What is it about?

This article explores how Jewish Canadian women experienced second-wave feminism. In the Jewish community, women were seen as having special status because they were mothers. Their roles as care givers to children meant that they played an important role in passing on Jewish Canadian traditions and identity. Many Jewish Canadian women believed that this attitude was not compatible with second-wave feminism. So Jewish Canadian women selectively integrated some aspects of feminism, like equal pay for equal work, while rejecting others, like the idea that women and men were equal. Instead, they argued that the role of women in the home and family as a source of pride and strength rather than oppression.

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Why is it important?

Most of our research on feminism looks at activists, rather than considering how non-activists responded to the movement. This article instead focuses on ordinary women and demonstrates that they would often accept or reject different aspects of feminism in a way that aligned with their personal values. This was often contradictory and inconsistent. This article suggests that this lack of connection over the subject of motherhood was the norm rather than the exception. It also shows that perhaps we need to reconsider how we research feminism, and how the rejection of mainstream feminism can, in and of itself, be feminist activism.

Perspectives

This research project comes from my personal experiences growing up in the Jewish community of Montreal, and trying to balance the Jewish and Canadian aspects of my identity. Most of the research we do focuses on either immigrants or "generic" Canadians. We rarely consider how non-immigrant Canadians from distinct ethno-cultural groups experience the world around them, and negotiate being Canadian while maintaining their ethnic cultures and traditions. However, these negotiations are central to how we understand Canadian national identity and how it will change over the next few decades.

Andrea Eidinger
Library and Archives Canada

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: ‘Do I need to sit beside the man to be equal to Him’? Second‐Wave Feminism and Jewish Women in Montreal, 1962–1980, Gender & History, June 2022, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/1468-0424.12624.
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