This is the editorial for Red Pepper Issue 223: Feminist Futures.
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Will we ever smash the patriarchy? It’s easy to feel immobilised as the far right gains strength around the world, thriving on misogyny.
In the UK too it can seem as if we are moving backwards. Years of austerity have had a devastating impact on women. A new report from the Women’s Budget Group shows that local government cuts have meant a ‘triple whammy’ for women – cuts to services we use, increasing unpaid care work to fill in the gaps and being harder hit by job cuts in the public sector. Just one startling statistic: more than 75 per cent of England’s local authorities reduced their spending on refuges for survivors of domestic violence by nearly a quarter between 2010 and 2017.
This austerity has come hand in hand with privatisation and outsourcing. But there has been a strong feminist streak to the resistance, as embodied, for example, by the strikes by university night cleaners and the feminists at the frontline of the urgent fight against fascism and the far right across the world.
The feminist fight is not a new one, and history has a lot to teach us. Red Pepper was strongly influenced from its beginning by a stream of socialist feminism that isn’t just about challenging patriarchy, but incorporates some of the key political ideas that came out of the women’s movement in the 1970s and 1980s. This includes the need to reflect the society that we want in our organising, viewing the personal as political and acknowledging that pluralism is key to bringing about social justice. These beliefs are still at our core.
Women, and feminised people, cannot escape the personal element of feminist politics. It’s in our homes, in our workplaces, on our streets and in the way our bodies are policed, invaded and interpreted. Resisting incarceration in detention centres and prisons is part of this – both are symptoms of the ingrained classism, racism and inequality woven into the fabric of our society. These are just some of the movements and political ideas in this issue that demonstrate a feminism with social justice as its focus. A feminism for an end to classism, ableism, white supremacy, transphobia and homophobia as well as an end to patriarchy. A feminism that doesn’t rely on capitalism, inequality and plundering the planet to tick its boxes.
There is a beautiful richness to the range of gender struggles working to bring about change. A broad-based feminist movement that has a comprehensive gender justice at its core can only be stronger. Feminism is here for the duration. We will win because we have to.
Gargi Bhattacharya examines the sexist reality behind the ‘pro-women’ rhetoric of India’s ruling party
Sophie Lewis assesses Xenofeminism and its close comrades, bedfellows and associates
The treatment of Muslim women shows that French feminism has not shed some imperialist and racist practices, argues Malia Bouattia
Joni Alizah Cohen explains what the battle for ‘bodily autonomy’ is about – and why it’s so important.
This International Women's Day, we need to prioritise defending the rights of working women, writes Rosie Urbanovich from War on Want
They're demanding decriminalisation and full workers' rights, reports Ava Caradonna