Women in the Muslim network, as another example, talk about the importance of their setting the priority of issues to be addressed. They don't want to destroy the private spaces that women have as a result of the seclusion they face in Muslim culture because those spaces form the base of what power women have. They want to challenge the exclusion of women from other areas but not by undermining the power women already hold.

We must start from expanding women's opportunities, not by taking away the things that women have drawn their identity or their support from. I think that this is very important in looking at all questions of access.

A similar issue in the United States, and probably Canada, is teenage pregnancy, where the assumption is made that what the teenage mothers need is simply to be relieved of their children. In many cases, the teenage mother has another child because that child is meeting a need that young woman feels - a need we might hope she didn't feel, a need for love that she's not getting, a need to have or do something that is really hers. Programs that are more creative look at how to help the teenager take responsibility for her child and also build a stronger sense of herself so that children are not a substitute for something else in her life. Then you can look at ways to meet the mother's other needs.

The same can be said for the notion of women having "false consciousness" and therefore identifying with anti-feminist or right-wing ideas. I think it's more productive to consider what needs a right-wing or anti-feminist ideology has met in the lives of some women that make them unwilling to work for what might be more broadly their self-interest. It may be an economic need. It may be the fear of abandonment, that men will refuse to be responsible for their families. While it could be called false consciousness, we have to address better ways to protect the interests - of those women rather than imply that they're acting irrationally, or that they don't understand their situation. One might then be able to work with them toward creating better alternatives for women.

To me, that's at the heart of feminism: that the personal is political, that we can listen to one another, and that we learn about women from letting women speak.

Sharon Goldberg is currently employed as the Supervisor, Continuing Education! Conference Centre, Frost Campus, Sir Sandford Fleming College. She is in the process of completing her M.A. in Adult Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.



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