Monday, August 22, 2005

Review: Women and Socialism: Essays on Women's Liberation

Women and SocialismWomen and Socialism: Essays on Women's Liberation by Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith's book tackles current issues employing historical and sociological evidence to show how traditional feminism is bourgeois and hence offers no real hope for addressing the issues working women face on a constant basis. After providing the historical causes for women's oppression and the abortion debate in the first two chapters, Smith explains the sad state of modern feminism, its cause, and demonstrates why only a class-wide struggle will ever provide women with real equality and emancipation. A favorite quote from the end of chapter 3:

"Feminists have traditionally accused socialists of subordinating the fight against women's oppression to the class struggle. Yet socialists have held to the principles of women's liberation that long ago fell by the wayside for mainstream feminists, precisely because socialists fight for the interests of the entire working class."

Chapter four lays out the clear hypocrisy of Bush's supposed liberation of woman in the near east, which only substituted one form of oppression with another. It also makes the case for self determination as part of the road to woman's liberation, and condemns the racist policies cropping up in the western world under the guise of helping women. An important point throughout is how all mainstream religions are typically reactionary and used to enforce ruling class ideology on women.

The final chapter shows a glimpse of what society could look like without the existing bourgeois oppression against women and other super-exploited members of the working class by drawing on the aftermath of the 1917 Russian revolution. The massive gains made by woman under the short lived worker's state have still to be realized in supposed "free western democracies." Unfortunately we don't have a complete picture because Stalin's reactionary counter-revolution took away the vast majority of gains women made under the Bolsheviks. Nevertheless, the potential is visible in this and the argument made for women's liberation through class struggle is stronger now than ever.

The major retreats on every front of the women's movement combined with the post-feminist (read bourgeois) concepts like "power feminism" demonstrate why a grassroots effort by working women in conjunction with the working class is the only answer to solving exploitation and oppression. This book is a must read for anyone concerned with equality and emancipation of women, other exploited minorities, and the working class as a whole.

1 The Origin of Women's Oppression
2 Abortion Rights: The Socialist Case
3 What Ever Happened to Feminism
4 Women and Islam
5 Women and Socialism


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