Feature Essay: Praise for the Lorde by Tricia Wombell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/03/2018 - 11:01pm in

Sister Outsider, written by Audre Lorde, is the book club selection for the 2018 Women of the World (WOW) Festival (7-11 March 2018). In advance of her facilitation of the WOW Book Club discussion at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Sunday 11 March, Tricia Wombell reflects on the influence of Lorde’s work.

This feature is published as part of a March 2018 endeavour, ‘A Month of Our Own: Amplifying Women’s Voices on LSE Review of Books’. If you would like to contribute to the project in this month or beyond, please contact us at Lsereviewofbooks@lse.ac.uk

Praise for the Lorde

Image Credit: Audre Lorde, Austin, Texas, 1980 (K.Kendall CC BY 2.0)

If you are in certain social media communities on Twitter or Instagram, you will regularly come across perfectly on point motivational and inspiring quotes from Audre Lorde. One of her most shared quotes is ‘Your Silence Will Not Protect You’. It remains prescient given the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter campaigns, which have spotlighted, amongst many issues, the role of the ‘bystander’ throughout all kinds of communities.

The quote comes from ‘The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action’, a paper Lorde presented in Chicago to the Modern Language Association in 1977. In this powerful speech, Lorde describes the focus that came to her in the three weeks while she waited for the results of a lump in her breast. The directness of the words and the themes addressed sharply highlight the clarity with which Lorde saw her life as a Black, lesbian poet, her place in the world and how she intended to work to make a difference through her use of language and speaking the truth, at the same time encouraging others. A key moment is when she explains how her daughter contributed to the creation of the talk by asking her to tell the audience what happens if you don’t speak out:

… you are never really a whole person if you remain silent because there’s always that one little piece inside of you that wants to be spoken out and if you don’t you just get madder and madder.

Lorde has recently been published in the UK for the first time. The book is called Your Silence Will Not Protect You, and offers a selection of her essays, speeches and poems. While I imagine that the social media shares would have played a small part in the decision to finally publish this Lorde collection here, it is also part of an increase in the publication of non-fiction works by BAME authors in the past year.  British non-fiction books include The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla, and Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge. It is Eddo-Lodge’s preface that opens Your Silence Will Not Protect You, paying direct tribute to the influence and inspiration that Lorde’s work has given to her own.

Your Silence Will Not Protect You is a fine introduction to Lorde’s essays and poems, but I do hope that the UK reader will also make their way to Sister Outsider, first published in 1984 (reprinted in 2007), the most famous of Lorde’s non-fiction essays and speeches. Most of the Sister Outsider essays are included in the UK book, but the earlier text also includes two pieces of Lorde’s travel writing. The opening essay is called ‘Notes from A Trip to Russia’, and chronicles a 1976 two-week tour of Russia and Uzbekistan, long before the countries of the (former) Soviet Union were as open as they are today. Lorde was hosted by the Union of Soviet Writers to observe their African-Asian Women Writers conference. Her observations of Soviet society are fascinating: she compares Moscow to New York and Tashkent to West Africa, in particular Kumasi in Ghana, with an emphasis on how the markets appear to be so alike. While her interactions with the people provide insight into a tough everyday life, the reader today might find Lorde’s adoration revealing or challenging even, given our current knowledge of Russia and attitudes to people of colour.

The second ‘travel’ essay that closes Sister Outsider is about Grenada, which Lorde visited in the aftermath of the American invasion of 1983. Lorde’s parent’s had left Grenada in the 1920s, and she grew up knowing of it as ‘home’, which is what her mother called it. In the essay, Lorde describes how the smallest nation on earth is savaged by the most powerful. Here she is writing in mourning, setting out why America could not countenance Maurice Bishop’s independent, self-defined Black-run nation in its backyard. No one talks about this now, and I think that everyone who loves the Caribbean should read this particular piece and think a little harder about the state of the other Caribbean nations and their overbearing neighbour. I have been wondering why these two pieces have been left out of the new UK book: I hope that today’s writers will follow Lorde’s lead in Sister Outsider and be given the opportunity to share what they think about wider world issues too.

I especially enjoyed reading these particular essays that originally came from the journals that Lorde kept. However, I also appreciate that the reason her work is so popular today is that it is so relevant to the dialogue that we are facing on identity politics and respect for one another. Almost half a century ago, she was succinctly clarifying the meeting points of race, class, sexism and feminism. Lorde was drawing on the impact of what we now know as ‘intersectionality’, before Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw defined it in the 1980s.

Lorde often introduced herself so that there would be no doubt where she was starting from:

As a forty-nine-year-old Black lesbian feminist socialist mother of two, including one boy, and a member of an interracial couple, I usually find myself a part of some group defined as other, deviant, inferior, or just plain wrong (‘Age, Race, Class, and Sex; Women Redefining Difference’, 1980).

In this essay, she goes on to explain how difference is often used to keep people apart, when in fact appreciating and respecting the differences and making more of the things that people have in common are what leads to change and growth. ‘There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives’ (‘Learning from the 60s’, 1982). This is another of the regularly shared Lorde quotes that speaks to the multiple identities that we all have.

Ultimately, Lorde defines survival (and power) as only coming through transformation, and while such growth may be painful, it is through the understanding of another of her much-shared quotes – ‘… the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’ (1979) – that the less privileged will be able to determine change.

