THE PORNOGRAPHY WORKSHOP FOR WOMEN: A LEADER'S HANDBOOK can be used by any woman involved in her own community as a professional or as a volunteer: teachers, social workers, community workers, active Workers, and members of women's groupsor informal networks. It is available for $11.00 (includes postage and handling) from: Education Wife Assault, 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario, MSS lX7.
SILENCED by Makeda
Reviewed by Greta Hofmann Nemiroff
One of the most exciting aspects of feminist research has been the excavation of women's point of view and culture. Over the millennia, women have been well silenced by the Patriarchy in many ways: violence or threats thereof; being systemically and systematically ignored. Our words and way of life has not been considered by men to be worthy of conserving and certainly not worth passing on as historical documentation. Now, many feminist scholars are reassessing accounts of society from women's experiences; searchers in the social sciences often solicit first-person testimony from specific groups of women under study, with special attention to reproducing their particular voices rather than simply providing accounts of their experiences.
In Canada several important books have relied heavily on such testimony for their material, providing for the readers an accurate sense of how some women see the world. Meg Luxton's More Than a Labour of Love (Women's Press) and Pat and Hugh Armstrong's A Working Majority: What Women Must Do For Pay (Cdn. Adv. Council on the Status of Women) are both such books, depending on first-person testimony to give a true sense of their subjects and also to substantiate the authors' analyses of society and their recommendations for reform.
Makeda Silvera's Silenced is "a book about the lives and struggles of West Indian women who are employed as domestic workers on temporary employment visas in Canada." (p.11). While she certainly recommends specific reformation of their situation, Silvera also sees that providing an opportunity for the women to speak for themselves is a valid project in itself:
These women have never been heard. Usually we know of them through impersonalized cold statistics or through the voices of others who speak for them, or when the media sensationalizes their plight and briefly force us to acknowledge, if only temporarily, that they exist...It is not their lack of education and lack of writing skills that have served to silence many of these women. It is rather that their silence is the result of a society which uses power and powerlessness as weapons to exclude non-white and poor people from any real decision making and participation.(p. 18-19)
Silvera interviewed ten domestic workers from the West Indies in Toronto, Women between the ages of twenty and fifty-four. All but one have children back home and seven are solely responsible for their children's economic welfare. Only one is married and her husband remains with the children in the Caribbean.
The largest portion of the book is made up of these women's stories, and there are various common themes. Most of the women have come to work in Canada for all or some of the following reasons:
The motivation to improve the lot of their children was expressed by many women:
Not only do the women often not reach their objectives for their children by emigrating, they also suffer enormously from having left their children in the hands of others, often not seeing them for their most formative years: