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Insightful Readings

K. Saradamoni

Edited by Andrea Martinez & Meryn Stuart
SUMACH Press, Toronto, 2003, pp. 312, price not stated.


The idea of this book came to the scholars at the Institute of Women’s Studies (IWS) at the University of Ottawa in the fall of 2000 when the World March for Women was energizing the women’s movement and feminist studies globally. A general call was put out for research papers, without setting any boundaries to the authors as to what and how they should write. The response was enormous. A large number of papers, innovative in the choice of topics and methodology used reached them soon. After an insightful reading of the manuscripts they were sent to Women’s Studies scholars for peer reviewing.   The four parts under which the fourteen selected papers are arranged are Recovering Histories and Meanings; The Language of Sexuality; “ Negotiating” the Female Body; Shaping Equity for Women in Public Spaces; and The Intersection of Gender, Class, Language and Ethnicity in Cyberspace. The very first article in the volume deals with smoking among women and men. Women in Canada were smoking as early as 1920. However, what the author tries to do is not a history of smoking, but more about anti-smoking in the educational text books. The modern textbooks continue to ignore the particular concerns of girls who are deciding whether or not to smoke. ‘Not a single text book from the 1980s and 1990s offers a gendered approach to discourage smoking’. The author describes at length how the advertisers cleverly use women to sell cigarettes as well as to keep women smoking. ‘Well into the 1990s television situation comedies also provided many examples of how and why young women should smoke.’   The next paper in the same part titled ‘Writing them into History: Canadian Women in Science and Engineering since the 1980s’ can shock and surprise us. How many among us know that on December 6,1989 a young man walked into the class rooms of Montreal Polytechnique School and shot dead fourteen young women engineering students and injured an equal number. In a suicide note found on his body, he had accused women and particularly feminists for ruining his life. One student who tried to plead with him said ‘we are not feminists, we are women who want to study’. In this very telling article we read that among the coping mechanisms the girl students adopted to survive in the Polytechnique one was ‘acting like one of the boys’. What happened in December 1989 which has ...

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