Women's Fightback 26, Autumn/Winter 2021

An introduction to socialist feminism

Workers’ Liberty believes that the liberation of women can only happen with the emancipation of humanity as a whole, through the socialist transformation of society. That transformation can only happen through working-class struggle, with women playing a full and equal role. The working class is the vast majority of people: immensely diverse, but united by our dependency on waged labour to survive. Men and women both depend on waged labour, but it is mainly women who have a burden of both waged labour and unpaid domestic labour. Class societies have used women’s historic and current role in...

If not more police and stiffer sentences, what will tackle violence against women?

In March this year, the news broke that Sarah Everard had been snatched when walking home in South London, and murdered by a serving police officer. People came together, in person and online, to mourn her death and to share their own stories of fear and of anger, of harassment and abuse. At Clapham Common, her local park, thousands gathered for a vigil and protest that was violently broken up by the police. The history of how gendered violence has been treated in law tells us a lot about how sexist our society is. In 1857, a man was able to beat his wife, so long as the implement he used to...

Sex-positive feminism isn't (just) about sex, it's about power

Recently I’ve been reflecting on sex-positive feminism and whether it needs a revival. The term may not be immediately clear if you aren’t versed on second- and third-wave feminism in the west, so it’s important to point out that it came about as a rejection of some radical feminist ideas. Radical lesbian feminist thinkers like Jill Johnston, Sidney Abbott and Barbara Love posited that heterosexuality itself upheld patriarchy through the “personal domination” of women by men. In order to be truly free from men and the influence of patriarchy, you must “be a dyke.” The ideas of some radical...

Child Maintenance Service: money before women's safety

In May 2017, Emma Day (pictured) was stabbed to death by her ex-partner, Mark Morris, father of one of the two kids she had just dropped off at school. Morris had repeatedly threatened to kill Emma, warning her not to try to make him pay child support. Emma told the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) this several times, but still they pursued Morris for money. He murdered her a few days after the CMS reinstated its claim for money from him. Two years on, a Domestic Homicide Review into Emma’s death recommended urgent reform of the CMS. Two years after that, the Coroner’s report into her killing...

Re-examining society's stories around rape

A review of Rape: From Lucretia to #MeToo, by Mithu Sanyal (Verso, 2019) I've spent my whole life avoiding rape, looking over my shoulder before I put the key in the door. Sadly, it’s an experience that most — if not all — women are familiar with, which is why Mithu Sanyal’s book, Rape: From Lucretia to #MeToo, is so welcome. Covering a huge amount of material, and using moving personal accounts throughout, the book is a bold and refreshing assessment of the gender narratives and social roots underpinning how society views rape and rape victims. Sanyal looks at the language we use to talk...

Labour women's solidarity with domestic violence refuges

Lewes Labour Women have combined practical solidarity with political campaigning and policy discussion in taking on the issue of violence against women. Six months into lockdown, we asked Labour members in Lewes constituency to donate clothes, toys and other items for our local women’s refuge. We knew that lockdown had made domestic violence more common, leaving an abusive relationship more difficult, and refuges unable to meet demand. Driving round our patch of East Sussex collecting donations also meant talking with members about the need for political campaigning. We had no intention of...

Why and how trans people exist, work and struggle

Review of Transgender Marxism by Jules Joanne Gleeson and Elle O’Rourke (Pluto Press, 2021). Marxism offers many tools necessary for any radical fight for trans liberation to succeed — but the theoretical basis for this is rarely fleshed out. Transgender Marxism collects several insightful articles and threads on topics of particular interest for transgender people and activists, using broadly Marxist perspectives. As a collection, it is less a coherent whole, more a sometimes contradictory canapé selection. Yet it is one of the first books attempting to approach this issue from an openly...

"No race-baiting, red-baiting or queer-baiting" - the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union

Excerpt from ‘Trans Work: Employment Trajectories, Labour Discipline and Gender Freedom’, Transgender Marxism. On the passenger ocean liners of the 1930s, male workers undertook tasks otherwise considered women’s work when done in the home: cooking and serving food to the passengers, laundry, and janitorial work. On some boats, African-American men were hired for these reproductive service tasks, much like their contemporaries working as railroad porters. On other lines, Chinese men took up this work. Under the white supremacist cultural logic of the US, Black and Chinese men were already...

Honour and learn from the Grunwick strike!

20 August 2021 was the 45th anniversary of the start of one of the most important struggles in British working-class history, the two-year strike by Grunwick film-processing workers in North West London. Below we republish an overview of the strike and its significance written by Jean Lane in 1998, with a short introduction from 2012. The kind of lessons Jean highlighted in 1998, from the strike's magnificence but also its galling defeat, were still relevant in 2012 and are relevant today. To honour this history, we are encouraging donations to the strike fund of outsourced cleaning and...

Could the Online Sex Trafficking Act be the new war on drugs?

In 2018 the Trump administration signed into law the ‘Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017’, often referred to as FOSTA. Fighting sex trafficking is an aim that no right-minded person could disagree with. It’s not necessary to explain that sex trafficking (of anyone of any age, but especially minors) is one of the most abhorrent acts on earth. Dig a little deeper, however, and you quickly find this Act is far from what it claims to be. Freedom of expression advocates, sex worker rights advocates and even some anti-human trafficking organisations have been quick...

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