Women's Fightback, Feminism

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...

Court case opens space for Indian women

A former Indian minister has lost a defamation case against a journalist, in a ruling with huge implications for the country’s #MeToo movement. Indian journalist Priya Ramani had faced up to two years in jail for criminal defamation over an article she had written accusing Mobashar Jawed Akbar of sexual assault. Akbar is a newspaper editor, government minister 2016-18, MP for the ruling BJP, and formerly an MP for the Congress party. After Ramani named Akbar, over 20 other women came forward with allegations against Akbar, ranging from rape and assault to systematically using his senior...

The Perfect Candidate

I’ve been wanting to watch The Perfect Candidate ever since watching Wadjda, by the same director Haifaa al-Mansour, last year. For far too long, the former was not readily available online: it finally is now. Haifaa al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, and one of the countries most well-known and controversial. Both films are set in Saudi Arabia; both follow outspoken, confident female protagonists, living within and struggling against the misogynist society they find themselves within. Wadjda, the 2012 movie’s title character, is a ten-year-old rebellious girl who desperately...

Chinese policy is eugenics, not liberation

Twitter has removed a tweet by a Chinese embassy account spreading “violent propaganda” about the alleged sterilisation of Uyghur Muslim women after receiving several complaints. The embassy shared an article from state-run media China Daily, which claimed the “eradication of extremism” in Xinjiang, an area of China with a large Uyghur population, has given women “more autonomy”. It said: “Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uyghur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making...

Help sex workers organise!

The key and simple question at the heart of debate around sex work is: what best empowers sex workers to fight for themselves? The answer is unequivocally recognising their work as work and giving them the rights and means to organise: against the bosses in brothels and clubs, for better pay and safer conditions. The answer is not, no matter which way you look at it, to make their work more dangerous and make it more difficult for workers to seek help or exit the industry, which is precisely what the Nordic Model does. In her article “No to the Swedish Model”, Apsi Witana makes this point well...

A socialist-feminist take on Xmas films

It’s my last column of the year, so time for our socialist feminist Christmas film review. Muppets Christmas Carol: Like many Muppets movies this shows the Muppets experiencing and expressing the misery of capitalism. This is ameliorated not by working-class struggle but by benevolent capitalism, which had been faced with its own horrific reflection. This is the most liberal of the Muppets movies. The Muppet canon contains working class resistance to capitalism whilst ultimately accommodating to the power of capital. Why? In part due to the leadership of Kermit, who constantly curtails the...

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