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!