Many of the pieces in both books are speeches, and Lorde is an unequivocal speaker setting out in lists, for the sake of brevity, particular points that she wants to ensure become her listeners’ ‘takeaways’. She was originally a librarian (Masters in Library Science from Columbia University), and went on to become an English teacher in a university, so often the audiences that she is speaking to are academics. However, it’s notable that she rarely defined herself as an academic. It seems that the personal was far more important than the professional, while she made the most of the platforms that her profile gave her – often as the only woman of colour.

Nor did Lorde shy away from making it known that such groups should have tried harder to make their events more inclusive. Often she also writes piercingly targeted letters to people that she believes should know better. Two examples of this style are ‘An Open Letter to Mary Daly’ (1979) and ‘Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface’ (1979) – the latter a response to an article that argued that Black women should focus on supporting Black politics and consciousness-raising activities rather than establishing the theories and practice of Black feminism. Reading these articles today, you know that Audre Lorde was strong and brave, and that her creative and precise use of language was exquisite, coming as it does from her first love: poetry. You would most definitely want her on your side in an argument. On the other hand, such conversations – between Black and white feminists; Black men and Black women – are still being navigated, and even more publically given social media today.

As a Black woman, I am hyper-aware of accusations of ‘the angry black women’ stereotype that easily come, particularly from those with no understanding of or reflection on how they’ve gained their own privileges, so it was an absolute eye-opener to read ‘Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism’ (1981). In this, Lorde provides a ‘manifesto’ on how to analyse the resulting anger and turn it into a powerful tool. This is an essay that should be part of every leadership development programme for women and people of colour. I would advocate regular reading of Lorde’s work – it is sustenance for the soul.

Tricia Wombell is the director of marketing and communications at the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. She is a co-founder of Black Book Swap, a literary event that brings together Black authors and writers with Black readers. Since 2011, Tricia has been coordinator of the Black Reading Group, a book club for Black readers. Tricia is writing in a personal capacity @Triciabbn @BlackBookSwap

Note: This feature essay gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Book Review: A Brief History of Feminism by Antje Schrupp, illustrated by Patu

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/03/2018 - 11:13pm in

With A Brief History of Feminism, Antje Schrupp and illustrator Patu have crafted a graphic novel that traces the development of feminism from antiquity to the present day. While the book is primarily limited to offering an account of the evolution of European, Western feminist movements, this is nonetheless a fun, accessible and educational read that will give readers a thirst to learn more, finds Sonia J. Wieser

This review is published as part of a March 2018 endeavour, ‘A Month of Our Own: Amplifying Women’s Voices on LSE Review of Books’. If you would like to contribute to the project in this month or beyond, please contact us at Lsereviewofbooks@lse.ac.uk

A Brief History of Feminism. Antje Schrupp, illustrated by Patu (trans. by Sophie Lewis). MIT Press. 2017.

Find this book: amazon-logo

In times of the Women’s March, the #metoo revelations and the subsequent widening of the discussion around women’s rights and gender equality, the sheer number of available texts on the history of the evolution of this movement can be overwhelming. With their collaboration on A Brief History of Feminism, author Antje Schrupp and illustrator Patu have crafted a comprehensive graphic novel that takes the reader on a journey to discover the development of feminism from antiquity to the present day. It will leave you feeling entertained and educated, but at times also angry and definitely thirsting to learn more.

Unlike other books on feminism, this ‘brief’ history does not take women’s struggle to gain the right to vote as its starting point. With the main focus on European, Western feminism, it starts out in antiquity with references to Ancient Greece and the early days of Judeo-Christianity. It continues through the Middle Ages and the first records of women-led community life, early-modern feminism and the feminism of the Enlightenment. While these periods might not offer the widest choice of substantive texts of which it can be said with certainty that they were authored by women, tracing the evolution of feminism alongside that of patriarchy only makes sense.

The chapters become more substantial as the book turns to discuss early socialist feminism, the beginnings of an organised women’s movement, women’s wage labour and the struggle for women’s right to vote. The book continues on to chapters around sex and gender, autonomous women’s movements, and ends by dedicating short sections to intersectionality, queer feminism and third-wave feminism.

Image Credit: (Trishhhh CC by 2.0)

This comprehensive and artfully illustrated view of the history of feminism makes the book a really good read for anyone, no matter whether they are previously acquainted with the movement or not. A reader new to the topic gets an introduction that is fun and conducive to wanting to know more; the reader that is an expert will be delighted to find women ranging from Flora Tristan, who wrote about the oppression of the working class before Karl Marx, to Shulamith Firestone, who argued for the total abolition of the biological family in the 1970s, being placed under the spotlight.

Another incredible strength of this book is that it works with relatively few textual explanations of the illustrations. While the individual chapters offer brief introductions to set the context, most text is limited to the dialogues between the protagonists. This allows for an additional dimension to the story, as facial expressions, colloquial wording and the environment surrounding the speaker underline the content of what is being said. And this is especially important in the context of the oppression of women, as it is often that this is not performed through mere brute force, but more subtle means. For example, the book depicts an exchange between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, in which she questions the maleness of Jesus’s inner circle. Jesus responds, ‘Really, Mary, do you always have to be so negative?,’ while rolling his eyes (2).

While the aforementioned strengths make reading this book a fun and educational experience, the book also comes with certain weaknesses. It lacks a clear guide for the reader as to when the text is paraphrased to fit the style of a graphic novel or when it is directly quoting from a text. Given this, it is also unclear what sources the authors used for their research for their book. While excluding a bibliography or footnotes in the text might have been a conscious decision by the creators to keep the feeling of a graphic novel, it makes it much harder for an interested reader to pursue specific further reading. Furthermore, in times of harsh criticism of ‘feminism’ as a concept and the constant questioning of sources as ‘fake news’, a book may fare better if it is clearly shown on what basis it was written.

