Women's Fightback 15, September/October 2012

Matchwomen struck a light

The right-wing press can’t decide whether to portray Frances O’Grady, the next General Secretary of the TUC, as a clichéd feminista or little lady drowning in a sea of testosterone.

The Telegraph, which hasn’t updated its view on unions in 40 years and hilariously insists that they run the country, wonders how she’ll cope with shouty men with “dog-on-a-rope” dispositions. It does concede that, as Deputy for some years, she must have somehow learned not to swoon when confronted with what it calls “the hairy arses”.


Female weightlifting champion Zoe Smith at this year’s Olympics responded to sexist Twitter comments with: “We don’t lift weights in order to look hot… What makes them think that we even want them to find us attractive?”

Sport can enable women to confront sexist objectification in a very direct way; by stating very forcefully that our bodies are ours, part of our identity, and their purpose is not the sexual gratification of men.

Fifty shades of confusion

For depicting a dominant/submissive relationship and BDSM sex, some critics say the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy is anti-feminist.

Clare Phillipson of domestic violence charity Wearside Women In Need recently said it could incite violence against women: “I do not think I can put into words how vile I think this book is and how dangerous I think the idea is that you get a sophisticated but naive, young woman (heroine Anastasia Steele) and a much richer, abusive older man (Christian Grey) who beats her up and does some dreadful things to her sexually.”

So, are they right?

Towards a sex neutral feminism?

Below I explore the “sex wars” debate and critique sex-positivity in a non-hostile way from a socialist feminist perspective, offering an alternative at the end.

It is an introductory piece on a wide-ranging topic. I have tried to avoid over-generalising but was constrained by space.

“Sex-negative” or “anti-sex” feminists would likely not refer to themselves in this way; rather this is how some sex-positive feminists think about a stew of radical and liberal feminists with certain views on sex.

Fifty years of the pill: capitalism and the politics of sex

It’s just over 50 years since the Pill became generally available on the NHS.

The ability to control conception reliably was one of the most significant material changes in women’s lives in modern history. The last five decades have seen dramatic changes in attitudes towards sex and sexuality and to women’s role in society more broadly. But have they brought the “sexual revolution” promised?

Socialist feminists understand women’s oppression in relationship to both class and gender.

Refuge workers fight for rights

Women’s refuge workers in London are fighting a £6,000 pay cut.

In the refuges where I work as a health visitor most of the women workers are themselves survivors of abuse, and have worked for years in the refuge setting, with extensive training and experience.

Recently, the refuge service was put out to tender by the local council and the contract awarded to Hestia, a housing charity founded in 1970, whose stated aim was to provide a service for London’s vulnerable homeless population.

Defending choice

The Bloomsbury Pro-Choice Alliance (BPCA) counters vigils held by 40 Days for Life and other anti-abortion groups outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) in Bedford Square, London.

Cathy Nugent spoke to Kerry about BPCA.

Slutwalk: yes means yes and no means no

Last year, 2011, saw “Slutwalk” burst on to the feminist scene worldwide.

The UK saw Slutwalks in Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Newcastle, Birmingham and Cardiff.

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