Women's Fightback 25, Winter/Spring 2021

Feminism, Interrupted: a write-up

This write-up follows a discussion in Workers ’ Liberty’s socialist feminist reading group. Usually held in South London, the monthly reading group has been held online during the pandemic. To get involved, write to: womensfightback@workersliberty.org Feminism, Interrupted is the second book from Lola Olufemi, co-author of A FLY Girls Guide to University. A cross-between an introductory text and manifesto, the book is a collection of ten essays covering topics from trans rights and islamophobic misogyny to food and art. The first chapter, “Know your history”, reflects on a rich history of...

The Paris Commune and the Union des Femmes

2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune; the moment that the working class seized political power for the first time, and held it for 72 days. Thousands of women took part in the events of the Commune and, against a backdrop of deep-rooted sexism, championed a revolutionary vision for the transformation of working class women’s lives. Paris under siege Life was hard for women in Paris in the mid-19th century. They worked long hours in back-breaking jobs and, with onerous domestic chores and squalid, overcrowded housing, homelife was little better. The majority of Parisian women...

Cancel culture and trans rights

Much is said in the right-wing press about 'cancel culture'; the phenomenon of people facing a public backlash for things that they have said or done in the past. Cancel culture, what it is and how it operates, is laid out capably and convincingly by left-wing YouTuber Natalie Wynn, known as ContraPoints, in her video “Canceling”. In this she lays out the way in which cancel culture operates. A particular viewpoint or action (confirmed or alleged) by an individual or group is abstracted and essentialised into an often vague assertion about the character or nature of that individual or group...

Esther Roper, Eva Gore-Booth and "Urania"

Esther Roper and Eva Gore Booth had lived and worked together for twenty years when they, along with three others, launched their magazine Urania. It was 1916, the middle of the First World War. Less than three months earlier, 485 people had been killed in the Easter Rising in Dublin and Eva’s sister, Constance Markiewvicz, had escaped execution for her part in the rebellion on the grounds of her sex. Urania, however, was not an outlet for Esther and Eva’s anti-war activism. Nor was it a magazine targeting the tens of thousands of working class women they had organised with in the suffrage and...

Tenants' organising and feminism

An interview with Jo Hiley, ACORN and Labour activist in Sheffield Why get involved with ACORN? I’ve been involved with ACORN since arriving in Sheffield in late 2017. I knew they were proactively organising at a local level with something of a left analysis, and wanted to get a sense of how that was working. By the time I ran for chair last year, ACORN was at an interesting point in its UK life; following the 2019 general election result it was considering its role as a vehicle for radical change at the national level. It had also rapidly expanded its number of branches and started looking at...

Understanding emotional labour

The term “emotional labour” is now widely used in left-wing circles. Indeed, it is often stretched to mean seemingly any emotionally demanding human activity. For example, in the context of student activism, one might hear it used to denote the act of suppressing personal frustration whilst explaining an experienced aspect of oppression to others. Such use of “emotional labour” extends the concept far beyond what Arlie Russell Hochschild meant when she coined the term in her 1983 book The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling , now a classic text in the sociology of emotions. To be...

Wages for immigration?

This article responds to Ashley J Bohrer’s article, ‘Wages for Immigration’, Spectre (Spring 2020) Social Reproduction Theory (SRT) is a theoretical framework for all kinds of work that reproduces capitalist accumulation at different levels, often for free within the home but also on the cheap. It asks: why do women still do most of the housework? Why are some jobs, typically women’s jobs, so badly paid? SRT argues that maintaining structures of inequality and social institutions such as the nuclear family are useful to capitalist accumulation. For example, child labour has been illegal for...

Pregnancy, abortion and the women's strike

A response to Sophie Lewis, Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against the Family (Verso, 2019) At the heart of Sophie Lewis’s 2019 book, Full Surrogacy Now , is the argument that gestation, or pregnancy, is work. Much like advocates of wages for housework, who she refers to extensively, she argues that, by reproducing the workforce (very literally), pregnancy and childbirth are a fundamental part of value-creation; of capitalist accumulation. Pregnancy and childbirth should, therefore, (a.) be considered ‘labour’ in the Marxist sense and (b.) be viewed as an urgent site of struggle against...

Social reproduction in prisons

Women prisoners after a day working, Arizona, US At a recent Spectre journal event, editor Charlie Post pointed out that neither left class reductionists nor liberal identitarians situate mass incarceration in the development of capitalism. Calvin John Smiley, one of the speakers, responded that intersectionality is the “marrying of these different arguments into an overlapping theoretical framework. ” At best, intersectionality describes mass incarceration but does not explain it. The prison population is overwhelmingly black and overwhelmingly working-class. But why are prisoners at the...

Rent strike!

Glasgow rent strike, 1915 Over recent weeks, more than 5000 students across 45 UK universities have withheld rent payments and demanded a 40% reduction in rent, refunds for those not taking their places in halls, and greater financial support for students. Sky high rents have long been a problem for students and rent strikes have been a regular feature at university halls since 2015, when students at University College London launched the Cut the Rent campaign, winning £1.85 million in rent rebates, bursaries and rent freezes. The coronavirus pandemic, however, during which students have...

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