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As austerity impoverished the lives and communities of ordinary people, particularly affecting women, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s viral TED talk and popular book Lean In offered a simple answer to the multiple and complex problems we face: women must be more assertive and ambitious at work.
Perhaps this looks laughable written here. But as Dawn Foster explains, ‘corporate feminism’ is attractive and persuasive. Advocates highlight individual success stories of super-wealthy women, able to ‘have it all’ – narrowly defined as high-paid employment and family life. It is understandable that women, struggling on ever-tighter incomes, might be curious about what they have to say. However, according to Amazon Kindle statistics, Lean In is one of the books readers are least likely to finish.
Fortunately, with Foster’s Lean Out you are almost guaranteed to reach the end feeling informed, angry and hopeful. Foster’s short and accessible manifesto is a powerful response to Sandberg and others’ ‘trickledown feminism’. She leaves us in no doubt of the real nature of women’s marginalisation and poverty: that it is structural and not down to an individual’s apparent lack of assertiveness. She says capitalism, patriarchy, racism, ableism and other oppressions all act to disempower women. Corporate feminism itself is part of the problem as it seeks to capture feminism’s empancipatory project in order to legitimise the very system that is harming us.
Foster illustrates her argument by drawing from a wide range of examples, looking at the policies, politics and culture that perpetuate women’s often multiple oppressions and the lived realities of these women. The increased precarity of paid work with zero-hours contracts and increased fees for employment tribunals, the abuse of migrant women locked up in Yarl’s Wood detention centre, the demonisation of people claiming benefits, and how the housing crisis is denying women fleeing domestic violence the secure homes they need. Helpful and interesting statistics accompany many of the examples she describes.
As well as clearly explaining the root causes of the deep inequality and injustice women face, Foster talks about solutions. In contrast to the emphasis by corporate feminism on individual acts, Foster argues it is collective action that has and will bring about radical social change. In the final chapter she gives a brief and uplifting tour of some of the current inspiring working-class, women‑led campaigns and organising around basic needs, including Focus E15, the Anti-Raids Network, 3 Cosas campaign and Southall Black Sisters.
The collapse of Carillion is only one small part of a larger story of decades of economic mismanagement
Laura McDonald writes that universities should not just be finishing schools for the wealthy or disciplinary institutions churning out docile workers.
A floundering alliance of Blairites is trying to reinvent itself for a Corbynite age. By Tom Costello.
Marienna Pope-Weidemann explains why decades of occupation and oppression have led some people to call Israel an apartheid state.
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Laurie Laybourn-Langton writes that measuring the economy is political - and economic measurement dominates politics.
David Scott argues that our prison system represents a human rights disaster, and reformist solutions can't tackle the root problems.
A deeper engagement with culture can strengthen our democracy, taking political projects beyond electoral impact and festival memes into a whole new world of radical, lasting change.
Ruth Tanner writes that revelations about Oxfam's behaviour in Haiti are shocking, but not surprising.
The actions of Oxfam officials are horrendous - but gutting foreign aid funding just puts more people at risk, writes Daniel Gibson.
For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes