ANTHOLOGIES are tricky things. The skill it takes to put one together that is accessible, comprehensive and engaging is underrated. When I read through the chapter titles for Defending Our Dreams, edited by feminist activists Shamillah Wilson, Anasuya Sengupta and Kristy Evans, I was excited that Iâe(TM)d be learning more about so many diverse topics. There's an essay on male feminism, cyber girls, international adoptions and genetically engineered food âe" all from feminist perspectives.
Such a broad scope draws in all types of writers (and readers, too): those who care about the international women's movement, those with connections to local actions, even those whose interests lie in new technologies.
In the introduction to the anthology, editors Shamillah Wilson and Anasuya Sengupta (the third editor Kristy Evans oddly absent) write, âeoeThis book is an attempt to bring together a set of voices from across the world who straddle multiplicity themselves; within the book too, there is a breathtaking range of identities, experiences and issues that are thereby represented.âe
The editors tell no lies: the breadth of experience and perspective in the anthology's 254 pages is a feat. I found myself wondering how the editors found such a range of young feminists from around the world. They should be applauded for reaching out and being unafraid of crossing boundaries and listening to new voices. The book critiques Nepal's anti-trafficking laws; links HIV prevention with sexuality education; looks at how movements adjust to our media; and examines differing usages and accessibilities of internet and communication technologies by feminist organizations across the globeâe¦
Unfortunately, while trying to represent the âeoerange of identities, experiences and issuesâe the anthology lost continuity. Each essay seemed to start at square one and by the time I finished the book I was tired of introductions to feminist organizations and initiatives âe" I was hungry for action.
The problem is that the articles in this volume have very little interconnectivity. I got to hear from feminists around the world, but I found very little to tie the voices together. For example, chapter eight is a sci-fi utopia fiction, chapter nine analyzes the World Social Forum, and chapter ten is about young radicals in Toronto. In the essays themselves, many writers seem uncertain of their intended audience . Some essays were tentative, giving extensive introductions and seeming overly diplomatic and kind to state and institutional bodies.Take the chapter called âeoeA human rights instrument that works for women: the ICC as a tool for gender justice.âe It analyzes the International Criminal Court, through the Rome Statute, and its ability to rectify gendered human rights abuses. The authors, Zakia Afrin and Amy Schwartz, spend the first half of the article lauding the hope and power of the ICC. Only nearing the end do they bring up the criticism that was running through my head the whole time:
Since there is no way to sanction governments under international law for failing to implement ratification obligations, ... the national enforcement of the Rome Statute will have to rely on pressures from non-governmental organizations.
Ultimately, Afrin and Schwartz's article admits that although the premise of the ICC is good, it has very little clout âe" and not many states take it seriously.
Many of the other essays in the book followed this pattern: they spend most of their space introducing basic concepts and then fleetingly mention the real, logistical problems in the last sentences. With a title like Defending Our Dreams I was expecting stronger opinions and clearer action plans than it ended up providing.
In spite of this disappointment, the book educated me about feminist struggles I had never thought about, like Indigo Williams Willing's âeoeFrom orphaned china dolls to long-distance daughters: a call for solidarity across borders,âe which actively confronted the politics of international adoption. She writes:
In the context of transnational adoption, âe¦ hegemonic processes simultaneously privilege the actions and cultural backgrounds of adoptive parents, while silencing the cultural, emotional and spiritual losses of the children who join their families.
I was also exposed to different facets and ways of acting on feminism. In âeoeRooting out injustice: discussions with radical young women in Toronto, Canada,âe Jennifer Plyler introduced me to four Toronto-based activists: Liisa from the June 30 Committee (raising awareness about Canada's role in the Iraq war), Farrah from Project Threadbare (calling attention to false terrorism arrests of 24 South Asian Muslims by the RCMP), Rachel from Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and Rafeef from Samoud (a political prisoner solidarity group). Plyler reminds us:
Solidarity with young women activists also means giving time, energy and support to the initiatives and actions they are leading âe"whether they are taking place in local community centres, on campuses or in the streets.
I came away from this book with a much better picture of what global feminist youth looks like than when I began. I also have a better sense of how much power feminism has when it is applied to struggles like HIV prevention amongst men in South Africa, or building the World Social Forum, or fighting for a farmer's right to save her seeds. Definitely a good start.âe"Jenn Watt
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