Women's Liberation

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.

Suffragette who opposed World War One

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Pankhurst under arrest

When the First World War broke out leaders of the suffragette movement, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, supported the slaughter. But as Laura Miles and Sheila Hemingway show, Sylvia Pankhurst not only opposed the war but supported strikes and became a revolutionary socialist.

The experience of the wave of workers’ militancy before the First World War (known as the Great Unrest) and then the war itself transformed women’s rights campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst from radical suffragette to revolutionary socialist. It was a journey that would transform her politics, and relationships with her mother and sisters.

Debating the sex industry

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Generic_Prostitution

An influential book by Melissa Gira Grant, Playing the Whore, has opened a debate about the nature of sex work, criminalisation and moralism.

The debate about sex work has received much attention recently, and Melissa Gira Grant’s book, Playing the Whore, has been acclaimed for offering new insights into the discussions about the sex industry. Although there are some aspects of Grant’s arguments that socialists would welcome, there is much to disagree with in this book.

Engels revisited

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There has been a recent resurgence in writers about women's oppression looking to Marx and Engels for answers, with some arguing he crudely emphasised class at the expense of oppression. Here, Sally Campbell looks at the claims of those writers and defends Engels from the critics

There is a common assertion that Marxism as a set of ideas does not or cannot account for oppression. Some argue, for example, that Marxism is a form of economic determinism that reduces all the complexity of human interaction down to production; because we see workers' revolution as the solution, we see all other struggles - against racism or gender oppression - as subordinate to the struggle in the workplace.

This comes from the right - they want to attack revolutionary ideas, full stop.

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

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The death of Adrienne Rich leads Colin Wilson to recall the lesbian feminist politics of the 1980s

Adrienne Rich, who died in March, will be remembered chiefly as a poet who was part of the radical movement.

Her writing recorded the personal impact of the struggles of the 1960s, such as those against racism and the war in Vietnam. Rich came out as a lesbian and depicted love between women in her poems from the mid-70s on. In her seventies she continued to be politically active - opposing the war in Iraq - and to publish poetry.

Marxism and oppression

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Marxists are sometimes accussed of being dismissive of oppression, preferring to emphasise the importance of class. Sara Bennett explains why socialists argue for working class unity as the best way to combat, and ultimately abolish, all forms of oppression

Forty five years ago being gay in Britain was a criminal offence. Today there is a good chance we could see gay marriage legalised by the government before the end of its term in office. This is just one example of many huge strides forward we have achieved in the fight against oppression, whether of LGBT people, women, black people or other oppressed groups.

Women and revolution

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International Women's Day, 8 March, was established by socialists to celebrate the struggles of working class women. We look at how the fight for women's liberation and revolution has gone hand in hand with three great revolutions - in Russia in 1917, Spain in 1936-37 and Egypt today


Egypt 2011-2012

Socialist Review spoke to Dalia Mostafa about the role of women in the revolution in Egypt today

Implanting oppression

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It hasn't been a great winter for the breast implant industry. First the French company Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP) was discovered to be using industrial instead of medical grade silicon to fill its implants.

Now surgeons from the British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons want to ban advertising of cosmetic surgery altogether. It is extraordinary that it has taken them so long to notice that there's an ethical problem with surgery being offered with BOGOFs (Buy One Get One Free) and the sickening "yummy mummy makeover" packages of surgery for women shortly after they've given birth, or those particularly aimed at newly-divorced older women.

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