In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March, the women workers of Verso and New Left Review share some of our favourite feminist books in tribute to the radical roots of the observance.
- Jo Spence/Rosy Martin, Mother as Factory Worker, 1984-88
This text formed Lynne Segal's lecture from 'Radical Thinkers: the art, sex and politics of feminism' at the Tate Modern, 9th February 2015. The event with Lynne Segal, Griselda Pollock and chair Sonia Boyce, addressed the legacy of feminist art and theory and its enduring relevance to contemporary struggles. Visit the Tate website to watch the video of the event.
Agonism, challenge, contention! Start talking about sex today, and soon enough, trouble looms – unless we stick to jokes, or gender cliché. Agreement is usually hard to find, and not just for feminists! Although feminists certainly face very special problems, trying to tie the protean complexity and intangible nature of intimacy and desire to any sort of feminist sexual politics. This was never just a Mother-Daughter affair – though it was often enough presented as that. We challenged and fought with each other, from the beginning – as straight, lesbian, Black and working-class women, and more.
It wasn’t, in fact feminists, but William Reich, who first talked about ‘sexual politics’, back in the 1930s, criticizing the repressiveness of bourgeois sexual morality, which doubled as sexual hypocrisy, while he watched the rise of fascism in Europe. Reich’s Sex-pol aimed to free sexuality from the constraints of religious moralism and compulsive patriarchal monogamy, while seeing this as only achievable after the end of capitalist exploitation, with the coming of socialism. Times change, and then again, as we know only too well, its traumas return.
"The political movement of ‘women’s liberation’ from the 1960s, after a “backlash”, has diversified into all the elements of feminism’s “fourth wave”; but its success has been enormous. It was another beginning, not an end.
"I think that all movements could gain in different ways from the implementation that we initiated in the making the personal, political. This is their legacy, our heritage."
On the occasion of the new edition of Woman’s Estate, Juliet Mitchell looks back at how the joy and practical experience afforded by Women's Liberation—and its tensions with other protest movements of the time—inflected its writing, making the personal political.