Welcome to my first Feminist Book Club post! You can go here to get a whole intro to what the Feminist Book Club is. You can read this page either before or after the book, but I really do encourage comments and discussions! If you have other opinions or analyses I would love to hear them! Please don’t be shy.

*Uncomfortable Topics

  • Rape 
  • War crimes 
  • Sexist behaviours 
  • Political and theological debates

set the scene

Publishing Year: 2019
Publishing Location: Canada 
Author Nationality: Canadian 

2019 wasn’t that long ago, but man does it feel like a lifetime ago. Before Carona shut down the world, Canada was holding a federal election, and pretty boy political legacy Treaudea was up against Jagmit Singh (NDP), and a Trump wannabe conservative, even though Trump was going through his first impeachment. 

A fire at Notre Dame got everyone hot and bothered when billionaires donated large sums of money to restore the church but could not be bothered to try and help the world that is still currently on fire. Feminists in the states were dealing with a series of abortion bans in the midwest. And the US women’s soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit for their higher performance and significantly lower pay than their male equivalents.  

To one-up everyone, New Zealand had a faith-based terrorist attack on a mosque, and a week later, their still breastfeeding leader put a nationwide ban on assault-style weapons. Children in the USA were walking out of classrooms to protest school shootings (25 incidents), which fell on deaf ears.

about the author

Sally Armstrong is a talented writer through and through. She has a history in Journalism, which she touches on in the story. Working for a women’s magazine focusing on food and culture, she convinced her editors to send her to the Balkan war to cover mass genocide, mass rapes, and other human rights atrocities.

Dedicating her career to covering the stories of women and girls often lost in conflict, she was made a member of the Order of Canada and has won awards from Amnesty International for her work. As a white Canadian, she tackles issues of race discrimination through the lens of war, amplifying stories of women and helping them try to achieve justice. But, her work doesn’t come off with the air of white saviourism it could have.

power shift CBC Sally Armstrong quote

She calls us to stand up for our sisters. To reach out to them, listen to them, and be the support they need. As a magazine editor, she has a head for facts and writes observations that make you question the media as old as the story of the Iliad and the men who made choices in their translations from Greek, but does so while illustrating the triumphs of women who are correcting things you didn’t even know were a problem.

the story

Created for a CBC lecture series, originally a three-part series, this book is a great read for some thought-provoking convos and adds some good new reads to our list. Catering to a left-leaning audience, this book is not radical and is not pro-capitalism but not anti-capitalism either. 

Armstong is a strong narrator, but hers is not the only strong female story that shapes this book. Her studiousness and love for human stories are painted clearly in how many women’s forgotten histories she contemplates. She explores how many times we thought we were on the brink of achieving freedom, and explores the roots of women’s oppression in social, political, and economic ways. 

She spends the book retelling how she got into war correspondents and the stories that she has investigated for years while drawing connections from these women’s stories to the history of oppression in so many cultures around the world. She expresses over and over again that while laws exist to try and balance gender inequality, we as women cannot take the final steps until we take up all the space we deserve and ask that these laws be followed. 

Whether it is hate speech, religious control over contraception and reproduction, or the enslavement of young women in war-torn areas, Armstrong shows us women who are strong enough to stand up and shout “ENOUGH”.

Sally Armstrong Power Shift Quote

my takeaways

If you’re looking for a feminist lit book that will re-invigorate your fight, this is one that did it for me. It’s one of the reasons I wanted it to be one of the beginning releases for the Feminist Book Club. This is a great book for people looking to understand how pervasive sexism is in current culture. I would recommend it to the men and nbs who consider themselves feminists. 

While Power Shift by Sally Armstrong covers heavy topics, rape is a frequent theme, the power of women and womanhood is illustrated countless times. In war camps, she talks of the women working tirelessly and children who hope for the future. In following women’s stories to try and help them achieve justice, she talks about matriarchs re-uniting and re-building their families and the love they experience sharing stories and fighting for justice.

Some reviews of the books call it a collection of facts. But if you connect the facts you see the ways in which women are connected and fighting for the same thing, not only globally, but back through stretches of time. And honouring these women’s stories, beginning to share them and tell them with confidence and re-constructing the lost perspectives of women in ancient cultures, were creating our own history. A history we can study, change, and use as motivation to demand the space we deserve.

what to read next

The first book I want to add to my list after reading this is The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. A retelling of the Iliad, through the point of the women who are so famous but are never given their own voices. 

If you’re looking to really question the way you view your own world, and like the analytical look of this book, you should check out The Beauty Myth By Naoimi Wolf, or Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves by Sarah B Pomeroy.