Rattle Those Pots and Pans

In addition to my becoming an independent consultant to the Canadian women’s movement in 1990[1], I decided in that year to boycott men’s fiction. When one makes the political personal, all kinds of sacrifice must be borne.  I made do.  As long as the Male Writer stuck to non-fiction, I remained a Gentle Reader.  But when they assumed a women’s voice my cold heart turned to stone. Sure I missed out on John Updike’s Rabbit series and Roth’s Zuckerman books.  Taking solace in Mary Stewart’s The Wicked Day, Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, I retained my equilibrium.  Like giving up chewing gum for Lent, it wasn’t a big sacrifice.  
The women’s movement was the crucible for social change in 1990 (in more than just fiction).  The case against Henry Morgentaler had been struck down by the Supreme Court in 1988.  In 1989, the Court ruled that a woman’s male partner didn’t have equal say in whether a woman could have an abortion.  Yet, funding for women’s shelters was practically non-existent, daycare was a crap shoot and the rape shield law which prevented women from being cross-examined on their sexual history during a rape trial was still two years away. 
I was sitting in a café with Sue Birge, then a National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) staff person, going over the concept for a fundraising mailing.  The envelope was bright red and the tagline declared  “I’m so angry I could scream . . .!”  The women at the next table leaned over to say, ‘you got that right.’  Response to the mailing was heroic and we raised lots of money.  That’s how it was then.  Women were really ticked off about a lot of things and they wanted to do something about it. 
NAC received about $1 million a year from the Secretary of State Women’s Program, but we knew it was coming to an end.  Ensuring 5,000 angry women would show up on Parliament Hill once a year to take aim at Tory, and later, Reform policies didn’t seem to be worth the agro factor for the Liberals anymore (although it was fun to see Preston Manning go apoplectic once a year at the very thought of the federal government funding a women’s organization that did nothing but complain). 
I was right where I wanted to be, in the middle of the action, working as a consultant with NAC.  Judy Rebick had just become president.  She had already become a bit of a household name – having saved Dr. Morgentaler from an anti-abortion activist wielding garden shears outside his clinic on

Harbord Street

. 

Judy was smart, funny and politically savvy.  NAC could be very successful with her at the helm I thought.  The time was right for a strong woman leader.
 “I suppose you’ve got all kinds of people advising you on your communications. ” I said to her at dinner one night, deciding to press my case.
“No.  I don’t,” replied Judy.
“Really?” 
Next:  The Genius of Manhattan


[1] In 1990, The Bourne Ultimatum by Robert Ludlum was the sixth bestselling book of fiction, Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child by John Bradshaw was number six in non-fiction, Mariah Carey won the Grammy for Best New Artist, Time magazine named George H.W. Bush Person of the Year (formerly Man of the Year).   Nelson Mandela was released from prison.  The Oka Crisis consumed us during the late summer and fall.

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