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Take Back the Fight: Organizing Feminism for the Digital Age

by Nora Loreto

In Take Back the Fight, Quebec City writer and podcaster Nora Loreto has crafted a meticulous look at how we can address barriers in contemporary Canadian feminist organizing. She defines her feminist framework as one that is anti-racist, anti-colonialist, and anti-capitalist. Though these intersectional premises are essential in fighting for social justice, they historically have not been at the forefront of mainstream feminist activism.

Specifically, Loreto’s thesis suggests the key to overcoming barriers is a diverse feminist social-movement organization. The difference between a social movement and a social-movement organization is central – the latter being defined as an established structure composed of many different groups to support ongoing social activism. Loreto argues that, as of late, a lack of organization has been contributing to many feminist actions losing momentum and centring white women’s experiences. She demonstrates that the lack of a cohesive feminist social-movement organization has made it extremely difficult to fight oppression and advocate for feminist issues. The ability to secure resources, diverse knowledge and experiences, and a physical space to connect, discuss, and plan is crucial to fight for meaningful social change.

While the push for a feminist social-movement organization underlies all Loreto’s arguments, she suggests that contemporary Canadian feminist activism has reached an impasse due to the entanglement of many different factors. She thoroughly analyzes how neo-liberalism has affected feminism in a Canadian context, from the 1960s right up to the COVID-19 pandemic. Loreto illustrates the many ways neo-liberalism has undermined feminist organizing, including the cultural prominence of individualist rhetoric, the watered-down co-option of the term “feminist” as a static identity marker, and massive funding cuts to frontline feminist organizations and advocacy groups. For both the seasoned feminist reader and the keen beginner, there is much information here about the impact of neo-liberal reforms on our political culture, policies, and mainstream values.

Loreto uses a wide breadth of Canadian case studies to illustrate her arguments and to emphasize ways of learning from the wins and mistakes of the past, such as the successful use of civil disobedience in the struggle for abortion rights in Canada. She is critical of the isolating tendencies of social media but understands what a valuable resource it can be if marshalled to move people from their screens to the streets.

Take Back the Fight identifies organizations that have been doing incredible activism in contemporary society: the Black Lives Matter movement, the Migrant Rights Network, the land defenders at the Unis’tot’en camp, and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. Loreto points to the organizing done by Black Lives Matter and asserts that “they have shown all activists an organizing strategy that can work in a neo-liberal world.” If organizations such as these are at the forefront of a Canadian feminist movement, then we have a bright future to look forward to.