A space within the book that would be conducive for this guidance would be the introductory text. Already offering a great explanation of why the history of feminism matters and what it has to do with patriarchy, it also provides an opportunity for the authors to delve deeper into how to read the book and their thoughts on the sources. In so doing, they could also connect the introduction to the rest of the book more than is currently done.

A further point of criticism that could arise is the text’s sole focus on European, Western feminism. Some context to this lies in the somewhat limited translation of the title: in its original German version, the book is explicitly called ‘A Brief History of Feminism in the Euro-American Context’; this is reduced to only ‘A Brief History of Feminism’ in the English translation, which could lead a reader to expect equal treatment of all women’s movements across the globe. The authors do, however, make the limited scope of the book fairly clear in the introduction of the book. Furthermore, various chapters touch upon the fact that European, Western feminism is not the only important movement: as such, the book briefly discusses intra-feminist socio-economic divisions, mentions intersectionality and nods to further exploration of third-wave feminism.

Again, the graphic novel adds a layer here: the intra-feminist divide along socio-economic lines is underlined by images depicting women of colour speaking up against the dominance of white women in the agenda-setting of feminist movements. The authors furthermore try to be as fair to the topics as possible: as such, they do mention that when discussing intersectionality, one has to pay close attention to the cultural context in which the discussion is founded. For example, they mention that due to the history of the civil rights movement in the US, the interplay between race and gender looks different in the US-North American context than, for example, in Europe. However, in the end, while the authors try their best to include various feminist movements and clearly mention the scope of the book, it is still a limitation – and one that one would wish was less prevalent in books about feminism in general.

Overall, while this book is restricted to European, Western feminism and arguably lacks some signposting for the reader, it is still strongly recommended to anyone who wants to know more about where some of the ongoing struggles in the name of feminism are rooted. Its style makes it an easy introductory read for those newly interested in the topic and enjoyable for those who already know a bit more. One can only wish that further editions including other elements of the history of feminism will be published, so that the pleasure of reading works by Schrupp and Patu is prolonged.

Sonia J. Wieser is a graduate in MSc International Relations from the LSE and works at the intersection of finance and technology. She particularly enjoys reading and reviewing books about feminism and gender studies, critical approaches to work and technology as well as anything related to Russia and India. Read more by Sonia J. Wieser.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

OPINION: Isn’t true love unconditional? : The International Women’s Day, the UK government’s Valentine message, and the 50th anniversary of working class women demanding UBI.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/03/2018 - 10:58pm in


Opinion, Feminism

The International Women’s Day is approaching. This is a poster for the International Women’s Day march 45 years ago. (Photo above) Two working-class women, one carries a buggy, and the other carries a placard containing written slogans reflecting three of the original four demands of the British Women’s Liberation movement. It displays the name of organization: London Women’s Liberation Workshop.

The post OPINION: Isn’t true love unconditional? : The International Women’s Day, the UK government’s Valentine message, and the 50th anniversary of working class women demanding UBI. appeared first on BIEN.

Channel 4 Report into Italian Hipster Fascists

After the Fascistic policies and behaviour of the Israeli state and its advocates over here, there’s the return of Fascism proper to Europe. I found this Channel 4 report into the Italian Fascist party, CasaPound, on YouTube. CasaPound is a miniscule Fascist party, which takes its name from the American Modernist poet and Fascist, Ezra Pound. Casa is Italian for ‘house’, so I suppose you could translate the party’s name as ‘Pound House’ or ‘House of Pound’. They seem to have been founded by an extreme right-wing rock singer, shown growling out his wretched songs at one of his concerts. The party holds rallies, at which their squadristi respond with the Roman salute. And the iconography of Italian Fascism – the Fasces – the bundle of sticks with the axe projecting from it – and Mussolini’s ghastly fizzog are everywhere.

The reporter is shown round their headquarters by a woman. On one wall, when you go in, are the names of various prominent Fascists, written in different colours and sizes. The reporter’s guide tells him that they have this put there, as their counterpart to the Roman household gods that guarded their homes. One of the names on the wall is that of the notorious British Fascist, Oswald Mosley. The building also acts as a hostel, putting up the homeless – but only if you’re Italian. By which, presumably, they mean ‘White Italian’. The party also runs food banks and provides free medical care, such as health check-ups and electro-cardiograms. Again, only for Whites. As the woman explains in the video, only full Whites can be members of the organisation. A White person married to an immigrant cannot be a member, each of whom pays a subscription to the organisation. Along with the names of prominent, infamous Fascists, there’s also their flags and insignia, including that of the infamous Golden Dawn, responsible for the beatings and murder of immigrants and leftists in Greece.

The reporter comments that the place is very military, like a barracks. And it almost goes without saying that Casapound is viciously anti-immigrant. There’s a clip of a rally at which one of their speakers states he wants two ships in the Mediterranean to intercept the migrant vessels and send them back to Libya. The reporter also makes the point that they are trying to exploit the death of a young girl for their political gain. It’s not certain whether the girl died of a drug overdose, or was murdered, but three immigrants were arrested in connection with her death after her dismembered body was found deposited in two suitcases. The next day, a man with very extreme right-wing views opened fire and killed six migrants. The stormtroopers of CasaPound state very clearly that they don’t want immigrants coming to Italy bringing drugs and crime, and that if they had been in power, the girl would still be alive.

