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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2001

PAR-L Electronic Listserv is an Innovative Resource for Women

Where do you go to network, read about and dialogue on issues affecting women?

On March 21, CTV's morning show, Canada AM reported: "it's official: more women than men use the Internet." Statistics Canada does not appear to agree. Its General Social Survey reports that "men use the Internet more than women."

The source of the Canada AM report remains unknown, but there is one impressive fact about Internet use that is known — Canadian women inside and outside of academe have embraced in growing numbers the homegrown electronic feminist network PAR-L.

Since its inception six years ago, its membership has grown from a handful of women to an international forum with more than 1,000 subscribers. PAR-L includes an electronic discussion list as well as a web site.

University of Ottawa professor Michèle Ollivier and Wendy Robbins of the University of New Brunswick are the cofounders and joint moderators of this unique and innovative liststerv. They are assisted by graduate students Jennifer Brayton, Julie Guénette, and Robin Sutherland. Theirs is a monumental task for so few people.

"PAR-L is an electronic network of individuals and organizations interested in women-centred policy issues in Canada," states the web site. "It is a tool for developing, conducting and distributing feminist research in a multidisciplinary context and in both official languages. It is intended as a support for the community of feminist researchers and activists in Canada."

The discussion list, opened on March 8, 1995, by the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, is now based at the University of New Brunswick. The web site, created more than a year later, was redesigned in 1997 with funds from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. While PAR-L is officially bilingual, Ollivier said they hope to increase the participation and coverage of Francophone women's voices in the years to come.

She also said the diversity of subscribers is the listserv's real success. "PAR-L represents a healthy cross-section of women from all regions of Canada," she said. "From academics to community organizations, government, media, private sector, and the self-employed, students, activists, journalists, policy analysts, librarians, stay-at-home moms, and many others."

PAR-L News is the site's electronic research news bulletin. The online periodical provides brief notices of recent publications and reminders of upcoming conferences and events of interest to feminists across Canada.

PAR-L has also launched Feminist Strategies, its interactive feminist scholarly journal. It is intended to "promote feminist research, engage in theoretical debates and develop frameworks for analysis and action to foster feminist change." Robbins says "pending more funding, we see Strategies as one of the key future developments for the web site."

Robbins describes the void that the news bulletin, listserv and web site fulfill: "If we were reading about women in the (mainstream) news more we would not need PAR-L to find out who is doing what research on women's work and feminist issues.

"PAR-L provides an alternative medium for women's voices to be heard and to resound through the linkages developed and the ideas exchanged, modified, enforced and enhanced."

PAR-L subscribers say the listserv does achieve its purpose — an inclusive and inviting space for women to exchange information and ideas, and to develop friendships and professional linkages.

Today's newspapers cannot do that any more than the socio-economically limiting and oft-perceived male-friendly and environmentally unfriendly golf-courses of the world.

Canada AM suggested was the must see web site. They should see PAR-L!

All in One Place

Nowhere will you find in one place discussions as broadly based as those found here:

  • regressive tax policies for unpaid "women's work"
  • transcripts from the human rights inquiry into the complaint of Kimberley Nixon
  • sources of information to assist in preparation of articles or other research work
  • announcements of feminist conferences/workshops, and other conferences of interest to women and academics across Canada and the U.S.
  • book publications
  • responses to government, business or universities about decision affecting women
  • calls for papers and job prospects.