Shrewed author Elizabeth Renzetti waxes eloquently on feminisim

Metro chats with Elizabeth Renzetti on the cost of bras, the pink tax and White Feminism.

Liz Renzetti's new book Shrewed is a collection of essays on the lives of women and girls.

Courtesy House of Anansi

Liz Renzetti's new book Shrewed is a collection of essays on the lives of women and girls.

At her wedding, feminist writer Elizabeth Renzetti’s first danced to Murder She Wrote. Much to her surprise, the famous reggae song is actually a slut-shaming bop about a young woman’s abortion. Renzetti spoke to Metro this week on the launch of her new book, Shrewed (House of Anansi), about all the twists, taxes and trolls that feminists face.

It seems challenging to raise kids who value feminism at a time when it doesn't always feel like the world does.

On the one hand, they live in this material world where they do see girls' success. On the other hand, they live in this equally important digital realm where women can be constantly denigrated and trolled online. They see people on social media project idealized images of themselves as beautiful and fun and having these wonderful lives. These are the kinds of images I saw in magazines when I was a girl and it felt like they defeated me, like I could never live up to these images. But I could put the magazine away. They can't put the magazine of social media away because it follows them everywhere.

In one of your essays, you detail what it costs to be a women and to look presentable. You spent $12,000 on bras?

Oh my god, I'm sure I spent more than that. I think that was an underestimation.

I feel like we should get a government allowance for bras at this point.

And Spanx. There should be a government allowance for those and tights. I was really happy to see the Canadian Menstruators, the group that was fighting against taxes on what Shoppers Drug Mart euphemistically calls "feminine paper." I really love that. Like we're all going around using stationary for our periods. There is a pink tax. Not only in terms of the amount of money that we spend to make ourselves presentable. The other day, I was on the way to an appointment to get my roots highlighted because, god forbid anyone sees my stray grey hair poking out of the top of my head. I was trying to schedule some other stupid maintenance appointment, and I was thinking about how much time it sucks out of my life. Never mind money.

You write about a backlash to your voice as a female journalist and the backlash to women online. Do you think we're spending more time fighting the reaction rather than working on our ideas?

I think the backlash is part of it. I don't think we can ignore it. My worry is that we lose people who want to be fighting the fight but feel like they're putting out little fires all the time that have nothing to do with the major fire they want to put out.

When you began your journalism career, you say you were more "hung up on issues of sexism to notice the presence of racism." Can you tell me about your shift from prioritizing your type of feminism to one that is one more inclusive or more intersectional?

It's easy to be in this position — and I was for years — where it felt like I was so aggrieved and I was so oppressed as a woman. It was easy to ignore all the other ways that people had different, more challenging realities that they were also experiencing. It's hard to actually acknowledge that people are more oppressed than you are. It's been a difficult and challenging time, not just for me, but for all feminists who didn’t understand this. I hope the idea of White Feminism is sinking in for white feminists. Unless we do acknowledge that that has been the reality for people up until now, we're not going to have change.

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