Early feminism student takes top Y prize

Congratulations to Jeanne Maranda, who last month won the top Women of Distinction Award from the YWCA for advancing the cause of women.

Mme Maranda is an old friend of Concordia, and particularly of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, which, she freely admits, changed her life when she entered its first class in 1978.

In 1977, Maranda was a widow with four children leaving the nest. She was university-educated and had been trained as a public health nurse, but had worked only nine months, until her first pregnancy required her to quit and become a housewife.

In her early 50s, she was looking for something to challenge her active intelligence. She knew French literature Professor Ma•r Verthuy, and enrolled in several of her courses, in theatre and in translation. The following year, however, Verthuy was involved in an exciting new venture in women's studies, and needed nine students for the first class.

"I came, and I brought three others," Maranda recalled. It was love at first sight, intellectually speaking. "I took every single course. I took one twice, I liked it so much. I ended up with 109 credits for my BA, more than I needed. You see, I knew so little about women. I was always the ainˇe, the oldest in the class."

Maranda went after Radio-Canada, seeking to ensure the presence of women in broadcasting, and lobbied for more women's representation at scholarly conferences. In 1993, she helped to found MˇdiAction, set up a documentation centre on women in the media, and organized a radio program on the same theme. She served on the executive of the Conseil des femmes de Montrˇal, and on the Fondation Thˇr¸se-Casgrain, and as French-language editor of the Cahiers de la femme.

At 72, she is still active as a speaker and activist, and calls MˇdiAction her "cheval de bataille." She finds it particularly interesting to meet younger people. Recently she met with a group of CEGEP students, mostly women, and was deeply impressed by their self-confidence.

"The young women are ambivalent [about my generation]," she said. "They don't want to follow our footsteps, although they are doing the same things. They don't want to call themselves feminists."

Maranda thinks that what is missing is the hatred and mistrust between the sexes that characterized the 1970s. "Even if they are lesbians, they don't want to be loud about their views. These young women seduce with their brains, and with their femininity. We thought of femininity as submissiveness, but they don't."

She finds this immensely heartening, but she also has a message for young people that some are surprised to hear. As a media critic, she shows them how both sexes are still being stereotyped, particularly in advertising, and urges them to fight against this. "Even the boys, they don't want to be Rambos and cornichons[dumb-bells]!"

The $150-a-plate Women of Distinction dinner was attended by Professors Lucie Lequin, Rosemarie Schade, Rose Sheinin and Ma•r Verthuy.

- Barbara Black


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Copyright 2000 Concordia's Thursday Report.

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