1 down...far too many to go

>> Friday, December 10, 2010

Brodie, Janine. Politics on the Margins: Restructuring and the Canadian
Women's Movement
. Halifax: Fernwood, 1995.

Yikes! I spent way too long to get through just one book today. It is very small, too... much shorter than most of the books on my reading list. There is a lot packed into it, though. I often, when I'm reading for school, try to sum up each paragraph in a few words/phrases ... and quite often, that is doable. With Brodie, not so much. She packs so much into each paragraph that when I start taking notes and trying to summarize it, I quite often have to really work to resist the temptation to just write the whole darn thing out. She does not waste words.

The other two books that I have read in this section (Movements and Methods) have both included more history about women's movements in Canada. I am collecting quite a lot of dates in my timeline spreadsheet, and acronymns as well. I have also started a third page in the workbook for people - I figure it wouldn't hurt to generate a list of some of they key players in the women's movements as I go; there are a few women whose names are already becoming familiar because they're mentioned in every book.

Anyway, Politics on the Margins is not so much about history, although it does include a chapter that provides an overview of first and second wave Canadian feminist movements. It spends a lot more time examining neoliberalism, and challenging the notion of inevitability that neoliberal politicians favour - the suggestion that we HAVE to do things this way to compete in a global economy and to survive; there are no other options. Bull-pucky! Not Brodie's term, of course ... but it captures the sentiment quite well, I think.

Neoliberal governments are all about capitalism and globalization; increasing exports, decreasing social programs, reducing state power in favour of business - people with money, basically. Neoliberal ideology is good only, I think, for the very rich; for the rest of us (and for the environment as well), it has extremely negative repercussions - and these are especially harmful for women. Brodie details erosion of the gains made during the second wave of the women's movement in Canada - declining paid work opportunities, increasing gaps between men's and women's wages, and all of the losses associated with the dismantling of the social welfare system. In addition to the women who were receiving social supports that are no longer available, many of the jobs that have been lost through no longer providing those supports were held by women as well. AND of course, guess who picks up the majority of the (now unpaid) supportive work that still needs to be done?

Neoliberalism ideology insists that we are all equal; men, women; people of colour, people with disabilities - everyone except, possibly, for the very young (although, of course, only while they are very young). Everyone has equal opportunities - and pretty much anything that happens to you is your own fault. We are all, each of us, responsible for our own choices.

So buddy over there chooses to be homeless, and she chooses to be sick, and that guy chose poverty, and ..... weren't you listening? Everyone is equal.

We do not have to support people who are sick or poor or disabled or unemployed or discriminated against on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on because they are not discriminated against! We are all equal, we all choose to be where we are, and we all have to deal with the consequences of our choices (which is why our current government thinks we need lots & lots more prisons, but that's another issue altogether).

Anyway, in this book, Brodie challenges the assertions by government and the media that there are no other choices but neoliberalism, and encourages women’s organizations to work together to resist marginalization and to develop broad-based alliances across gender, race and class. A feminist politics of restructuring, she suggests, must begin at the level of contesting neoliberal orthodoxy, and must challenge impositional claims as impositional and interrogate and explicate restructuring discourse. She also encourages insistence that new trading agreements respect conventions on human rights which countries such as Canada have ratified; this strategy provides a basis for coalitions both internally and internationally without assuming a unity of interests.

The book was written in 1995 when some women's organizations still had some funding - my sense is that the erosion has continued and that there is even less o' that now... after all, we are all equal now; there is no need.

If only t'were so!

I think that 30/40 years from now - or maybe even sooner - assuming we haven't totally demolished the planet by then - people will be talking about neoliberalism the way we now discuss colonialism: it was bad, look at all the damage we've done; how are we going to fix it?

Will we ever get it right?


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