Elizabeth Renzetti on the importance of sharing the microphone in feminism

The Globe and Mail columnist discusses her book of essays, Shrewed, which draws on her decades of reporting on feminist issues.
Elizabeth Renzetti is a bestselling author and journalist. ( of Anansi Press)

Elizabeth Renzetti's weekly column in the Globe and Mail highlights hypocrisy, injustice and some of the dumb stuff we humans get up to at times. Her new book of essays, Shrewed: A Wry and Closely Observed Look at the Lives of Women and Girls, draws on her decades of reporting on feminist issues.

An evolving movement

"There was a lot of feminist activity going on in the late 1980s, and I think we forget that. In Canada, there were great battles over reproductive freedom. I would march under the banner for abortion rights but, as I write in the book, that was me by day. By night, I was often going home with the wrong guy and trying to be super fun, likable and flirty. I think it was a tightrope that a lot of us tried to walk. We're living through a historical, seismic and wonderful moment with the #MeToo movement and a lot of people are embracing the fight against injustice. But even up until fairly recently, a lot of women didn't want to call themselves feminist — many still don't. It's always been a movement that's given itself over to self-reflection. I don't think we get enough credit for that. People like to present it as cat-fighting or some other ridiculously gendered stereotypes when, in fact, it's just a movement that is constantly looking at itself and asking how can we do this better."

Minding the gap

"I see a real tension between older feminists and younger feminists. I think it's hard for us — as older feminists who've been through a lot, written a lot and done a lot of activism and seen ourselves historically as the oppressed group — to recognize that younger women have concerns that are aligned with ours but are not identical and that their approaches might not be the ones we'd take. The idea that they should be silenced or shunted aside or not listened to is detrimental to the movement. I think we need to be quieter as older feminists and listen, promote and amplify their voices, whether it's online or recommending their writing, their activism and taking cues from them because they know how the world actually works now and we may not understand the power structures that they're seeing in the same way."

On intersectionality

"White feminism is an idea we have to take extremely seriously. We must examine how we comport ourselves, how we make up our decisions and who we include in our decision making process. If you are a Black woman or an Indigenous woman, a woman from the queer community and you thought, 'This is not a welcoming place for me,' I can understand why. More needs to be done to bring those voices to the forefront. In the end, we gain a stronger movement because there aren't schisms, there's unity."

Elizabeth Renzetti's comments have been edited and condensed.