Women's rights and Feminism

See also our pages on <a href="taxonomy/term/481">Marxism and women's liberation</a> and our pamphlet <a href="taxonomy/term/71">Comrades and Sisters</a>.

Support sex workers' rights

By H J McQuarrie

Sex work is probably the most contentious and divisive issue within contemporary feminism.

Whilst radical feminists see the sale of sex in any of its forms as inherently oppressive, socialist feminists position themselves alongside workers and as such extend solidarity to those working in the sex industry.

Supporting the rights of sex workers is complex, however, as the sex industry in its present state is built upon a system of inequality and oppression. How should we, as socialist feminists, support our sex worker sisters?

Supporting the rights of sex workers is complex as the sex industry in its present state is built upon a system of inequality and oppression.

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Violence against women a class issue

By Rosie Woods

25 November is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Many women’s organisations will mark the date with events and meetings.

In the UK one woman in four experiences domestic violence at some point in their life, and one in four experiences rape or attempted rape.

There is widespread misunderstanding about the nature and causes of violence against women.

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Socialist feminist tour

In the run-up to the AWL’s conference “Is This As Good As It Gets?” on 26 November we organised a speaking tour, putting the case for socialist feminism. The six AWL women who have spoken at 10 meetings so far have reported, by and large, a very positive experience.

Some of the meetings were at colleges, organised with student feminist societies. Others were organised in towns where we have AWL branch meetings.

The discussions have been enormously wide-ranging.

Speaker tour ahead of the Is This As Good As It Gets? conference.

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Lap dancing and morality

The 11 October Tower Hamlets public "debate" on lap dancing clubs saw religious campaigners and the left to unite in moral condemnation of sexuality. But what is the answer to exploitation in the sex industry?

By Jean Lane, Unison activist in Tower Hamlets (pc)





A public meeting was hosted in Tower Hamlets on 11th October by CAPE – the Campaign Against People Exploitation. It was billed as a balanced debate about whether Tower Hamlets council should have a policy of “nil sex establishments” in the Borough. It was nothing of the sort.

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The case for class-struggle feminism: a speaker tour

"No socialism without women's liberation - no women's liberation without socialism"

In the run up to our 26 November socialist feminist conference, women members, supporters and friends of Workers' Liberty are organising a national speaker tour.

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Nawal El Saadawi: "only the beginning of the revolution"

In July the Egyptian feminist and novelist Nawal El Saadawi visited London and spoke to Solidarity.

What opportunities have opened up for women as a result of the democracy movement; what are the problems?

The problems of the revolution in Egypt and the problems of women are connected...

US/UK/Israel don’t want the revolution. They want the outcome of the revolution to be pragmatic capitalist. They want the free market.

An interview with the Egyptian feminist and novelist Nawal El Saadawi.

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UK Feminista: preachy but useful

On 13-14 November UK Feminista held their national conference at Birmingham University.

Feminista calls itself a coordinating “tool” for feminists; it provides website space for different feminist groups to publicise their events, and runs regional meetings to help small campaigns get off the ground.

On 13-14 November UK Feminista held their national conference at Birmingham University.

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Is this as good as it gets? The case for class struggle feminism, conference 26 November

A conference to debate the issues facing women in the era of capitalist crisis and cuts, learn from past battles and help revive a class struggle, socialist feminist movement.

IS THIS AS GOOD AS IT GETS?
Women's lot under capitalism and the case for class struggle feminism

11.30-17.30, Saturday 26 November
University College London

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Justice for Magdalenes

The campaign on behalf of women incarcerated in laundries by Ireland's religious orders has welcomed the announcement this week by the Irish government of an official inquiry into its involvement in their abuse throughout the twentieth century.

Irish Senator Dr. Martin McAleese is to chair an Inter-Departmental Committee looking into the State's relationship with the Magdalene laundries that will report within three months. The Justice for Magdalenes campaign is calling for an official apology and for reparations to be paid to the survivors.

