Women's Fightback 15, September/October 2012

Matchwomen struck a light

Published on: Wed, 26/09/2012 - 14:15

The right-wing press can’t decide whether to portray Frances O’Grady, the next General Secretary of the TUC, as a clichéd feminista or little lady drowning in a sea of testosterone.

The Telegraph, which hasn’t updated its view on unions in 40 years and hilariously insists that they run the country, wonders how she’ll cope with shouty men with “dog-on-a-rope” dispositions. It does concede that, as Deputy for some years, she must have somehow learned not to swoon when confronted with what it calls “the hairy arses”.

Leaving aside this admittedly fascinating question of modern waxing techniques


Published on: Wed, 26/09/2012 - 14:11

Female weightlifting champion Zoe Smith at this year’s Olympics responded to sexist Twitter comments with: “We don’t lift weights in order to look hot… What makes them think that we even want them to find us attractive?”

Sport can enable women to confront sexist objectification in a very direct way; by stating very forcefully that our bodies are ours, part of our identity, and their purpose is not the sexual gratification of men.

Some sports lend themselves to sexist vilification, for the same reason that female construction workers get the rough end of workplace sexism: they step outside

Fifty shades of confusion

Published on: Wed, 26/09/2012 - 14:08

For depicting a dominant/submissive relationship and BDSM sex, some critics say the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy is anti-feminist.

Clare Phillipson of domestic violence charity Wearside Women In Need recently said it could incite violence against women: “I do not think I can put into words how vile I think this book is and how dangerous I think the idea is that you get a sophisticated but naive, young woman (heroine Anastasia Steele) and a much richer, abusive older man (Christian Grey) who beats her up and does some dreadful things to her sexually.”

So, are they right?

Fifty Shades is almost

Towards a sex neutral feminism?

Published on: Wed, 26/09/2012 - 14:04

Below I explore the “sex wars” debate and critique sex-positivity in a non-hostile way from a socialist feminist perspective, offering an alternative at the end.

It is an introductory piece on a wide-ranging topic. I have tried to avoid over-generalising but was constrained by space.

“Sex-negative” or “anti-sex” feminists would likely not refer to themselves in this way; rather this is how some sex-positive feminists think about a stew of radical and liberal feminists with certain views on sex.

For example, anti-porn radical feminist Andrea Dworkin, and Harriet Harman could both be included

Fifty years of the pill: capitalism and the politics of sex

Published on: Wed, 26/09/2012 - 14:01

It’s just over 50 years since the Pill became generally available on the NHS.

The ability to control conception reliably was one of the most significant material changes in women’s lives in modern history. The last five decades have seen dramatic changes in attitudes towards sex and sexuality and to women’s role in society more broadly. But have they brought the “sexual revolution” promised?

Socialist feminists understand women’s oppression in relationship to both class and gender.

In capitalist societies, the work of reproducing the labour force — bringing up children, caring for extended

Refuge workers fight for rights

Published on: Wed, 26/09/2012 - 13:56

Women’s refuge workers in London are fighting a £6,000 pay cut.

In the refuges where I work as a health visitor most of the women workers are themselves survivors of abuse, and have worked for years in the refuge setting, with extensive training and experience.

Recently, the refuge service was put out to tender by the local council and the contract awarded to Hestia, a housing charity founded in 1970, whose stated aim was to provide a service for London’s vulnerable homeless population.

In this case, at the first meeting with the refuge staff after transfer (seven women working across five

Defending choice

Published on: Wed, 26/09/2012 - 13:49

The Bloomsbury Pro-Choice Alliance (BPCA) counters vigils held by 40 Days for Life and other anti-abortion groups outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) in Bedford Square, London.

Cathy Nugent spoke to Kerry about BPCA.

How long has BPCA been going? Who is involved?

BPCA was founded earlier this year in response to 40 Days for Life’s Lent campaign. Myself and a few other locals, mostly students, decided that some sort of counter-presence was important, both to show support for the BPAS staff and patients, and to show 40 Days for Life that they aren’t welcome in the area. After

Slutwalk: yes means yes and no means no

Published on: Wed, 26/09/2012 - 13:37

Last year, 2011, saw “Slutwalk” burst on to the feminist scene worldwide.

The UK saw Slutwalks in Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Newcastle, Birmingham and Cardiff.

Slutwalking was a response to police officer, Michael Sanguinetti, who told women at Toronto’s York University to “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”. Aside from perpetuating an inaccurate image of sexual assault as something which is most likely to happen when you’re drunk and walking home alone at night, Sanguinetti’s comments highlighted a broader culture, which places responsibility for rape on

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