Reading Elizabeth Renzetti’s “Shrewed” is like having a conversation with a witty, empathic mentor. Her sharp and clever look at the state of feminism in the world, and particularly in Canada, is tremendously validating. This reaction of relief might surprise some because the book highlights how much work is still to be done to advance feminism. Specifically, Renzetti highlights a range of issues that still require relentless tackling, from the spectacle of wedding ceremonies to street harassment to the oppression of intersectional identities. Nevertheless, the book read to me like the breath of fresh air I have been desperately seeking.
Why is it that I found this book so validating? Perhaps it is because this book reveals the extent to which we have been privy to “gaslighting.” I had not known that the term gaslighting came from a 1938 play in which a man attempts to drive his wife insane by asserting that the gaslights in their home are not dimming, though she is absolutely certain that they are. It turns out that the man is the one controlling the lights. The wife is left wondering, “Did that really happen?”
I cannot imagine that I am alone in having experienced gaslighting, from questioning the leers from the man sitting across from me on the subway, to wondering if it was just in my head that my former boss spoke to me with condescension and to my male colleagues with respect. I cannot be alone in this experience and here is Renzetti, finally turning up the lights and saying, “yes, darling, that did happen. And you are right to be angry about it.”
Elizabeth Renzetti’s “Shrewed” will be available on March 6, two days ahead of International Women’s Day. Do yourself a favour: pick it up, read it, and be ready for the sigh of relief.