At the moment, CasaPound are politically negligible. They need to get three per cent of the vote before they get anywhere the Italian parliament, and there are many other Fascist parties. But the video does show the return of the blatantly Fascist right into Italian politics, even though it’s currently at the fringes.

The video’s important, not just for showing the re-emergence of proper Fascism in Italy, but because it also shows and confirms some of the observations the American radical journalist, Chris Hedges, has made about the way Fascism returns after the liberal elite abandon the working class. Hedges stated that the new Fascism in America took the form of complete little worlds, in which a person could become completely immersed. He was talking about the religious right, and the megachurches, which provide a more-or-less complete environment separate from the secular world outside. CasaPound offers much the same. It’s a lifestyle, as much as a political party.

As well as watching the emergence of Fascism in America, Hedges himself saw it appear during the civil war in Yugoslavia. He states that when the liberal elite abandon the working class to pursue neoliberal policies, which benefit only the business elite, the working class not only turn against them, but against the liberal values of multiculturalism, anti-racism, feminism, gay rights and so on. And again, you can see that here. The welfare services provided by CasaPound for the racially pure show this clearly. Healthcare has been cut, so that many Italians cannot get a doctor. So CasaPound provides one. The party’s squadristi state that the Communist party used to do this, but they don’t appear in the communities any longer. And so their place has been filled instead by CasaPound. Again, the organisation is providing a total social environment, including welfare support, that the state and the supposed parties of the Left have retreated from under the assault of neoliberal free trade dogma. This also affected the Communist Party in Italy, which in the 1980s began to explore other paths to power rather than the methods dictated by Russian experience. In doing so, they became much less radical, despite their Marxist ideology. I can remember the Financial Times in the 1990s stating that they were no more left-wing than the SDP in Britain, the right-wing Labour splinter group that amalgamated with the Liberals to form the Lib Dems.

I don’t know how much of a threat Fascism actually poses in Italy. It’s certainly there, at the margins. But CasaPound are nowhere near as powerful as the Alternative fuer Deutschland, who are also real Nazis with a bitter hatred of Jews and immigrants, and which have just managed to get themselves into the Bundestag. At the moment the major populist force in Italy seems to be Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Party. But this does indicate the way the country could move, if something is not done to bring down the rise in xenophobia and anti-immigrant hostility on one hand, and destroy the neoliberalism that is impoverishing people across the world, and creating such anxieties on the other.

A Month of Our Own: Amplifying Women’s Voices on LSE Review of Books

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/03/2018 - 12:25am in

8 March 2018 welcomes International Women’s Day, with this year’s theme being #PressforProgress. For the course of the month, LSE Review of Books will be centralising women’s voices, while also discussing wider issues surrounding diversity and inclusion in academic publishing. Managing Editor of the blog, Rosemary Deller, introduces the rationale and aims behind this endeavour. 

If you would like to contribute to this project in this month or beyond, please contact us at Lsereviewofbooks@lse.ac.uk

A Month of Our Own: Amplifying Women’s Voices on LSE Review of Books

Image Credit: Women’s March, 2018 (Erik Drost CC BY 2.0)

This month welcomes International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual event held on 8 March, and is also Women’s History Month in the USA. In the UK, the 2018 IWD celebrations hold particular significance as this year marks the centenary of 40 per cent of women in the UK succeeding in gaining a vote in national elections – although it would not be until 1928 that all women over the age of 21 had full voting rights with the Equal Franchise Act.

2018 was also, however, provocatively proposed by Kamila Shamsie as the ‘Year of Publishing Women’. Writing in the Guardian in 2015, the novelist called for publishers to exclusively release books by women in 2018 to begin redressing the long-standing gender imbalance within the publishing industry. In her article, Shamsie particularly focused on the ways in which books are selected, marketed and received, including the culture surrounding literary prizes. Yet, publishing is also a sector whose workers are predominantly women, but which experiences a continued gender pay gap with senior positions largely filled by men; a recent study has furthermore shown that the industry remains ’90 per cent white’. It is in this context that the November 2017 Building Inclusivity in Publishing event, held in London, explored how conscious and unconscious exclusions on the grounds of gender, race, sexuality, disability, class and regionalism, amongst other intersecting categories, not only impoverish the publishing world, but society more broadly.

And what about academic publishing? Much critical attention has been paid to the voices that continue to be broadcast at a higher volume across a variety of disciplines. Here at LSE, three PhD students in the International Relations department examined the reading materials studied as part of LSE IR courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels: the results revealed a severe gender bias. Dr Alice Evans (Kings College, London) and Duncan Green, LSE Professor in Practice in International Development, have recently encouraged others to undertake an audit of their reading materials, giving consideration not only to gender, but also to the ways that race, geography and class inflect the figures. These studies and activities also complement wider moves and calls to ‘decolonise’ academia, as students at universities including LSE and UCL ask ‘why is my curriculum white?’.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress: encouraging us to call out and respond to continued inequalities that are typically structural in nature, but which require individual and collective action to address. Part of this arguably involves a reckoning with the potential problems in your own backyard. So, at the tail-end of 2017, as the Managing Editor of the LSE Review of Books blog since October 2015, I turned the lens on our output to see how the reviews published under my editorship were reflecting (and potentially contributing to) continued gender imbalances in academic publishing.

