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Playing It Forward: 50 Years of Women and Sport in Canada

by Guylaine Demers; Lorraine Greaves; Marion Lay; Sandra Kirby; eds.

Since February 2008, The Feminist History Society has made it their mission to rigorously document the Canadian feminist movement between the years 1960 and 2010. The goal is that, each year, society members receive a hardcover book, bound with uniform covers and spines, and marked as part of a larger collection. The society aims for 20 books between now and 2030 – not necessarily for broad commercial sale, or to exist as an “official history,” but to create a “broad and deep written record … an open, inclusive, and honest series” penned by members of the movement. It is an ambitious, collaborative project, one that brings together an array of Canadian voices on a wide swath of topics.

Playing it ForwardPlaying It Forward is the most recent (and more mass-appeal) addition to this bold documentation. It is a vast, even intimidating collection of stories and essays about women in sport in this country, exploring their evolving roles in all facets of the industry. The four-woman editorial team responsible for the book is made up from a range of athletic interests and abilities, united by the necessity of the project.

“Even for the distant feminist observer, the widespread and masculinist resistance to the claims of women seeking access to sports was shocking,” we read in the foreword. “We came to realize that the primacy of male sport was one of the strongest bulwarks of sexism in Canadian society and the world.” The book has a political mission to unpack systemic sexism in all levels of sport, but it also admirably celebrates the achievements of athletes, coaches, and activists across a wide variety of pursuits, from cycling and swimming to hockey and wheelchair basketball.

Among these stories and essays are profiles of women who excelled in competition, but also those lesser-known heroes who laboured behind the scenes to create opportunities, gain media coverage, and change policy and law. Playing It Forward is a history book, a resource, and an attempt to ensure that the work of Canadian women to break down barriers in a (still) largely male dominated arena is not forgotten. It is a noble project – a thorough and thoughtful overview of where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and how much still needs to be done.