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Two decades of neoliberalism have destroyed a structured, pan-regional feminist movement in Canada. As a result, new generations of feminists have come to age without ever seeing the force that an organized social movement can have in democratic society. They have never benefited from the knowledge, the debates, the actions, the mass mobilizations or the leadership that all accompany a social movement and instead organize in decentralized silos. As a result, government and corporate leaders have co-opted feminism to turn it into something that can be bought, sold, or used to attract voters. Campaigns like #BeenRapedNeverReported, #MeToo, the SlutWalks and the Canadian Women’s marches, while important, don’t yet have the organized power to bring the changes that activists seek to make in society.
In Take Back The Fight, Nora Loreto examines the state of modern feminism in Canada and argues that feminists must organize to take back feminism from politicians, business leaders and journalists who distort and obscure its power. Furthermore, Loreto urges today’s activists to overcome the challenges that sank the movement decades ago, to stop centering whiteness as the quintessential woman’s experience, and to find ways to rebuild the communities that have been obliterated by neoliberal economic policies.
“It’s as if Loreto tosses a pebble into the water, causing ripples to form on the surface. Rather than writing about the pebble itself, she writes about the ripples. And that’s a good thing. She looks at organizations that are complementary to the feminist movement, but which—when added together with it—become a much more powerful force … With Loreto’s solid research, journalism and activism, she manages to investigate what’s happened to the feminist movement and demonstrate what it will take for it to become a major force in Canadian society. This work could not be more urgent.”
— Judy Haiven, Canadian Dimension, May 2021
“Take Back the Fight is an excellent analysis of the rise and decline of second-wave feminism in Canada and in particular of the extraordinary National Action Committee on the Status of Women. Nora Loreto shows both the strengths and the weaknesses of Canada’s largest feminist organization, giving readers an anti-racist feminist view of that history and persuasively argues that we need a cross-country organization to unite feminist activists today. Thank you to Nora for making this important part of activist history come alive for readers and now be documented for history.”
— Judy Rebick, author of Ten Thousand Roses and former President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women 1990-1993
“Charting a tumultuous history of mainstream feminism, Nora Loreto’s Take Back the Fight is a clarion call for a large-scale, intersectional and radical feminist movement in Canada.”
— Harsha Walia, author of Undoing Border Imperialism
“Feminism Is a Verb”
— Review by Patricia Gélinas Boushel, Published in the Fall 2020 issue, Montreal Review of Books
“Loreto reminds us, we must and our way to a feminism that stops lauding the appointment of women CEOs, vice- presidents, and police officers while corporations, governments, and police departments continue to systematically harm those who are trans, Black, disabled, and poor. We need a feminism that confronts the many crises facing Indigenous women — from unclean drinking water and crowded, unsanitary housing to systemic violence — as part of its core work. It must be a feminism that can begin anew, in a place that privileges the relational work that patriarchy has long taught us to devalue, along with those who perform it.”
— Julie McGonegal, Literary Review of Canada, May 2021
Take Back the Fight does not claim to have all the answers; indeed, Loreto cautions against replicating an approach from one experience to another, especially if we are unfamiliar with what makes each struggle unique to its own historical circumstances. Instead, she suggests that the answers we need will be found in the practice of organizing ourselves into new networks, which should both draw on the lessons of the past and be open to new forms of activism.
Throughout her book, Loreto is conscious of the challenges of organizing in the digital age. She acknowledges the opportunities, as well as the pitfalls, that come with dramatic technological changes to how we organize, disseminate, and access information, and accordingly communicate with each other in both public and private spheres. However, unlike other texts that confuse a wider range of communication tactics with a long-term organizing strategy, Take Back the Fight relies on practices, both online and in real life, that seek greater coordination among activists, that cultivate democratic decision-making and accountability among them, and that build their confidence through the day-to-day work that turns struggles into movements.
— Pam Frache, James Clark, Spring Magazine, August 2021 (full review)
Keenly attuned to our current moment’s ethical timbre, Loreto is unflinchingly committed to presenting feminism’s anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, and anti-racist imperative. She makes the connection between societal struggles and the possibilities of a truly emancipatory feminist movement that gathers all people under its cover in solidarity. For instance, if caring for children is one of the basic tenets of feminism, then we must organize to make our governments consider all children, placing issues such as Indigenous healthcare and access to drinking water as central to its work. Canada’s historically white feminism is consistently shaken up to reveal its narrow scope and harmful limitations.
— Montreal Review of Books, Fall 2020 (full review)
When did feminism become a brand, a hashtag, or a campaign slogan?
When did feminism become “something that we can buy or sell, a self-identity or a lifestyle rather than a political orientation through which to organize against the status quo?”
These are the kinds of hard-hitting questions journalist and activist Nora Loreto tackles in her latest book, Take Back the Fight—a book that dares to imagine what a truly liberatory feminist movement might look like and that isn’t afraid to point out where mainstream feminism falls short.
“I was driven to write Take Back the Fight by the desire to understand how feminism ended up here: a word that can be used by politicians and corporations alike who feel little shame about contorting or obscuring feminism to be something that either scores political points or attracts buyers,” Loreto explains in the introduction to her book.
— Ann Douglas, December 2020 (full review)
Perhaps Loreto’s most important point is this: “Feminism can no longer be understood by some as a struggle for minor changes that benefit only a few, and a new feminist movement must change opinions so that people come to understand this. Challenging the status quo is hard work, and we need to find a way to organize a feminist network that is capable of confronting Canada’s status quo, especially as the far-right rises, fuelled by misogynistic and racist rhetoric and violence.” Take Back the Fight takes an unflinching look at the failures of feminism’s past and present, but it also offers a hopeful look at its future. I hope it becomes mandatory reading for young feminists across the country.
— Rayne Fisher-Quann, rabble.ca (full review)