REMEMBERING WOMEN MURDERED BY MEN by the Cultural Memory Collective (Sumach), 272 pages, $28.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
People often ask me where they can find feminism these days. The answer is "In this book."
Remembering Women Murdered By Men crosses Canada to track women's groups' attempts to memorialize the victims of violence against women. In doing so, it gives us a crash course in political organizing and feminist art criticism.
No matter where the Cultural Memory Collective travelled during its five years of research, the same themes seemed to surface: How do we create tributes to individuals, especially the 14 women murdered at the Montreal Polytechnique in 1989, and still comment on systemic violence? Why should there be a memorial for those 14 white women in Vancouver when the vast majority of local victims are First Nations? Where should memorials go in institutions or public parks? How can we design memorials that are not just static objects but conducive to future activism?
Almost everywhere, there was backlash, institutional self-aggrandizement or resistance. Witness Sears Canada's refusal to get involved in the Chatham memorial for Theresa Vince, an employee slain by a co-worker she'd tried to get disciplined for sexual harassment, or the Nina de Villiers Memorial Rose Garden, whose plaque mentions host McMaster University four times and the victim's name once, or the insistence almost everywhere that memorials not be explicit about the fact that the perpetrators are men.
It's this last kind of reaction that inspired the title of the book, which acknowledges the way violence is profoundly gender-specific.
Remembering Women Murdered By Men is easy to read, which isn't always true of politically driven texts. Occasionally, the commentaries, especially about the monuments themselves, lapse into artspeak, but on the whole this is an informative, highly energized tribute to the movement to end violence against women.
Anyone reading the newspapers lately knows that the epidemic has not ended.