​Spring 2007




Keeping It Together


by Licia Canton



How many women out there will show their vulnerability, risk putting themselves front and and centre, unmasked?


I’ve been thinking a lot about women lately. Not just the women in the public eye, on the screen or the ones whose books we read, but the women we come across in our daily lives. From my kitchen window, I can see into Mrs. H’s living room. The light is always on, day and night. Two years ago she lost her husband. She confessed that it was hard for her to go on ever since his death. What do we really know about the women next door or the ones sitting next to us or across from us at work, on the bus? The lawyer. The cashier. The teller. The dentist. The teacher.


Isn’t it interesting that we watch or read about the concerns and dreams of “celebrity” women, even pay to do so? But what about the women closest to us? Do they have our ear? How well do we know them – daughters, mothers, friends, sisters … wives? We think we know them because they are part of our lives, but do we really? How many women out there will show their vulnerability, risk putting themselves front and centre, unmasked?

Accenti The Last Word Keeping It Together Licia Canton

Nowadays, they are masking themselves younger and younger. It’s not just the face and body, but feelings, thoughts, aspirations. Our teenagers feel the pressure of appearing too sensitive, too intelligent, too feminine, too dependent, too independent, too opinionated, not opinionated enough…


It was an invitation to speak about women writers on International Women’s Day at the Frank Iacobucci Centre for Italian Canadian Studies at the University of Toronto that put me on this track. We know that the writing by Italian Canadian women has been less visible and has evolved more slowly than that of their male counterparts. That is probably because of the many more roles women have. Still, our women have published novels, poems, critical essays – over and beyond their professional, personal and familial duties. The writing has gotten done by stealing time. Women are contributing to our creative expression, but they are hardly acknowledged for it; not by the “community,” perhaps not even by those around them.


And sometimes, we see it – un certo che – in a glance, an inattention, a teary eye. We sense that something may not be quite right. Do we ask? Do we reach out? She may need a sympathetic ear. Are we too busy to smile, to pay attention, to encourage? Of course, this is also true of men, teenagers, children – of everyone. But I want to talk about women.


A while back, a friend asked if we could go for a walk. We hadn’t walked together in over a year. Then for my birthday, she sent me Anne Wilson Schaef’s Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much – a gentle sign that she was paying attention...


Read the women around you, not just the ones you pick up in print. Not one is the same. Read them carefully. It can only enrich us all!


Licia Canton is a literary critic and the editor of Accenti Magazine.

She lives in Montreal with her husband and three children.

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