As a gay male I am glad to see my elders in the Sisterhood putting out another way of thinking of the idea of misogyny. The women included in this vigorous anthology lived lives more impressively in reality than most of us imagine ever happened.

 

By transmogrifying the very word into mythogyny they have grabbed my attention and cast a vote for wit and parabolic thinking, slaying the literalist dragon and offering a ride into their minds  and stories all at once.

 

These robust women made it easier for me to seek my own rights as a gay male.

Without their urging, in fact, without their example as exhibited in this book, I and countless others would not have got into the idea of being out politically as well as personally.

 

Women are, after all, the fulcrum of most change in the world. They give birth, they offer sustenance and they get us all to dance now and then.

 

I watched my mother be abused, psychologically, and saw her lack of choices in life and how everything was based on my father’s life. I was conscious of that but I didn’t really see it in my life – I lived it – and while I was living it, feminism arose. And so the words started being there…

—Marjorie Drayton

 

The storytellers’ raw words and natural stories reveal the myths that drove their generation. Six major myths emerged from the elder women’s stories becoming the six chapters in !!Mythogyny!!. They included !Nuclear Family: Awakening to the World Around Us, Women Get Married and Live Happily Ever After, Women are Weak, Women Don’t Need Education,! and !A Women’s Place Is In The Home.! These are all myths that the elder women storytellers dispel through their real life telling of their experiences. No bravado, just the truth.

 

With adept sound bites and some sagas which will inspire even our relatively liberated times, we see into the lives of women back in the dark North American and European blatantly misogynist ages. We see how the Taliban would like the women of Afghanistan to continue exist. For the most part, our grandmothers lived that way.

 

Thanks to a project by WE*ACT (Women Elders in Action), these women relived dramatic experiences of the 1920s through to the present day. Senior women who trained extensively in oral history technique helped choose the subjects, recorded and transcribed their stories, and then edited them into a book that had structure, nothing superfluous in it. It feels like a liberating manifesto.

 

The myths they grew up with, especially ideas of marriage, compared to the realities they faced while attempting to survive the effects of the myths, afforded these women lives that, in the telling, are enriching to the reader and an eye opener to most young people. Try reading a few sections out loud to young women or teen girls and you will see how they do not know what they have been spared.

 

Uncovered myths include the charming chain of revelations regarding, for example, marriage as a formula toward the goal of “happy ever after,” $9 an hour as a living wage, racist episodes as wrenches that stop one breathing, or women as being unsuited to operate and drive forklifts. We also discover that bomb shelters can be good places to party.

 

Some tender events have also turned up such as a woman finding her biological mother who, it turns out, was the caregiver her adopted parents had hired for her in early childhood. A number of the storytellers recall “patches of Eden” in places they grew up as they moved around British Columbia, such as the existence of Doukhobor  communities.

 

We cried for two weeks because some people there were tubercular, and we didn’t know that…England was completely different; they changed my name and they always made great fun about you when you pronounced the words bad…All I wanted was to go back to my country.” She was there for nine years. One day in 1958, a Scottish girl said, “Let’s go to Canada.”

                 —Lia Soosar

Most of the raconteurs are now in their seventies with four in their nineties. During the book’s production, two have died. Most are immigrants from Europe and the UK, a few from the US, four from Asia, including three from the Philippines. A lot of them live in Vancouver, a number in Abbotsford, Burnaby, Langley, Maple Ridge, Nelson, and Smithers. One or two come from Delta, Grand Forks, Nanaimo, Port Moody, Sooke, and Telkwa.

Mythogyny is a major outcome that stems from the “Lessons Learned: the Lives and Times of Women Elders in BC” project which Women Elders in Action (WE*ACT) undertook with assistance from the Women’s Program, Status of Women and 411 Senior Centre Society in downtown Vancouver. WE*ACT is an initiative of 411 Senior Centre. For more information, call Jan Westlund at 604-684-8171 local 228 or email [email protected].

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