Inside Broadside

  • Edited By: Philinda Masters
  • Pages:416
  • Publisher:Second Story Press
  • Series: A Feminist History Society Book
  • Themes:second wave feminism, feminism in Canada, Canadian history, female journalists, women's health
  • Available:10/08/2019
  • Age Groups:Adult Nonfiction
Includes Susan G. Cole interviewing Gloria Steinem and writing by Margaret Atwood, Susan Crean, June Callwood, and Marian Engel. Broadside: A Feminist Review was a groundbreaking Canadian feminist newspaper published between 1979 and 1989. While Broadside paid attention to everything from feminists making art to street activism, it also covered the mainstream, from pop culture to peacemaking. The Broadside team uncovered the work of female artists and developed challenging and risky new ideas, all while participating in the day-to-day organizing of a grassroots movement. Broadside helped reinvent journalism to make room for a feminist voice. This collection looks at the impact of the newspaper on the lives of women. Through a selection of key articles, the book explores the issues and events, the conflicts and controversies, and the debates and discoveries of feminist theory and activism that formed the context and content of a decade of change.
Quill & Quire

January 2020

Inside Broadside: A Decade of Feminist Journalism

Edited by Philinda Masters with the Broadside Collective

Reviewed by Dory Cerny

Two things become immediately clear upon reading Inside Broadside: A Decade of Feminist Journalism. The first is how readily women take for granted the rights and freedoms our older sisters, mothers, and grandmothers fought for. The second is how tenuous those rights and freedoms are, and how many of the battles waged 30, 40, even 100 years ago are still ongoing. 

Founded in 1979 by a collective of women with backgrounds that varied from puppeteer to graphic designer to documentary filmmaker to magazine editor, Broadside was one of the dozens of feminist publications that cropped up to meet the demands of women craving information and solidarity as what would ultimately be termed second-wave feminism took hold throughout the 1960s and '70s. Published monthly by a group of volunteers who handled everything from selling advertising to typesetting and pasting up columns by hand (a feat that will be completely foreign to readers who have no recollection of life before computers), it aimed to provide a hub for women to access news, editorials, interviews, cultural analyses, and community resources. It gave space to a long list of writers, from lesser-known academics to recognizable names such as Michelle Landsberg, Eleanor Wachtel, and Margaret Atwood. 

The pieces anthological in Inside Broadside, edited by original collective member Philinda Masters (with input from current members of the Broadside collective), provide an interesting cross-section drawn from the publication's more than 4,000 pieces. Some have aged better than others. A handful of stories about pornography, many written by collective members Susan G. Cole (who also provides the section introductions), feel oddly quaint and pearl-clutchy in light of the pornification of modern society, despite the fact that the arguments about porn's overarching misogyny and promotion of violence against women remain true. 

Reading some of these articles proves difficult largely because, in many cases, so little has changed. We're still waiting on the universal childcare programs recommended by Justice Rosalie Abella in her 1985 Royal Commission report on employment equity, for example. Most harrowing are the stories that reflect victories that are now seemingly in jeopardy. Articles lamenting the rise of conservative, far-right ideology and patriarchal control over women's right to bodily autonomy and access to abortion are as relevant now as they were 35 years ago. 

As worthy and informative as many of the pieces are (the stories about the efforts of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women are among best), a common criticism of second-wave feminism is that it was exclusionary, aimed at and practised predominantly by white, middle-class women whose concerns didn't reflect those of women who fell outside those narrow parameters. Masters and Cole, who determined the final array of pieces after an initial process that involved all current collective members, are careful to include stories that call attention to this bias, but it's impossible to read through the collection as a whole without noting the limitations the members placed on their own content. 

In her sign-off editorial, published in Broadside's last issue (Aug./Sep. 1989), Masters provides a litany of reasons for the magazine's demise, from collective volunteer burnout to lack of financial support. But it is this statement that brings the reader up short: "The most crucial aspect of feminism in the past few years has been the efforts to incorporate anti-racist perspectives into feminist practice and analysis. White women have been forced to deal with the issues raised, forced to face the fact that it may no longer be the role of White [sic] feminists are no longer in the majority (if they ever were)." 

A reader might well interpret this statement as an acknowledgement of the collective's biases and an acceptance of the fact that their limited viewpoint doesn't serve the larger feminist cause. Though one might be equally liable to take it as Masters inadvertently falling into the trap of prioritizing her own experience as a white women over that of a woman of colour and indicating that the only way for the latter to have a voice is for the former to relinquish her own. Which side the reader comes down on will likely be determined by the reader's own biases. At the heart of this collection is an intention to give readers a sense of the issues that were important to the collective at the time, and to acknowledge their contribution to the feminist culture that laid the groundwork for the #MeToo movement, among other achievements. In this it largely succeeds. 

