Judith Orr’s pamphlet puts the backlash against feminism into a wider context, says Ben Drake
Seven years into the New Millennium and women have it all: equality, empowerment, pole-dancing classes, what more could anyone want?
And then we wake up. Women remain overworked and underpaid, pressured in the home, street and workplace to fulfil an impossible superwoman myth of bread-winner, child-carer and home-maker, never neglecting to adhere to unhealthy (infantilising) beauty myths.
It’s no wonder there’s anger. But – no disrespect to those campaigners fighting hard on countless issues – why isn’t there more resistance? Where did ‘the movement’ go?
Judith Orr’s brilliant pocket-book Sexism and the System sets about answering that question, with convincing and inspiring arguments set out in a series of short and punchy chapters. Coming from a socialist feminist perspective, Orr reviews the history of battles for women’s liberation and their close relationship to class struggles and collective organisation among ordinary working women and men.
The strength of feminism is seen to derive from moments where that collective solidarity has been strongest – and conversely the ‘backlash’ is intertwined with the neo-liberal assault on all notions of collective action, the corporate attempt to construct a world of isolated individuals, supposedly free but actually constrained.
Orr’s conclusion is hopeful and active: all over the world women (and men) continue to resist and fight back, and we can all strengthen that fight by organising.
As an intro to socialist feminism it’s a winner: a quick and energising read, and at only £3 worth it for the cover art alone, a one-shot summary of where we’re at.
Sexism and the System is available from Bookmarks. Anyone interested in a more in-depth approach from a similar perspective, might want to check out Lindsey German’s ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’ (Bookmarks, 1998) and her just-published follow-up ‘Material Girls’ (Bookmarks, 2007).