- Hackney Flashers, Who's still holding the baby?, 1978
They say it is love. We say it is unwaged work.
They call it frigidity. We call it absenteeism.
Every miscarriage is a work accident.
- a feminist pamphlet calling for Wages for Housework written by Silvia Federici in 1975.
In this essay, first published at Les mots sont importants, Christine Delphy and Sylvie Tissot react to the storm created by Nicolas Sarkozy’s comments on French national identity in the build-up to the French presidential election. Translated by David Broder
Maurice Barrès and the far right Ligue des Patriotes, 1912. via Wikimedia Commons.
"Once you become French, your ancestors are the Gauls," declared Nicolas Sarkozy, bringing a deluge of protests. As people everywhere told him, our ancestors are far more numerous and diverse than "the Gauls" alone. Yet such protests are insufficient. For what we need to attack are the very terms of this debate.
Kumari Jayawardena's Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World is a comprehensive introduction to waves of feminist protest and revolt, and how they fell in line with the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth and through into the twentieth century, across the Middle East and Asia.
Below we have selected some of the significant women Jayawardena tells us about; women who carved out their own place during tumultuous times of change and reaction, fighting for the opportunity to express themselves through action and writing.
The world's first female leader of a country, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, appointed in 1960
A foundational work of materialist feminism, Christine Delphy's Close to Home: A Materialist Analysis of Women's Oppression is out now in a new edition as part of Verso's Feminist Classics series.
Below, we present Delphy's "Continuities and Discontinuities in Marriage and Divorce," first published in the 1976 anthology Sexual Divisions and Society: Process and Change, edited by D. Leonard Barker and S. Allen, and included in Close to Home. Translated by Diana Leonard.
Studies devoted to divorce in the past have presented it as the sum of individual divorce situations, they have not defined it (e.g. Goode 1956; Kooy 1959; Chester 1973). This is doubtless because the definition of divorce and its sociological significance are taken for granted; divorce means the breakdown and failure of marriage. These are the words used by the individuals concerned and sociologists have implicitly approached the problem from the same point of view. Even if they have apparently (but not always) refrained from direct value judgements and emotionally laden terms such as ‘failure’, they have still considered that the definition of divorce as the end of marriage, its revocation, or as the opposite of marriage, was a satisfactory one.
Kumari Jayawardena's Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World, out this week in a new edition in Verso's Feminist Classics series, is a landmark survey of nineteenth and twentieth century anti-colonial women's movements in Asia and the Middle East.
Below, we present the Foreword to the new edition by Rafia Zakaria, attorney, a political philosopher and the author of “The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan.”
All the books in our Feminist Classics series are 40% off until October 2nd. Click here to activate your discount.
Rani of Jhansi Women's Regiment of the Indian National Army, training, early–mid 1940s. via End of Empire.
The present de-colonial moment is not a hopeful one for feminist solidarity; the coming together of women from distant parts and portions of the world to claim in some unison the centrality of feminist identity seems an unlikely if not discarded project. The vagaries of power and privilege borne of colonialism have imposed disparate fates on the female; and as the dissection of these varied fortunes proceeds, the inequities unearthed, the injustices revealed have pushed dialogue into a realm rife with complication and recrimination. The replication of old colonial patterns in neo-imperial ventures such as the American foray into Afghanistan and Iraq, the former explicitly predicated on the ‘liberation’ of Afghan women, have further muddied the waters. US feminist groups such Feminist Majority have championed these allocations, ignoring their inherent attachment to bombings and raids. All of it recalls colonial patterns; and all of it has led to misgivings and an ever-expanding chasm between female activists, and questions about the possibility of solidarity.