– Quill & Quire
Two things become immediately clear upon reading Inside Broadside: A Decade of Feminist Journalism. The first is how readily women take for granted the rights and freedoms our older sisters, mothers, and grandmothers fought for. The second is how tenuous those rights and freedoms are, and how many of the battles waged 30, 40, even 100 years ago are still ongoing.... Most harrowing are the stories that reflect victories that are now seemingly in jeopardy. Articles lamenting the rise of conservative, far-right ideology and patriarchal control over women's right to bodily autonomy and access to abortion are as relevant now as they were 35 years ago.
– Quill & Quire
Nonstop Reader Blog 

December 8, 2019

Inside Broadside is a meticulously researched and well written historical retrospective of feminist journalism in Canada during the 80's. Released 8th Oct 2019 by Second Story Press, it's 350 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This book could have been very dry and academic, just piles of facts and figures and retrospective pages seen through a lens of 30-40 years of history. It's anything but that. The facts and figures and historical retrospectives are there, of course, and often provided with contextual recollections of the key players in the Broadside collective themselves. But there is a real human element here as well and I found myself wondering about the people and places and businesses touched on in the pages of the journal. There are classified ads from people looking for roommates, friends, incest survivor groups, housemates, ride shares. Presumably most all of them were living locally at the original time of publication. I found myself wondering how it's gone with the baby one couple was expecting (they were looking for a downstairs neighbor to rent the other half of their duplex), and whether anything came of the gay/lesbian rights research which was looking for researchers and writers, and a hundred more. The whole book is peppered with notes from actual lives written contemporaneously and I found it fascinating. Much of the content is like a time capsule into a time which is different and also frighteningly, depressingly unchanged from the 'Alt-right, alt-truth, misogyny filled political dystopia' we wake up in every day.

Most of the content of the book contains reprinted material from the original paper during the time of publication, along with context and commentary. Each of the entries contains original publishing date info as well as author attributions. The entries are arranged thematically: Opinions editorials & comments, items pertaining to the women's movement, feature stories, interviews, arts & reviews, and an introduction and conclusion. The book contains a fair number of facsimiles from the original paper as well as a few (credited) photos. There is no index or other reference/annotation given, however, there is a short listing of the original and current collective (it's still going), and original contributors including authors, artists, political activists, and cultural icons (Margaret Atwood, Eve Zaremba, Susan G. Cole and so many others). 

I found this an engaging and immersive read on its own merits, but it would also make a good selection in an academic setting as a support text for many courses such as contemporary history, political history, North American/Canadian history, gender studies, etc. 

Five stars. Superlative (and melancholy). 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

– Inside Broadside: A Decade of Feminist Journalism

New York Journal of Books

January 24, 2020

Broadside: A Feminist Review was a “groundbreaking” Canadian feminist newspaper published between 1979 and 1989. The title Broadside, chosen with much deliberation against some stiff competition such as Bias, conveyed the team’s desire “to be hard-hitting” as the term “resonated with the old-school idea of a political flyer.”

A reader of the Introductory Issue (May, 1979) responded to the name in a style that characterizes much of their future correspondence.

“I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why you had chosen the name Broadside for your newspaper. I took it upon myself to seize The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (and my magnifying glass of course) to find exactly what the term broadside means. Much to my surprise I discovered that the term broadside, in nautical terms, refers to a discharge of artillery from the side of a ship. I took this to imply that your newspaper intended to hurl a series of volleys at the varying bizarre turns of the world’s events.” This letter was signed “For broadsiding, Ms. Sue de Nim, Toronto.”

The Broadside team were not seeking a mass audience, but prided themselves as “literate, intelligent, informed, smart women who operated with integrity and particularly with wit” on reaching out to and interacting with a like-minded readership on a variety of topics, many of which are still current: domestic violence, pornography, inadequate attention to women’s health issues, the intersection between feminisms, and between feminism & other major -isms, especially racism.

In this retrospective publication the editor notes some changes for the better to which Broadside might reasonably claim to have contributed. The term “Chair” has largely (at least in Canada) replaced “Chairman.” And “we don’t talk about mankind, or Mrs. or he.” Again this could be disputed among the less “woke.” She also notes advances in women’s rights on a number of issues —abortion, recognition of marital rape, autonomy in terms of loans and property ownership—again in the Canadian context.

Some of the limitations and obstacles that precipitated their self-closure are frankly faced. “We were an all-white collective, with an all-white sensibility which in itself was making us less relevant within a movement in which women of colour were seeking more voice and leadership.” It’s not clear whether or not they tried to diversify management and membership, but it seems not.

In addition, as a “feminist newspaper which incorporated a pro-lesbian, anti-heterosexist perspective” they were considered “too lesbian in some quarters and not lesbian enough in others.”

External factors named as contributing to their demise are the suspected government commitment to funding “doubly disadvantaged groups (black women, immigrant women, visible minority women—though clearly not lesbian women)”; and what seems to contradict this trend somewhat, the stated increasingly conservative stance of the government on the issues Broadside espoused.

This collection contains a range of articles by famous and less famous feminists and shows by inclusion of readers’ comments the impact the newspaper had on its chosen audience. Collections of ephemera have a built-in challenge of relevance; do they mainly highlight issues still unsolved, or do they show how issues relevant at the time of writing have been consigned to antiquity?

This publication strikes a good balance in this regard not least because many of the voices are still alive and well: Gloria Steinem and Margaret Atwood, for example, will be familiar to non-feminist and non-Canadian audiences, though inevitably the collection will be of most interest to those involved in the Broadside Collective during that formative decade.