The campaign on behalf of women incarcerated in laundries by Ireland's religious orders has welcomed the announcement of an official inquiry into the Irish government's involvement in their abuse.

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Single parents and children not welcome in the labour movement?

Liberation

A little while ago I attended a regional meeting of the United Left in the Unite union.

Myself, a woman comrade, Rhiannon, and her six-year-old daughter Star were there. We had political debates on Unite and the Labour Party, Libya, reports from the executive and from the United Left AGM.

The most surprising thing was how Rhiannon and Star were treated. Afterwards I emailed some of the United Left people with the following:

“I just wanted to say I was very surprised at how Rhiannon was spoken to at the meeting.

It is a political issue how socialists treat each other, and particularly how they treat children. We are for a different and better morality, not just for economic improvements. How this issue is dealt with is a reflection of what sort of world we want to see.

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Representing sex workers

Dan Rawnsley went the London Sex Worker Film Festival (12 June) at the Rio Cinema, Dalston.


Introducing the day, Dr Heidi Hoeflinger, a sex worker activist and academic, argued that sex workers were “stigmatised as victims or criminals and rarely have their voices heard”. The day aimed to “shed some light on the complexity and diversity of sex work”. From what I saw the organisers were successful in their aim.

The fight for legalisation dominates sex worker activism, potentially side-lining very immediate issues of pay and working conditions.

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Sex in the Big Society

Contrary to popular belief, the schools of Eton and St Paul’s, where members of our current Tory cabinet acquired their top-notch educations, were not rife with fagging, or even shagging. In fact, the whole Conservative lot, Nadine Dorries and Anne Milton included, abstained from sex entirely until they were well settled within the confines of marriage.

The most recent attacks on a woman’s right to choose and a young person’s right to a sexual education come manifold.

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The politics of SlutWalk

The SlutWalk story is now ubiquitous. In a January “campus safety information session” at Toronto’s York University, police officer Michael Sanguinetti told women to “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”.

The SlutWalk movement has been labelled un-feminist or post-feminist — indeed some organisers (but by no means all) have said they are not feminist.

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Julia Scurr: a fighter for every poor woman

Poverty and all its associated miseries can crush and starve the human spirit, but it can also be the kindle that starts raging fires in individuals and movements. Julia Scurr (née O’Sullivan) was born into, grew up with, and lived with poverty and all the miseries it lavishly spreads so freely; but crush and starve her it did not.

Politically active from her late teens, she fought tirelessly against the ills and injustices of capitalism until her early death (at the age of 54) in 1927.

Julia Scurr (née O’Sullivan) was politically active from her late teens, fighting the injustices of capitalism, until her early death aged 54 in 1927.

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Strauss-Kahn and Assange

Counterfire have published an article by Lindsey German questioning what it says about the French “left” (or, rather, Parti Socialiste) that a man with the reputation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn might be considered an acceptable Presidential candidate.

It’s perfectly valid to discuss what the emerging picture of Strauss-Kahn’s behaviour tells us about the French political system and the sweeping under the carpet of vile sexist behaviour towards women in case it damages the cause.

While much of the left is happy to discuss what the emerging picture of Strauss-Kahn’s behaviour tells us about the French political system, it is unable to apply the same analysis to the Julian Assange case.

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Clarke, rape and society

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s stupid words about rape were seized on by the right-wing media to bash the Government’s Green Paper “Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders”.

The underlying message of the Green Paper is that prison is not the most cost-effective way to protect the public from crime. The Green Paper wants fewer people in prison — though not necessarily fewer prisons — fewer short sentences, more “community punishment”, more people working or being trained while they are in prison.

Clarke’s stupid words about rape reflect the desire of society as a whole for victims of sexual crime to make as little fuss as possible.

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Cuts hit women hardest

The reality of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government’s cuts has been revealed by figures showing that the number of women claiming unemployment benefits is at its highest level since 1996.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 474,000 women were in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance last month. Out of a total of 12,400 JSA new claims in April, more than three-quarters were made by women.

