Review: Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism

Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism
Kira Cochrane (Guardian Books)

Women of the Revolution, Forty Years of Feminism is a good read for anyone with an interest in social justice and gender equality. The book, edited by the Guardian’s former women’s editor Kira Cochrane, is an anthology of articles from the UK newspaper, The Guardian, examining four decades of the women’s movement both in the UK and internationally.

It contains a pick-and-mix bag of opinion pieces, interviews and humorous journalism from a star-studded list of contributors: Germaine Greer, Beth Ditto, Ariel Levy, Susie Orbach and Jessica Valenti to name but a few.

I enjoyed choosing an article at random and being transported to a new era and a different perspective. But a more conventional reading of the book will take you on a fascinating
journey through the struggle for equality over the last four decades.

It’s the 1970s and you’re reading about female migrant factory workers from India struggling for representation by the British trade unions; move onto the1980s and you’re learning about Maggie Thatcher; the 1990s offer the spice-world approach to feminism; and the 2000s ask just how far, exactly, have we come?

The timeline of articles gives a rounded record of the development of the women’s movement through changing social and political circumstances.

The articles from the 1970s are filled with optimism and outrage, whereas the 1980s provide time for reflection and exploration. Movements like the peace women of Greenham Common. The 1990s spice-world approach to post-feminism is exemplified by women like Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton who illustrate women’s empowerment in all its complex glory.

Casting the fashion tragedies of the 90s aside, the naughties are heartening and depressing in equal measure: concern for women’s equality is still with us but there are new issues to contend with.

The rise of internet porn and sexism online are new concerns but there are still issues without satisfactory answers like motherhood and work, prostitution and women’s empowerment in non-western cultures.

Then there’s the funny stuff like Andrew Dworkin’s open letter to Bill Clinton following the Monica Lewinski scandal; the angry stuff including the ever-articulate British journalist Polly Tonybee on violence against women and the brutally honest, Germain Greer (who else?) on her own experience of sexual violence.

Some of the stand-out articles include British journalist Julie Bindel on the continuing relevance of political lesbianism and Carolyne Shakespeare Cooper on the intersection of racism and sexism for black women in the UK. Other must-reads include a brilliant interview with Nawal El Saadawi and an informative article on Oprah Winfrey.

Though the book is predominantly concerned with the women’s movement in the UK, it does not overlook feminism in non-western contexts. The writers are not afraid to raise questions about the benefits of feminism for women in other countries, the failure of the women’s movement to reflect the needs of non western women and even whether women’s equality is still relevant today.

The articles are challenging and informative and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the next volume, I just hope we don’t have to wait another 40 years!

1 thought on “Review: Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism”

  1. she governed by cnrsyiom and made some appalling decisions, ranging from the immoral (charging rape victims for collecting evidence from their bodies) to the stupid (running her town $20M+ into debt to build a sports center on land the town didn’t own). It does not compete in any way with Ferraro’s record in 1984: Assistant District Attorney for Queens County, New York, head of the Special Victims Unit, 3-term Congressional Representative. and arguably has as much or more executive experience than Barack Obama Oh, now that’s just stupid. Somehow all that got lost in the endless sneering stories about her blue-collar conservatism, small Alaskan town, five children, snowmobiling husband, and Idaho college degree. I keep hearing this from conservative commentators, but not from liberal ones (liberal ones seem to have much more important things to criticize Sarah Palin over) suggesting that it’s conservatives who are sneering at Palin for these things, since it’s conservatives who keep saying they keep hearing them . Emancipated women who, like Palin, do not believe in abortion or are devout Christians are at best considered unsophisticated dupes. Michelle Obama is a devout Christian. I’ve never seen anyone call her an unsophisticated dupe . Palin comes across as a relatively uninformed person, but I put that down to her lack of interest in the world outside Alaska, not her Christianity.As for the claims that Palin doesn’t believe in abortion , she said explicitly that it was Bristol Palin’s choice, and Sarah Palin’s choice so clearly, she does believe in the right to choose abortion. For her own family. She has argued otherwise for other women. Palin is an emancipated woman , but she does not come across as a feminist, because she does not appear to feel the need to support equal rights for any other woman. And that’s why Palin isn’t getting any support from feminists

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