The results were disappointing, to put it mildly. Looking at reviews commissioned by and published on LSE Review of Books between January 2016 and December 2017, around two-thirds of featured books were authored by one or more men. Moreover, in parallel with the findings of the LSE IR audit, this was particularly distorted by the tendency for co-authored books to be predominantly male-authored: we published reviews of 62 books with two or more male authors. While 46 had a mixed gender authorship, only 19 books were edited or authored by two or more women. This imbalance narrowed when it came to contributors, yet there remains a 59 per cent/41 per cent split between men and women reviewers, respectively.

This audit is not as complete or ‘official’ a survey as that undertaken by my LSE colleagues. However, this cursory snapshot does parallel the gender bias that has been found to shape academia, and the social sciences in particular. Yet, especially in relation to the statistics regarding reviewers, it nonetheless instigated some reflection on my own responsibilities as editor of the LSE Review of Books blog. I had made the error of assuming that because I consider myself a feminist and attentive to issues surrounding exclusion, that this would translate into equal commissioning, equal representation: an inclusive reader and writer community. While this is hardly a revelatory point – indeed, this is belated recognition of what others have repeatedly and no doubt wearily underscored, especially in relation to racial inequalities – the audit made clear the dangers of a complacent faith in the alchemy of good intentions. In other words, the belief that simply by having ‘good’ thoughts and hopes and being ‘aware’ of inequality, this will magically engender diversity, inclusion, equity. It does not.

So, inspired by Shamsie’s call, critical discussions about widening the landscape of publishing, contemporary feminist movements, the theme of this year’s IWD, our own gender gap and other influences besides, LSE Review of Books is responding by running a month centring women’s voices. It is vital here to acknowledge that gender is certainly not lived or experienced as a binary construct limited to or encompassed by two categories of man/woman, masculinity/femininity; neither should gender be viewed as the intrinsic priority, the experience of which can be easily isolated from other intersecting oppressions and inequalities. We hope this will be reflected in some of our publishing this month as we also make some initial entry-points into considering converging exclusions in the publishing world.  While the aim to #PressforProgress cannot be achieved solely through temporary – and perhaps for some readers, tokenistic – endeavours, gestures can nonetheless be spurs for longer-term change and catalysts for crucial, continuing conversations.

Image Credit: (GGAADD CC BY SA 2.0)

To give some sense of the content you can anticipate over the course of the month as we put men on mute, our daily reviews will solely concern books authored, co-authored or edited by women, which will be evaluated by women contributors. The diversity of the reviews to be published – touching on such topics as critical race theory, human-animal studies, environmentalism, youth protest movements, the digital humanities, feminist histories and more – will hopefully make it clear that not only do #womenknowstuff across disciplines, methodologies and sub-fields, but also that this (admittedly ironic) hashtag should really be defunct for stating what we must all, surely, have realised.

Alongside this usual focus on book reviews, we’ll also be talking to several book authors about their new publications as well as reflecting on some of the figures who have served as notable inspiration when it comes to women’s voices within and beyond the academy. Concurrently, we’ll be turning the spotlight on some initiatives in publishing that are enabling the (re-) discovery of women authors from different eras and countries around the world.

Just as crucially, the month will include reflection on the critical role that the editing process can play in terms of foregrounding (but also silencing or obscuring) certain perspectives. I’ll be talking to book review editors about possible strategies for ensuring that more feminist voices are commissioned, without concurrently replicating the Anglo-American and/or Eurocentric focus that often inflects English-language publishing in academia. Yet, editing is not only about the subjects and individual books that we choose to showcase, but also about the nitty-gritty of working closely with language. As Dean Irvine and Smaro Kamboureli argue, ‘editing has been consistently integral to the creation, organization, and dissemination of knowledge in the arts and humanities, even though its indispensable function has not always been readily acknowledged’ (1) – and this is no less true of the social sciences. Since, as Kate Eichhorn and Heather Milne observe in the same collection, (copy-) editing is not only ‘work that first and foremost leads to the production of texts but […] work that produces social networks and forms of community’ (193), we’ll be hearing from a proponent of radical copy-editing as a means of ensuring that the language we utilise aligns with values of equity, inclusiveness and nonviolence – including thinking critically about how replicating the language of gendered and other binaries risks erasing lives and experiences.

We hope that some of this content will inspire reflection and dialogue – and also interest and enjoyment! At the same time, it does not cover all the issues that need to be considered when it comes to tackling exclusion and inequality in academic publishing. Furthermore, the topics that are considered in some form are certainly not to be seen as ‘ticked’ with a sigh of relief simply due the publishing of a single blog post on the subject. There are both further and different things to be said, but also gaps – or what might be viewed, less euphemistically, as failings or silences – in some of our coverage. We welcome debate and dialogue on this during and beyond this month. March has 31 days, but this conversation has no time limit.

Rosemary Deller is the Managing Editor of LSE Review of Books. She received a PhD in English and American Studies from the University of Manchester in 2015 for her thesis looking at co-constructions of gender and animality through representations of meat in contemporary culture. Prior to this, she studied Politics at undergraduate level at Newcastle University and has an MA in Gender Studies from Central European University, Budapest. Read more by Rosemary Deller.

This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the London School of Economics.

Next Week’s Episodes on the Radio 4 Series on the History of British Socialism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 25/02/2018 - 9:01pm in

The BBC Radio 4 series, British Socialism: The Grand Tour, continues on its usual timeslot of 1.40 pm on weekdays next week, beginning with a programme on Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Here’s the programmes due to be transmitted, with the brief descriptions of them from the Radio Times.

Sidney and Beatrice Webb and the Fabian Society

Michael Ward, Dianne Hayter and Steven Fielding join Anne McElvoy to explain how Beatrice and Sidney Webb contributed to the development of the modern welfare state.