The reality of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government’s cuts has been revealed by figures showing that the number of women claiming unemployment benefits is at its highest level since 1996.

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Debating “SlutWalk”

On 4 June “SlutWalk” — a march to protest against blaming rape victims who dress “provocatively” for what happens to them — will take place in London. The original SlutWalk took place in Toronto in April after a policemen said “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”

One aspect of SlutWalk in North America and here in the UK is to reclaim the word “slut”. Older feminists here have apparently objected to the march on those grounds. You can’t and shouldn’t try to reclaim such language.

What should socialists and feminists say about “SlutWalk”?

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Sylvia Pankhurst: The Red Suffragette

Biographer Patricia Romero ("Sylvia Pankhurst: Portrait of a Radical", Yale University Press) is bewildered by Sylvia Pankhurst's support for the Bolsheviks. But Sylvia knew what she was doing...

Click here to download pdf.

Download pdf.

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Women: the heart of the resistance

An account of the role of working-class women activists in the Miners' Strike


Click here to download article as pdf.

An account of the role of working-class women activists in the Miners' Strike

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Burqa ban is an appeal to the right

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, flagging in the opinion polls, is attempting to boost his popularity with appeals to the right and an exaggerated concern about the state of integration — or not — of France’s Muslim minority into national life.

This has been shown most obviously with the recent ban on wearing the burqa or niqab (face veil) in public.

France's ban on the burqa is aimed at winning over Front National voters and creating a specifically French Islam, without ties to fundamentalist strains in the Middle East and North Africa.

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Women in the Paris Commune

Women’s role in the Paris Commune was not limited to the morning of March 18 when a crowd of working class women put themselves between the cannons in possession of the National Guard (the citizen’s militia) and the troops of the National Assembly, led by Adolphe Thiers; the action which sparked the revolution. Throughout the 72-day reign of the Commune, women organised, argued, theorised and fought alongside men to defend and develop the revolution.


The Clubs

Women's role in the Paris Commune of 1871.

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Socialist women in NUS Women's Campaign

At this year's NUS Women's Conference, AWL and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts supporter Jade Baker received just under a third of the vote for National Women's Officer (32 votes to Estelle Hart's 60, with 7 reopen nominations) and was elected to Women's Committee.

At this year's National Union of Students Women's Conference the far left re-established itself as a significant force.

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Rape services X Factor and "petition wars"

Cambridgeshire’s ruling Tories are running a “Participatory Budgeting Project” for Violence Against Women and Girls projects in Cambridgeshire. Residents can vote for which VAWG projects get funding of up to £3,000 — and which get nothing.

Cambridge Rape Crisis is the only specialist VAWG organisation who has gone in for the vote (to avoid similar organisations competing). The service is a lifeline to women and girls who have experienced rape and sexual abuse. Funding will enable them to start running face-to-face counselling again.

How Tory councils are attempting to divide public service users in order to make cuts.

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Egyptian women right to protest

On 8 March, International Women’s Day, a few hundred women and their male supporters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demonstrate for women’s rights.

The demo had been well publicised. Billing it as a Million Women March was over-optimistic, but the organisers wanted to echo the calls for a million man (person?) march during the campaign to oust Hosni Mubarak.

And there certainly should be a million person march for women’s rights in Egypt.

On International Women’s Day, a few hundred women and their male supporters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demonstrate for women’s rights.

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Remembering Mary Bamber in Liverpool

To commemorate international women’s day in Liverpool, a statue has been put up on St George’s Plateau of Mary Bamber.

Mary was a supporter of the Russian revolution and a founding member of the Communist Party — when it was a revolutionary organisation. A socialist, an organiser of working-class women, a supporter of the 1911 transport strike, and on the Bloody Sunday march in that dispute. She was a comrade of Sylvia Pankhurst — who broke with the right-wing suffragettes.

Mary Bamber was a socialist, an organiser of working-class women, a supporter of the Russian revolution and a founding member of the Communist Party.

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