math, graduate and doctoral programs, and higher positions of administration. To say “women are taking over universities” (214) is a gross misstatement. The same is true in the job market. Women continue to dominate the pink-collar ghetto and experience the phenomenon of the glass ceiling. Struggles to find the balance between career and family responsibilities prevent many women from “dominating the job market” (214) as Heath and Potter suggest. Perhaps including some statistics would help their position here – if there were any.

Heath and Potter should also back up their statement that “despite some vague claims about matriarchal societies in the distant past, most of the available evidence suggested that all major cultures throughout history were patriarchies” (216). This is pre-history. There are no written texts from this period. Modern archeologists have to interpret artifacts without any input from ancient peoples. I will concede that research supporting matriarchies is impossible to confirm but it is equally difficult to disregard what has been uncovered. To suggest that the evidence favours patriarchy over matriarchy when there is no way to confirm either is unacceptable.

Further disturbing is Heath and Potter’s discussion of rape. They claim that an “entire generation of young men is now entering adulthood, having come of age in an environment that is completely saturated with pornography” (219). Heath and Potter claim that according to MacKinnon’s work, this saturation should have led to the “ultimate nightmare scenario” (219). Heath and Potter fail to recognize FEMINIST campaigns regarding education about sexual consent (e.g. No means No), the emergence of porn/erotica without scenes containing violence against women and other sexual forms of expression that continue to grow (e.g. online instant messaging and chat rooms). But even given all of this, men still rape. How much rape per capita are Heath and Potter willing to accept? Feminists say NONE. If one woman is raped it is a sign that men still feel the power, desire, and ability to dominate women and this is a problem. Moreover, regarding their claim that we have not entered a sexual apocalypse: there are many signs that this is indeed upon us. Sex, that is, women’s sexuality, is commoditized and enlisted to sell anything and everything. Sexual harassment is a reality in the workplace, in schools, and in society-at-large, and little girls’ clothing is sexualized to the point where lingerie stores have storefronts which cater to girls who have not yet hit puberty. Children are being exploited as sexpots! To me, this bodes apocalyptic.

Heath and Potter suggest that at the core of the second wave movement was women’s “collective victimization” and this contrasts with the third wave focus on “personal responsibility and individual achievement” (220). They criticize third wavers of culture jamming the second wave’s critique of culture (220). What Heath and Potter do not recognize is that the second wave accomplished much more than a critique of “beauty culture, sexual abuse, and power structures” (220). These activists made progress for women in the workplace, in sexual liberation politics, and in the culture of the day. The result of this is that third wavers have a greater public visibility than previous generations. And yes, since there are more women with independent lives and resources, there will be more *stuff* created by them and for them. Art and business can go hand-in-hand and it was never the intention of the second wavers that women take a vow of poverty. What they asked was that women make conscious choices regarding their consumption. Creating and owning property does not make today’s women sell-outs to their forerunners. It means that we have had progress. Before the second wave, it was still difficult for women to have earnings to invest in their own enterprises. Now they do. This is good.

Activism never ends. For each goal that we reach many more are discovered along the way. Feminists are in the struggle for the long haul, whether the issue is the beauty/cosmetic industry, sexual abuse, gendered division of labour and equality in the workplace, etc. Heath and Potter do not give any credit to the extensive achievements that were made by the second wave women’s movement. Perhaps this article has been effective in jarring people from any impending complacency and inciting them to action before mass society has the opportunity to believe what they read in This Magazine.

So pardon me Heath and Potter: this is OUR revolution and while you are welcome to join us, until you talk to the women doing the work here, we will speak for ourselves, thank you very much.

Doing too much (again)

I don’t know how it happens. Last week I was enjoying a visit from my oldest and dearest friend and her son, cooking meals and eating them sitting down. I had clean laundry and exciting plans for the upcoming semester. Now it’s four days into classes, I’m overwhelmed by assignment due dates, already behind in the readings, falling asleep all over the place, giving up on a grant application, dropping plans everywhere, bailing on lunchdates with friends and just generally sinking into depression. Luckily the kids are still fed and mostly have clean things they can wear so I know it’s not that serious.

I drift between feeling great/wanting to do all the things I’ve ever dreamed of and wanting to hide and never come out. I keep surfing to the BlogHer site and dreaming about going to the 2006 conference. I imagine all the things I could learn, all the cool discussions that will take place, and all the amazing women I could meet. I even checked out the hotel site and the assorted cheap flight sites. I want to go. I do. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. Read more »

Finding out

Someone I know is grappling with telling a friend that the friend’s husband is having an affair. She asked me what I would do – she didn’t know that I’d been through this. I was as naive as they come, and busy wrapped up in my miserable life looking after first one high needs child and then having another. I had accepted that I would be miserable forever. I was about 25 years old, married 7 years and I had a high needs 3 year old when I found out about the first one. 26 or so when I found out about the second one. 28 for the third (and last) one which was really still the second one. Read more »

Our Influence on Language: “Podcast” is now a word

This story today announces that the word “podcast” has made it into the New Oxford American Dictionary 2006. Originally coined as a combo of ‘ipod’ and ‘broadcast’ the word has spread into popular culture and beyond. My extended family now knows what a podcast is. My children know. Their friends know. The widespread popularity has legitimized the word and the practice and it’s no longer some geeky 1337 thing. Read more »

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