Ernest Bevin vs. Stafford Cripps

McElvoy traces the battle between rival traditions of British socialism amid the crises of the 1930s.


Anne McElvoy examines how Ellen Wilkinson went from the Communist Party to the Jarrow March, and to a seat in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Education.

Socialist Feminism and 1968

Anne McElvoy explores how the women’s liberation movement and the politics of 1968 changed the language of socialism in Britain. With contributions from Sally Alexander of Goldsmiths, University of London; Barbara Taylor of Queen Mary, University of London; and Jon Lawrence of the University of Exeter.

Tony Benn

Amid the crises of 1970s, competing strands of British socialism struggled for dominance. There were the statist technocrats, who looked back to Labour’s 1945 victory and the building of the Welfare State; the post-1968 generation who had revived the tradition of a socialism focused more on radical self-realization. Meanwhile, the shop stewards forged a new approach to trade unionism. So when Tony Benn moved from a mild, modernising emphasis on the possibilities of technology, and started marching alongside workers who had occupied their factories, it was a significant turn. Present by Anne McElvoy.

And there’s an omnibus edition of that week’s programmes on the same channel at 9.00 pm in the evening that same day.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/02/2018 - 8:16pm in

Set on and around the New York City waterfront, Jennifer Egan’s new novel Manhattan Beach offers a feminism suited to the “lean in” age.

Me Too, by Alison Caddick

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/02/2018 - 2:51pm in

Sexual harassment and harassment with a gendered aspect built into the exercise of workplace power are pretty commonplace in ordinary workplaces around Australia, a point barely taken up in the Me Too frenzy. So is sex between workmates and between people on different levels of workplace hierarchies. The two shouldn’t be confused. Right now, with Prime Minister Turnbull’s ban on sex between ministers and staffers, people are scrambling to make the necessary distinctions. Sensible commentators are making clarifying statements (one this morning said Me Too has nothing to do with the reaction to Barnaby Joyce), but the problem is that sex and power are everywhere in public discourse at present, and not just as particular scandalous cases.

Even though Barnaby Joyce’s sexual affair is clearly consensual and loving (whatever you think of his various hypocrisies), it has been revealed in the context of the Me Too campaign, and a resurgent, if identity-driven and social media–charged, ‘new feminism’. The features of this broad movement are a background that I think must be taken into account if a certain social hysteria, and knee-jerk measures like Turnbull’s in response, are to be grappled with. Me Too and new feminism, or new gender-based politics, are fuelling the uncontrollable feel of the present moment. There is something more broad-ranging afoot. From a critical point of view, the issue isn’t just about being fair or just in relation to individuals—justice for the women, fairness towards the men—but rather the question balloons out to more embracing concerns about the nature of social relations today. Moreover, given the tendency at present to ‘keep us safe’ (see Simon Cooper’s editorial in our last issue) by instituting formal, often state-based measures, with more or less subtle surveillance and disciplinary features inherent in them, we need to be clear about what these movements actually want, and ask whether they have a grasp of the possible consequences of their approaches.

Me Too has been felt to be a game changer by many because—perhaps like revelations around child sexual abuse—stories are coming out years after abuses have taken place that have clearly been carried in the bodies and emotional memories of those now telling their stories. For some women, the particular incidents they have revealed have had lasting effects on their lives and careers. The view is that the social-media basis of the campaign has ‘empowered’ women to take a stand, and that these revelations will lead to protocols and protections that can be generalised across industries and workplaces. Depending on the fine print of any such protocols (not rules), these may be a welcome feature of workplace relations. It is not a bad thing to aid discussion about and lay down some sort of guide to ethical behaviours in workplace situations; to change and improve, for women especially, aspects of workplace cultures. But Me Too and its social-media modus operandi signify much more than this potential outcome. Indeed the consequences of certain kinds of social-media campaigns are exactly what are not typically thought through; their own consequences can be devastating for individuals, radically divisive rather than healing, and tend towards a generalising of sentiment rather than deeper, thoughtful assessments of their targets or tactics.

One obvious feature of Me Too is its focus on gross violations, in very particular industries, involving high-profile men. This has led coverage in the mainstream to be salacious and scandalising, to promote as always the media’s sine qua non of reporting lore: the ‘story-based’ account around personality and downfall, with unfolding revelations, and promoting feelings of schadenfreude, if not a dark mixture of envy and revenge, in their readers (not to mention some of their writers). Where are the stories about sexual harassment and analysis of how that works corrosively on victims over time in ordinary workplaces among ordinary men and women? Where are the exposés of companies that punish victims while offering protection to harassers through legal assistance to them, as part of protecting their own names?

As social-media campaign per se, the ‘simple’ message/revelation mode of Me Too is amplified differently from the mainstream media, and is arguably more treacherous in its outcome. It relies on the wildfire, networked, instantaneous, short-fused, ‘democratic’, one-level dissemination of judgements/opinions with huge reach, leading to radical exposure—of victims as well as possible perpetrators—and accusation without access to any structured or considered protocols for fairness. Justice may be the aim, but as concept and practice it can be effaced, while ‘harassment’ by media campaign can become a form of exercise of power, the legitimacy of which may never be raised for deliberation.

Standing further back, can other aspects of Me Too provide clues as to its broader social meanings, or the reasons for sex and power being so much at the forefront of contemporary thinking and movement politics?

