Elevate Difference

Revolutionary Women: A Book of Stencils

I'm all for learning more—and for disseminating information to a wide audience—about women who have played significant roles in history. All too often, women who have contributed to movements for change have been given all too little (or no) attention or credit.

I agree that we need to have a more complete picture of the female revolutionaries who risked and sometimes gave their lives for a cause. Many of the women in this book are conspicuously missing from history textbooks, as are their images: for this reason Queen of the Neighbourhood added stencils to each of the thirty women profiled in this short book. As one of the editors notes, we have seen so many images of Che Guevara that it has almost “become kitsch from overuse,” but where are the women?

That said, the celebration of some of the women profiled in this book gave me pause—namely, because I am a pacifist who believes that violence begets violence. While I love the DIY element of Revolutionary Women, I would have a serious problem if my little sister copied some of the stencils that the editors offer to “commemorate these women and their actions.” Why should we commemorate someone who hijacked a plane (Leila Khaled), for instance? It's insulting to include her alongside a modern-day heroine such as Malalai Joya, Afghanistan's youngest member of parliament, who has risked her life for daring to demand rights for women in her nation.

That said, I was thrilled to see some lesser-known activists honored here, notably Silvia Rivera, an American transgender activist who died in 2002 and even led meetings from her hospital bed; Olive Morris, a Black women's movement activist from the U.K. who died of cancer at age twenty-seven; and Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist who assists movements all over the globe.

Despite my disagreement that violent actions should be commemorated, I'd include this as a must-read for informational and historical purposes.

Written by: M.L. Madison, March 18th 2011