Some people feel that feminism is outdated, that we no longer need to campaign for greater freedom, equality and rights for women. However, you only have to look at the facts to understand the relevance of feminist orientated action.
Whilst it is essential to consider the effects of the neoliberal system upon women on the 100th International Women’s Day, there can be a tendency to de-contextualize, ahistoricalise (if that’s a word) and simplify the women’s movement. Today, at a rally one speech stuck in my mind. It emphasised the need for coordinated action at the LibDem conference this Saturday, at the 26th of March in London and for fighting the council cuts and cuts in general. Great, but not one mention of women; even though, the event was to mark International Women’s Day.
My studies into Venezuela have helped me understand the often rather damaging potential party politics can have upon the women’s movement. Venezuelan women’s most successful changes often occurred when they were working together, across party lines. However, it is important not to fall into the trap of de-politicising women’s position; for instance, Venezuelan feminists involved within these coalitions stopped themselves from questioning gender difference, so as not to ‘taint’ the women (not feminist) coalition and ‘frighten’ potential supporters. Nevertheless, political party divisions do have a bearing upon the women’s movement’s focus; consider the switch from liberal to socialist connections re the first wave feminist movement and the effects this had upon their campaigns.
Regardless, I personally find it to be impossible to not see women’s position in relation to the current political economy; neolibearlism is damaging for everyone but especially for groups such as women. When women are already more likely to be in disadvantaged positions, for them to then be the main bearers of the cuts, it would be perverse not to critique this on IWD. However, some things are going to have to involve reconciling party differences if we want to improve women’s rights. Some issues aren’t split up on a simple left vs. right line. There are some things women who identify as LibDem and women who identity as Labour need to work together on, for instance. There is a tension here between reconciling party political effects and women’s movement’s collective potential. In fact, theorists like Butler help us question what it means to be a ‘woman’. I was impressed by the James Bond short film for today, especially it’s rather subversive ability to problematise what Butler called the heterosexual matrix (the seemingly ‘natural’ link between sex, gender and sexuality).
Internationally and nationally there is a long way to go until we can talk about ‘post feminism’. Consider events in Egypt today, an event that illustrates rather clearly that equality and democracy is a long way off for most women in the world. It actually brings me back to my caution of women’s roles within revolutionary upheavals and democratic transitions. Drowning women’s voices out, saying “this is not the time” for women’s rights, are problems the women’s movement has had and still experiences around the world. Conflicts within the Women’s Movement, party political differences are still tests that the Women’s Movement has to continue to adapt and reconfigure its tactics to. Most importantly, we all have to remember the sacrifices women historically have taken to give us the rights and freedoms many of us have today. However, we must continue; the fight has yet to be won.