Added: November 29, 2014 – Last updated: April 25, 2015


Author: Gillian L. Anderson

Title: Feminist Resistance in the GTA

Subtitle: Stories of Feminist Struggle, Resistance and Success During the Harris Years (1995-2001)

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, McMaster University

Year: 2014

Pages: vii + 404pp.

OCLC Number: 891580133 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century, 21st Century | Canadian History | Society: Rape Crisis Centers, Women's Movement


Link: MacSphere: McMaster University’s Institutional Repository (Free Access)


Abstract: »While neoliberalism has increasingly been entrenched in the province of Ontario, it has also encountered resistance. A primary goal of this dissertation is to provide a vivid historical account of women’s organizing and feminist resistance that emerged during the Harris years (1995-2001). Drawing on the narratives of thirty three feminist activists and leaders working within three different organizational settings, namely organized labour, anti-racist, and anti-violence organizations, this research project aims to capture an important moment in time when women and feminists were speaking out against some of the most pressing issues of the day including gender (in)equality, poverty, violence, sexism, racism and discrimination. Thematically, this research highlights the numerous challenges, strategies and successes experienced by a variety of differently located feminists and women’s groups. By theoretically and analytically situating these women’s narrative accounts within a qualitative, intersectional feminist framework, this collection of stories not only allow us to (re)examine theoretical and practical issues related to intersectionality and pose questions for the present state of feminist organizations, but also contributes to our understanding of feminist organizational resistance in the future, the long-term impact of said resistance and how we might go about addressing the challenges that lie ahead.« (Source: Thesis)


  Abstract (p. iii)
  Acknowledgements (p. iv)
  1. Introduction: Feminist Organizing in a Neoliberal Climate (p. 1)
    The Research Context: The Harris Years and "The Common Sense Revolution" (p. 4)
    My Study (p. 16)
    Chapter Overview (p. 23)
    Summary (p. 27)
  2. Review of the Literature: A Theoretical and Empirical Overview of Feminist Organizing (p. 32)
    "What is Feminism?" (p. 32)
    Feminism and Women's Movements (p. 36)
    Feminism as a Theoretical Project: Feminist Intersectional Theorizing (p. 41)
    Conceptualizing Feminist Organizations, Feminist Goals, and Feminist Practices (p. 67)
    Feminist Organizing and the Neoliberal State (p. 77)
    Summary (p. 88)
  3. Research Design and Methodology: A Feminist Case Study (p. 89)
    Overview: Feminist Theory and Research (p. 90)
    The Interviews (p. 94)
    Sampling Considerations (p. 99)
    Snowball Sampling (p. 108)
    Ethical Considerations (p. 112)
    Data Analysis (p. 114)
    Feminist Reflections on the Research Process (p. 117)
    Acknowledging the Social Location of the Researcher (p. 120)
    Issues Arising in Feminist Research (p. 120)
    Summary (p. 129)
  4. Feminist Challenges: Stories of Struggle (p. 131)
    Feminist Reflections of Harris' Legacy: "Compounding Cuts" and "Policy Shifts" (p. 133)
    Increased Gender Inequality (p. 134)
    Women Pick Up the Pieces (p. 136)
    A Mean-spirited Culture (p. 137)
    Long Lived Effects (p. 139)
    Summary: Feminist Critique of Effects and Logic of Neoliberalism (p. 140)
    The Struggle for Financial Survival (p. 145)
    The Fear of Funding Loss and Loss of Voice (p. 151)
    The "Attack on Advocacy": The Tension Between Service Provision and Political Action (Spalter-Roth and Schreiber, 1995) (p. 162)
    Maintaining Feminist Principles in the Face of Adversity (p. 171)
    Summary (p. 185)
  5. Feminist Survival Stories: Strategies of Resistance (p. 187)
    Feminist Survival Stories: Narrative Themes (p. 187)
    Coalition Building: The Meta-narrative of Feminist Resistance (p. 188)
    Other Stories of Survival Strategies (p. 190)
    Contrary to the Meta-Narrative: Feminist Resistance is not Futile (p. 191)
    Feminist Resistance and the Importance of Coalitional Opposition (p. 196)
    Coalitional Opposition as a Reformist Strategy: Feminist Resistance and The Cross Sectorial Violence Against Women Strategy Group (CSVAWSG) (p. 202)
    Coalitional Politics and Direct Action: Feminist Resistance and The Days of Action (DOA) (p. 219)
    Additional Stories of Feminist Resistance: Partnering as a Feminist Strategy? (p. 227)
    "Diversification of Funding Strategies" (Disney and Gelb, 2000) (p. 235)
    The Use of Insider Tactics (p. 242)
    "Covert Resistance and Apparent Accommodation" (Mathews, 1995) (p. 250)
    Summary: Coalition Building and Feminist Resistance (p. 252)
  6. "Small Victories" and "Partial Wins": "Feminist Success Stories" (Blackford, Garceau and Kirby 1999) (p. 259)
    "Feminist Success Stories" (Blackford, Garceau and Kirby, 1999): Narrative Themes (p. 259)
    "We lost" (p. 262)
    "We survived" (p. 263)
    "We kept our voice" (p. 263)
    "We had small wins" and "We gained" (p. 264)
    "Fighting back is important to open spaces and create future opportunities" (p. 265)
    Narrative Example of Feminist Success (p. 265)
    Change is Possible (p. 266)
    Defining Feminist "Success" (p. 267)
    "Feminist Success Stories" (Blackford, Garceau and Kirby, 1999): The CSVAWSG (p. 288)
    The Days of Action – Opening Spaces to Further the Struggle (p. 300)
    Feminist Social Change: Opening Spaces to Make Change Now and in the Future (p. 313)
    Summary (p. 319)
  7. Conclusion: Feminist Reflections – Lessons for Future Feminist Research (p. 325)
    Lessons Learned: Stories of Struggle – Moral #1 "Feminists are not stranger to struggle" (p. 326)
    Lessons Learned: Stories of Resistance – Moral #2: "Neoliberalism may constrain, but it does not preclude feminist resistance, and so feminist resistance is not futile" (p. 330)
    Lessons Learned: "Feminist Success Stories" (Blackford, Garceau and Kirby, 1999) – Moral #3: "Small successes are important, as success is often slow and incremental" (p. 333)
    Implications for Intersectional Feminist Theory and Practice
Lesons learned: theory doesn't always obviously translate into practive but diversity of practice may bring out theory of intersectionality (p. 335)
    Suggestions for Future Research: Stories to be Told (p. 344)
    Concluding Remarks: "Research as Resistance" (Brown and Strega, 2005) (p. 350)
  Appendix A Table One: Breakdown of Select Organizations Included in this Study (p. 354)
  Appendix B Interview Schedule (p. 355)
  Appendix C Primary Documents Collected (p. 357)
  Appendix D Table Two: Summary of Mandates and Mission Statements of Select Organizations Included in this Study (p. 366)
  Appendix E Table Three: Feminist Leaders and Activists Interviewed in the GTA in 2002 (p. 372)
  Bibliography (p. 375)