I feel that the following is harsh, when new feminism is young and energetic, but even the notion of Me Too is a problem, and that no one in the movement seems to see it is a big, blaring warning. One problem with the phrase ‘Me too’ is that its presumed meaning of ‘It happened to me, too’ simply doesn’t transfer into the shorter phrase. ‘Me too’ has a distinctly negative valuation when used in other (linguistic and social) contexts—and a distinctly pathetic ‘voice’. It is a phrase that implies, if not jumping on a bandwagon, then following suit, rather than taking an independent position—one based in reason rather than unthought-through emotion or assertion. Kids, for instance, say it rather a lot. Focused on the object ‘me’, rather than the active subject ‘I’, it is simultaneously assertive and pleading; it insists on some kind of recognition but from a place that remains rather undefined. This assertive ‘me’ possibly accounts for the feeling a lot of people have of being ‘put off’ by the campaign, even if the testimonies of the women coming forward are compelling.

This, then, is the worry that the notion ‘Me too’ carries the connotations of a certain (cultural) narcissism, and yet, or integral with, a frailty around identity; and this coincides with the preoccupation with identity in contemporary feminist, or better, gender politics and activism. Identity politics among other things is the break-up of the political field of embracing political ideologies and their universalising potentials, and dangers. Even if identity politics has a supposed ‘left’ and ‘right’, it is focused through a primary emphasis on the self, and on identity as a personal creation. It is the contrary situation of the assertion of identity yet identity itself being in question (which is a view of identity that is celebrated in various strains of contemporary theory). As some older feminists have pointed out in relation to the no-platforming of critics of some transgender politics, activist focus has shifted from a politics around structures of oppression or exploitation to opprobrium fixed on individuals. There is a brittleness about identity politics, and perhaps in turn it is more inclined towards a focus on perpetrator individuals.

This is not to say that ‘patriarchy’ as some kind of structure has disappeared from the debate or the lexicon of the new activists, but its meaning and emotional ‘charge’ have changed. As power has come to be understood as being everywhere, patriarchy is no longer quite or only the structure of institutional power that second-wave feminism revealed but rather a currency passed between actors everywhere, and thus charged as political, everywhere. ‘Felt’ everywhere, as the new ideologies of power propose, patriarchal power is an inescapable, ever active target. Of course patriarchy is, as well as a big institutional structure, a psychical structure and set of cultural assumptions that are instantiated in and shape daily, intimate situations. But the putative omnipresence of it, as an active force, always of oppression or abuse, and in some way an implacable force, makes the battle endlessly pitched. Patriarchy, as so understood, seems to be the linchpin concept that makes for the collapse of many distinctions, including that between sexism (discrimination) and misogyny (woman hatred), for instance, and that makes heterosexuality per se a term of abuse, as it is in some quarters. This is likely another reason many onlookers feel uneasy, and thus, too, why there are accusations from various quarters of a ‘witch hunt’: given the promiscuous notion of power now so current, will the search for sexual impropriety ever end?

With these concerns in mind, various questions arise. Are there no distinctions to be made between the types and levels of the behaviour of the men accused (public shaming seems to make no distinction)? Whatever happened to the modern idea of punishment being proportionate to the crime? Aren’t we underrating the real difficulties around the sexual encounter: its insecurities and false moves, misunderstandings and gaucheries? And isn’t there often an imbalance in who puts themselves forward to ‘offer’ and who ‘accepts’ sex, and in any case isn’t every sexual encounter larger than its parts, taking on an energy of its own? And so on.

Such questions, I think, point not only to unease about the Me Too campaign style but also to a sense of the inherent difficulties and challenges in what is a fundamental cultural need to negotiate the differences between men and women—their different bodies being a rather basic illustration. Such questions are likely also a statement or intimation of a sense that patriarchy is not everywhere; that it is not totalising. That women and men exactly negotiate and challenge its oppressive grasp daily in ordinary relations on the basis of their difference and the power afforded by it.

To totalise an enemy, to experience it everywhere, and thus to feel your identity constantly potentially voided by it, or that one must autonomously construct one’s identity against it, is a dire situation. These aspects of gender politics and the focus on ‘patriarchy’ today, together with the capacity of social media to propagate a sense of urgency and imperative, shift the focus from scandal and accusation to the context in which Me Too has taken hold. For me they chime with the fault lines and brittleness of key features of the high-tech society we live in: the thinning out of social relations, the burden on the individual for social integration, the precariousness of identity, the technologisation of the body, and the excessive production of affect. Fighting patriarchy without a deep reflection on the nature of the emergent social whole won’t get us far enough.

CAA Chief Stephen Pollard Defends Tory Thug, Who Punched Girl Anti-Fascist Protestor at UWE

I’ve been watching Dick Coughlan’s video on YouTube, ‘Daily Mail Readers = Bonkers Mental Nazi Rapists’, in which Coughlan goes through the comments section on the on-line version of the Daily Heil, and shows you precisely why it’s got that nickname. Coughlan himself is very anti-racist and anti-Nazi, as well as pro-feminist and supports LGBT and trans rights. He’s put up a number of videos about the historical reality of the Holocaust, refuting the assertions of the various Nazis out there that it never happened. I’ve reblogged some of these here. And so it’s no surprise that the comments he reads out here are from Mail readers with extreme right-wing views ranting on about immigrants.

And one of them is Stephen Pollard, the head of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the foul group of liars that have libelled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier.

