Women's Liberation

'Women could feel their power'

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The Russian Revolution brought huge transformations for some of the most oppressed. Socialist Review spoke to Emma Davis about how women began to take control of their lives and lead in the struggle.

What was life like for women in Russia before the revolution?

Peasant women and women workers had virtually no rights in Tsarist Russia. They couldn’t get divorced; they had extremely limited property rights. It was only middle class women who could even consider leaving their husbands.

The beating of women by their husbands and fathers was actively encouraged — the more your husband beat you the more he was said to love you. It was customary for the father of the husband to have sex with his daughter in law.

Elle

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Elle is impeccably filmed and edited with stellar acting performances that grasp the attention of the audience. It intends to shock, infuriate and rile up the viewer.

However, it must come with a warning: this film could act as a serious trigger for anyone who has experienced domestic abuse or rape and as an insult to those of us who actively fight against women’s oppression.

Gurley Flynn will be the boss

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The fourth part of our series on the Wobblies looks at the role of women in the workers’ and socialist movement.

Only 12 of the 200 delegates at the founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were women, but they included the African American anarchist and veteran revolutionary Lucy Parsons. In her speech to the convention, Parsons urged all women to read August Bebel’s Marxist account of the position of women, Woman in the Past, Present and Future (first published in 1879).

The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia

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This graphic novel tells the story of a remarkable woman, Louise Michel, one of the key figures of the Paris Commune, the world’s first working class revolution. Beautiful ink and watercolour drawings bring the events and characters vividly to life.

In 1905 American feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman arrives in Montmartre, Paris. Gilman is met by Monique, a young woman whose mother had been educated by Louise Michel in a school for the poor. Monique relays the story of Louise’s life.

'It was as if you were cattle'

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The Contagious Diseases Acts were symbolic of bourgeois society's desire to control working class women's bodies, writes Diana Swingler. Let's celebrate the campaign that got them repealed

One hundred and fifty years ago the Contagious Diseases Acts, first imposed in port towns in 1864, were extended to civilian populations. They were met with one of the first successful women’s rights campaigns in British history, which has a resonance with the fight for women’s right to control their own bodies today.

Flamboyant rebel woman

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A century ago Constance Markievicz was preparing for the Irish Easter Rising. Mary Smith outlines the remarkable life of an upper class woman who was both a paramilitary leader and the first woman MP.

Countess Constance Markievicz was a brave and flamboyant rebel, a traitor to her upper class background and an uncompromising revolutionary for most of her life. Her extraordinary life also exemplifies a more general truth: namely that in revolutionary upheavals women come to the fore in the struggle and in the process challenge their own oppression and subordination.

Assia Djebar (1936 - 2015)

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 Assia Djebar

Assia Djebar, one of Algeria's most gifted writers, died on 6 February. Sheila McGregor celebrates her life and her part in the struggle for independence.

Born as Fatima-Zohra Imalayène in Cherchell in 1936, Assia Djebar took her pen name to save her parents from embarrassment when she wrote her first novel, La Soif (Thirst).

Women and the First World War

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The position of women underwent huge change between 1914 and 1918. Jan Nielsen looks at the unintended impact of a war that, for the first time, affected every aspect of economic and social life.

During the centenary celebrations historians and commentators have made much of the effect the First World War had on the lives of women. However, most of the coverage has focused on the impact on the lives of middle class women. The recent release of the film version of Testament of Youth illustrates this clearly. Vera Brittain represents the women who volunteered in their thousands to contribute to the war effort.

Abortion in an era of neoliberal choice

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Despite the claim that we live in an age of "personal choice", the right of women to choose an abortion is under attack. Sinead Kennedy gets to the heart of this apparent contradiction.

One of the important political achievements of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s was winning people to the idea of abortion as an essential choice for women. In the past four decades women’s lives have been transformed so dramatically through the legalisation of abortion that, as US author and activist Katha Pollitt notes, we are in danger of forgetting how things used to be:

The myth of personal life under capitalism

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In the first part of a two-part series, Canadian socialist Susan Rosenthal takes apart the liberal notion of personal choices and shows how profoundly capitalism shapes our private lives.

As children, we count each birthday, eager to become adults so we can do what we want and make our own decisions. Once arrived, we discover that adult freedom is an illusion. Our childhood dreams of an exciting life are replaced with never-ending work and little to show for it. We feel like failures. What did we do wrong? The answer is — nothing. We did nothing wrong. This is how capitalism functions.

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