When I first started making the list of books I’d like to read for this Challenge, I immediately began to list classic English and American texts (and not that that wouldn’t make for a fitting challenge, with the likes of Wollstonecraft and Pankhurst brushing up with Stanton and Lorde) but then I realized there were likely more Canadian feminist writers that I was simply overlooking.

So I now have twelve Canadian feminist writers in mind and am even more interested in the theme than I had been to start with. It felt like a natural comfortable fit, but now I’m actually excited about it, about revisiting old favourites and taking some time for writers whose work I’ve only brushed up against in the past.

That list doesn’t begin and end with Margaret Atwood (although in my case it will begin with Atwood, because I’m an alphabetically-inclined feminist) although she is arguably the most high-profile writer I’ve chosen. She was an obvious choice for me but even though at first I wondered if I could come up with a dozen names, I actually found myself having to choose amongst many more and setting some aside for future reading.

My 2010 Women Unbound reading will include: Margaret Atwood, Joan Barfoot, Dionne Brand, Di Brandt, Nicole Brossard, Cynthia Flood, Hiromi Goto, Kristjana Gunnars, Nalo Hopkinson, Dorothy Livesay, Elizabeth Smart, and Elisabeth Vonarburg.

I’ll make sure there are at least three non-fiction choices, but I’d like to leave some wriggle room there. Some of these writers I know I’m targeting one or the other (eg. Atwood’s non-fiction, Elisabeth Vonarburg’s fiction) but others I’ll settle by reading mood as the weeks go by and the dates are just approximations for my own use, anticipating months of low-reading volume (September: I’m looking at you!) and winter binge reading.

[Edited to add add link here to First Read in The Women Unbound Reading Challenge and continue reading for My Start-of-Challenge Meme responses.]

1. What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act?
2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?

I am a feminist. I believe that I, as a woman, a member of the female sex, have inherent value, a value equal to humans of any other sex. The only people in my life who call me a feminist also find truth in that statement (be they male or female). But most people in my life do not call me a feminist, only consider me independent; I am an independent woman, they say, like it’s still a state worthy of distinction, as though most women they know are not.

And there are people in my life who would never dream of calling me that, who view me through a lens that distorts me, shapes me into something they know and recognize, which has very little to do with the woman I am, and more to do with the expectations with which they have been raised. They may respect me, but the word ‘feminist’ is a disrespectful word for them, something they associate with anger and violence, at worst, and disruption and whining at best; for them, it’s a word to be hurled, not adopted.

But I am a feminist, and I work and socialize and dress and act like one. When I think of five feminist friends, there are few similarities in how we work, socialize, dress and behave. I would hesitate to describe either the similarities or differences between us on those matters, but I know we all identify as feminist.

Each of us and, I think, women in general, face obstacles in the form of individuals who believe that women are inherently of lesser value and who structure and perpetuate systems rooted in that belief. Over time I think this obstacle has changed, the limitations and freedoms contracted and enlarged, but where I feel I may have personally gained freedoms over the course of my lifetime, I still see obstacles in my own culture, and I am aware of them (to greater and lesser extents) in the lives of other women, near and far.