Oppression

O is for oppression

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One of the common accusations thrown at Marxism by others in the movement is that it is "economistic" - it reduces everything to the economy and class relations and therefore can't deal adequately with questions of oppression.

On the surface this can seem a reasonable point.

Oppression doesn't mirror class but cuts across it. All women suffer from sexism, whether an Indonesian factory worker or a highly paid (though not as highly paid as her male counterparts) London City trader. A factory worker's experience of her oppression, however, is very different to that of a rich woman.

K is for Kollontai

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The success of the Russian Revolution of 1917 enabled the radical ideas on women's liberation that had been germinating in pre-revolutionary times to develop, and be widely discussed and materially embodied in the real world.

A revolution turns all preconceived notions upside down. When profit held sway in the old society, it suppressed the needs and desires of the masses from whom it was extracted. These very needs and desires were to become the motive force of production in the new socialist society, both satisfying material requirements and, even more fundamentally, nourishing the human personality.

LGBT history month: The rainbow nation today

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The South African constitution is one of the most advanced in the world when it comes to LGBT rights. Viv Smith, a gay rights activist who worked for the ANC during the writing of the constitution, describes how these advances were won but argues there is still so much to fight for today.

The mass movement that got rid of apartheid carried with it a vision for a different society. The constitution, signed in 1996, symbolised the hopes of millions. Containing the most advanced Bill of Rights in the world it is no surprise that LGBT activists and human rights campaigners celebrated it. We felt that everything was possible: the world was at our feet ready for the taking.

G is for gay liberation

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The modern gay liberation movement was born out of two nights of rioting in June 1969 after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York.

The rioters, once dismissed as "sick" or "perverted" by many, took inspiration from the anti-war and black power movements. Chanting "Gay power", they started a mass movement that changed the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people forever.

Gay liberation has come a long way. In the last decade alone we have seen six legislative changes in favour of gay rights. Attitudes have shifted - a recent poll found 90 percent supportive of gay rights, yet only 20 years ago 70 percent of the British public thought homosexuality was "always or mostly wrong".

Material Girls

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Lindsey German, Bookmarks, £12.99

I came into socialist politics in the early 1970s through the women's movement. At that time I remember a great sense of optimism about the possibilities for women's liberation. Legislation in the late 1960s to decriminalise abortion and homosexuality, and easier divorce laws opened up the possibility of much greater personal freedom. Anti-discrimination legislation and the Equal Pay Act promised equality at work. Issues such as rape and domestic violence for the first time appeared on the agenda as political issues.

Still looking for liberation

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Lindsey German has written about and been active in struggles for women's rights for many years. She looks at the changing lives of women and explains what stimulated her to write her new book, Material Girls - women, men and work.

What took you so long? That's a fair enough question about a book which has been seven years in the writing. I first made time to sit in libraries back in the beginning of the new millennium. It seemed that a great deal had happened to women in the decade since I finished Sex, Class and Socialism, and I wanted to write a new book which took into account those changes. It seems incredible now that in the seven years from starting to finishing the book so much has changed again in women's lives.

Identikit Hot

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How the media uses technology to create unrealistic images of women


"Our interest is in the appearance of sexiness, not the existence of sexual pleasure, passion isn't the point... Hotness has become our cultural currency, and a lot of people spend a lot of time and a lot of regular, green currency trying to acquire it. Hotness is not the same thing as beauty... Hot can mean popular. Hot can mean talked about. But when it pertains to women, hot means two things in particular: fuckable and saleable."

Recipes for Disaster

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To blame unhealthy children on women is ignoring what the market has done to childcare and people‘s lives in the last two decades.

Talk about not having it all. Women are expected to work longer, but then get the blame when anything goes wrong with their kids.

According to the Economist, "The increase in female employment in the rich world has been the main driving force of growth in the past couple of decades. Those women have contributed more to global GDP growth than have either new technology or the new giants, China and India."

Interview: Ariel Levy

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'Raunch culture isn't about opening our minds to the possibilities of sexuality. It's about reiterating one particular shorthand for sexiness'

In her book Ariel Levy decries the rise of "raunch culture", which sees pornography and stripping passed off as a form of women's liberation. Levy spoke to Judith Orr about her work and the debates it has sparked.

From "Bus Pass Boob Jobs", the title of a recent Channel 4 programme about women over 60 getting breast implants, to the packed pole dancing classes at Cambridge university - society seems to be embracing an image of women's sexuality that in the past would have been identified with the world of pornography.

Racism: 14 Years Can be a Long Time in Politics

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One of the most striking aspects of The New East End is the picture it paints of virulent racism. The authors note, "of the white respondents, a majority expressed an often bitterly negative attitude towards foreign immigrants, and particularly towards Bangladeshis".

If true, this is a very divided society on the verge of turmoil. But many of the interviews have a dated feel. One example, which immediately stands out, is an interview with a white respondent who complains of allegedly preferential service offered to Asians, "last Saturday at the children's hospital in Hackney Road". This hospital, a few hundred metres from where I live, closed in 1998.

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