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Edited by Varda Burstyn.
Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre, 1985.
210pp., paper, $10.95.
ISBN 0-88894-455-1. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Pornography-Social aspects.

Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up

Reviewed by Catherine Creede.

Volume 13 Number 5
1985 September

Women Against Censorship is a collection of essays in response to the growing concern among diverse groups in Canada about pornography and its effects on society. Each essay presents a different focus on the issue, but the general theme of the book is that while pornography is acknowledged as exploitative and degrading, it is merely a symptom of a more prevailing and disturibing sexism in daily life and the mainstream media. Focussing on censorship of particular, selected items minimizes the effects of the more pervasive, less offensive images. The authors feel that the solution is not for the state to censor pornography, but for activists to gradually replace it with positive, feminist-inspired works. The experiences of the writers of the essays has proven that not only is censorship a precarious control at best, but it tends to react against the very people who desired an end to degrading images in the first place. Feminist erotica is often considered by moralists to be as obscene as misogynist pornography.

The book is composed of eleven essays and two appendices, all of which are clear, well researched, and organized in a cohesive, logical order. The authors are women who have ample background to argue their respective positions, and each essay is distinct. Every aspect of the censorship debate is well covered, including an especially clear definition of pornography and the media image of women by Sara Diamond. The various essays make very clear that historical precedents and the nature of the right-wing groups who have allied themselves with feminists against pornography can only indicate one thing; censorship of pornography would be detrimental to all feminist and other left-wing artists and theorists.

The book assumes a feminist bias in the reader and is deeply immersed in feminist theory. The solutions to the problem of pornography proposed by Lisa Steele, Varda Burstyn, and Sara Diamond are positive and creative. Some readers will feel, however, that a vital feminist culture is not enough to offset the theoretical dangers of pornography to women, which the authors tend to minimize.

In general, Women Against Censorship is a very thoughtful, thought-provoking treatment of a controversial subject. The collection will prove a very useful sourcebook, for both its ideas and its collation of legal and historical facts, in the foreseeable debate as more and more groups advocate increased censorship of pornography.

Catherine Creede, Windsor, ON.
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