This article originally appeared as chapter fifth chapter in Donna Goodman’s Women Fight Back: The Centuries-Long Struggle for Liberation, published through Liberation Media and available for purchase here. Liberation School has a study and discussion guide for the book here.
The early years of the 20th century saw political struggle in all areas of American life. The explosive growth of industrial monopoly capitalism of the late 19th century structured all the major changes of the era—urbanization, proletarianization, extreme inequality and instability, record immigration, and the dawn of U.S. imperialism stretching overseas. All of society looked out at a world that appeared to be in perpetual flux and crisis, rapidly transforming how people lived, worked, and interacted.
Born in 1946 in Shahidanwali village in Punjab (now in Pakistan), Kamla Bhasin grew up in Rajasthan. After completing her post-graduation from Rajasthan University, she studied sociology in Germany and on her return in 1972 joined the Udaipur-based voluntary organisation Seva Mandir, which worked with the rural and urban poor – men and women – with the goal of “mobilising them for their own development”. From that point till September 25, 2021, when Kamla Bhasin, suffering from cancer, breathed her last, her life was a seamless journey of, in her own words, “being deeply engaged with issues related to gender, development, peace, identity politics, militarisation, human rights and democracy”; of exploring and articulating “connections between different issues and to promote synergies between different movements.” It was a journey during which the indefatigable feminist touched countless hearts. One of them was Kalpana Viswanath whose tribute to Kamla Bhasin looks back at three decades of association with her.
Note: This article was first published in WIN Magazine in 1976. It later appeared in Working Papers on Socialism & Feminism published by the New American Movement (NAM) in 1976. NAM was a mixed gender organization heavily influenced by socialist feminism. A number of CWLUers were associated with it.
At some level, perhaps not too well articulated, socialist feminism has been around for a long time. You are a woman in a capitalist society. You get pissed off: about the job, about the bills, about your husband (or ex), about the kids’ school, the housework, being pretty, not being pretty, being looked at, not being look at (and either way, not listened to), etc. If you think about all these things and how they fit together and what has to be changed, and then you look around for some words to hold all these thoughts together in abbreviated form, you’d almost have to come up with “socialist feminism.”Read More »
For much of human history, most people—men and women—wore loose fitting robes of various types to cover their bodies. It is thought that trousers were invented relatively recently in human history, around 1000 BCE, so that people could be more comfortable riding horses.
The Scythians, nomadic horse people on the Eurasian grasslands (the steppes), had a reputation of being excellent and fierce warriors. They flourished from around 900 BCE to 200 BCE, living mainly in what is now the Crimea region but having wide influence on the steppes to the east. In these nomadic societies, based on the use of the horse, it was common for women to wear trousers and to fight as warriors alongside men. Some of the earliest depictions of trousers were being worn by both male and female Scythian warriors. It is thought that while women were not able to match the strength and size of men—a distinct disadvantage in ground combat with swords, shields, and armor—they could control horses and shoot arrows as well as men. “They were horse people par excellence, and—no coincidence—many of these groups were also distinguished by relative gender equality, compared to the Greeks.”(1) Viking women may also have participated as warriors, but it was the norm among the Scythians.
The news of the murder of a 27-year-old woman has brought thousands to the streets across Turkey to demand an end to femicide and gender-based violence. Protests took place in many places on Wednesday, and more are scheduled for Friday.
Blanca Eekhout is the Minister of People’s Power for the Communes and Social Movements of Venezuela and a woman linked to revolutionary militancy long before President Hugo Chávez came to power, whose team she was part of. Eekhout has been a member of parliament, leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and also held the position of minister of People’s Power for Women and Gender Equality, making her the ideal person to enlighten us on the role of women in the Communes, and beyond that, how the project of the Communal State is linked to feminist socialism.Read More »
For a number of years now I’ve been confounded by watching many of the straight upper-middle class women in the United States appearing to slide backwards in time into much more traditional roles. Why do so many women still do the heavy lifting of childcare, grocery shopping, housekeeping and cooking? Why do so many of them put the needs of their male partners and bosses first and their own needs last? Why have so many of them whole-heartedly embraced sports when I doubt that most of them were not sports fanatics before they were in relationships with men who are? These were the roles we struggled to break out of in the 60’s and 70’s. Yet in the seven cases I will present I will describe six women who consider themselves feminists. How can we explain this?Read More »
Alejandra Laprea speaking in Plaza Bolívar on March 8. The banner seen on the left was woven together collectively during several days of meetings and discussions. (Ketsy Medina Sifontes)
International Working Women’s Day, March 8, landed this year in the midst of a complex scenario in Venezuela, with an ongoing coup attempt and a simmering threat of foreign intervention. Juan Guaidó, the latest opposition leader, swore himself in as “interim president” on January 23, a move that was followed by an escalated international aggression against Venezuela.
Mobilizations were held across the world as part of the Feminist Strike to reject patriarchal and capitalist violence and show the power and force of women, travestis, transgender and gender diverse people
Dalit women carry a portrait of Ambedkar as they block traffic during a protest in Ahmedabad. Credit: PTI/Files
What do we understand when we identify ourselves as feminist?
The Wire’s Histories of Feminisms project is an attempt to emphasise that there is no linear or one way of understanding and experiencing feminism. Through a series of articles, The Wire draws your attention to some of the different narratives and debates that, over the decades, have come to define feminism. For instance, we recall the first generation of feminists in Kerala, the first women lawyers who surmounted formidable challenges to claim their rightful place in the legal system. We shine a light on women authors who pushed the boundaries of feminism in literature, bring before you the perspectives and experiences of feminist Dalit and Muslim women. We talk about how protagonists of many radical movements and uprisings in public memory are usually male.Read More »