Sunday, January 2, 2022

Review: Take Back The Fight: Organizing Feminism for the Digital Age by Nora Loreto

I got three things out of this book.

First, I learned for the first time, the history of feminism in country of my birth and my citizenship. It's embarrassingly easy to accidentally form ones understanding of politics and history based only on events in the US. This is harmful in three ways: first it becomes too easy to look at failures south of the border and pat oneself on the back and conclude nothing needs to be done because "at least we are better than them." Second, it masks very real, very uniquely Canadian issues. Third, it makes Canadian would-be activists ill-equipped to advocate for their causes: what worked successfully, what didn't, what examples can we draw from? I though Loreto did a fantastic job laying out the story of the NAC and its eventual demise.

Second, I liked her analysis of #MeToo, Slut Walks and other 21st century feminist movements -- what lasting change did they have, and why didn't they have a larger impact? Although I'd lived through them, for many of them I didn't have the political consciousness to really examine at the time. It was fun to revisit, particularly through the lens of identifying what is required for sustained political movements and change.

Third, I enjoyed her argument for the value of debate. Debate within an organization prepares an organization for attacks from outsiders. Debate brings newcomers into the fold. Debate trains the next generation of leaders to think and speak. I was not fully swayed by Loreto that some of this couldn't happen in online spaces -- discord servers, smaller Zoom groups, etc... I think some of her critique of the hazards of diffuse organizational structures was better said by feminist Jo Freeman in her 1972 (!) essay on The Tyranny of Structurelessness. But I do agree there's value in real world physical togetherness.

I felt there was a gap in terms of assessing economic and political structure. Examples of positive change were almost entirely instances of bills being passed. Can we eradicate white supremacy, state violence, and misogyny through the passage of new laws one by one, maintaining the fundamental structure of Canada intact throughout? Or what major systems need to be removed or reinvented from the bottom up? What is the role of feminism versus a movement rooted in class analysis and anti-capitalism?

Overall, it was an easy, compelling read, if not necessarily succinct. I'm glad I read it, and would recommend it to Canadian feminists looking for an introductory to moderately advanced read.

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