Remember the fracas that occurred a few weeks ago when the Young Master, Jacob Rees-Moog – whom Coughlan says looks like Lord Snooty from the Beano – turned up to give a talk at the University of the West of England here in Bristol? A group of antifa were present to protest. Snooty, sorry, Mogg in 2014 attended a dinner of the far right Traditional Britain Group, which is very anti-immigrant, viciously anti-Muslim, and at least one of its members does have a fascination with the Nazis. They also want to sell off the NHS. When news of this was published in the Independent, Mogg issued a statement that he went ’cause he didn’t really know who were they were. They just issued him an invite, and so he went along. Well, that’s his excuse. I find it unconvincing. As other people have pointed out, you hardly go to a formal dinner of an organisation without knowing at least something about them. But the incident explains why the antifa were protesting him.

One of them, a young woman, shouted ‘Racist! Nazi!’ at Mogg as he walked past. One of Mogg’s Tory fanboys then stood in front of her and punched her in the mouth. He also tried to hit her again. Coughlan also makes the point that this character was also photographed wearing a Nazi uniform. This was at a fancy dress party, admittedly. However, you can’t hire Nazi uniforms from costume shops. You have to buy them online. This is another point Coughlan makes, which leaves it a good question about how much sympathy this thug really does have with the Nazis.

Amidst all the controversy, Pollard had a piece commenting on it published in the Heil. And guess what? He declared that the real Nazis were the left-wingers making accusations of racism.

This tells you all you need to know about Pollard and his grubby crew in the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Pollard and his comrades have zero interest in tackling real anti-Semitism. As has been pointed out by Tony Greenstein, he’s true-blue Tory Jewish establishment. The CAA’s website has little to say about real Nazis and anti-Semites, like the BNP and National Action. Nor is there much criticism of the Tories. There is far more criticism of the Labour party for alleged anti-Semitism. And it’s the CAA and its counterpart in the Labour party, the Jewish Labour Movement, who are responsible for pushing the anti-Semitism smears and libels.

And their metric for deciding who is an anti-Semite is risibly simple: it’s support for Israel. It doesn’t matter how right-wing someone is, if they support Israel, Pollard will appear and defend them as not anti-Semitic at all. Like he did the Polish government, despite the anti-Semitic character of several pieces of legislation criminalising blaming Poles for the crimes of the Nazis. Among those the Israel lobby has smeared as anti-Semites are self-respecting Jewish people, who have, or whose families have, suffered real anti-Semitic abuse and racially motivated assault. But because they have been critical of Israel and its seven decades long campaign of persecution of the indigenous Palestinians, Pollard and his cronies have libelled them as anti-Semitic.

And so this squalid, amoral liar defends the Tory thug, who punched an anti-racist protester, and smears her, and people like her, as Nazis. Because she and they are left-wing, and so a threat to the Tories and his own organisation. The CAA desperately needs to position itself as the leading organisation tackling anti-Semitism. They aren’t, not by a very long chalk. They’re only interested in anti-Semitism in so far as accusations of it can be weaponised against Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum and the true Labour moderates, to defend Thatcherism domestically and Israel abroad. And they are afraid of Antifa as these people challenge their appropriation of anti-racism and anti-Fascism.

As for Antifa themselves, the Christian minister, Harvard lecturer and left-wing activist Cornell West stated that it was them who saved him and the other people from across the faith and ethnic spectrum, including Jews, from being killed by the Alt-Right and Nazi stormtroopers in Charlotteville as they attended an interfaith service.

Pollard and the Jewish Labour Movement couldn’t care less for real victims of anti-Semitism. They just wish to stamp out criticism of Israel, and so will smear decent non- and anti-racists, including Jewish victims of racist assault, and defend right-wing thugs, in order to do so.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at Pollard defending a right-wing thug and attacking left-wing anti-racist activists. Jonathan Hoffman, a former president of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, was photographed in the company of Paul Besser, Britain First’s intelligence office, when they were both out protesting against a Palestinian convention and expo in London.

Cartoon: The selective free speech warrior

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/02/2018 - 11:50pm in

A backlash against the #MeToo movement rages, with conservatives spluttering about the awful feminists posing an existential threat to liberal democratic order, or some such thing.  Look, I am not a fan of Twitter's mob mentality even when I agree with the mob. But that's the nature of the medium, a problem not isolated to just anti-sexual harassment activists.

This backlash is a massively disproportionate response, indicative of a highly distorted media universe where pundits are rewarded for saying that the nation's biggest problems originate with liberals -- remember the obsession with "PC on campus" during the election? As I have noted elsewhere, the speech concept has been utterly perverted to suit right wing efforts to chill speech.

A few relevant links:

The linguist and progressive activist George Lakoff, author of "Don't Think of an Elephant", is being sued for defamation by a wealthy Georgian-American businessman who was present at the infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. Lakoff cited the businessman's alleged involvement in money-laundering in a TV interview. The businessman's legal team includes a lawyer who represented Trump in a previous lawsuit. I find this incredibly chilling, and deserving of much, much wider coverage than it's getting. Lakoff has a GoFundMe set up for his legal expenses.

Also deserving major headlines is the plight of the "J20" inauguration protesters still facing felony rioting charges. Many had their charges dropped, but 59 people still face the possibility of years in prison for merely being present when a few people engaged in vandalism. This is huge news with major implications for the right to protest.

Then there's the "Anti-Semitism Awareness Act." In this day and age of neo-Nazis, it sounds fine, right? But in practice, it conflates legitimate criticism of the Israeli government with bigotry. Many liberal Jewish groups are opposed to it for this reason. Of course, the Trump administration is appointing a fervent supporter of the act to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education.

Follow Jen on Twitter at @JenSorensen