women's liberation

Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr
Lyndsey Jenkins
Biteback Publishing, 2015
282 pages

When Lady Constance Bulwer-Lytton was arrested in 1909 for protesting outside British parliament, and went on prison hunger-strike, for demanding women’s right to vote, she was, to prevent an embarrassing political fuss, released early.

This avoided the spectacle of one of Britain’s best-connected aristocrats being subjected to the government’s policy of force-feeding hunger-striking suffragettes.

Eleanor Marx
By Rachel Holmes
Bloomsbury, 2015
508 pages

“Is it not wonderful when you come to look at things squarely in the face, how rarely we seem to practise all the fine things we preach to others?” lamented Eleanor Marx in 1892. 

Karl Marx’s youngest daughter was to be the tragic victim of this truism, as Rachel Holmes explores in her biography that extricates this pioneering revolutionary socialist feminist from the giant shadow of her father.

As women around the world prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 and continue the struggle against entrenched sexism, misogyny and gender-based violence, Palestinian women are doing all that with the added burden of living under Israeli occupation.

After Turkish forces took the previously ISIS-held town of al-Bab on February 23, clashes have intensified in northern Syria between Turkish forces and local proxies occupying an enclave in northern Syria, on one hand, and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the other.

The SDF is an alliance of progressive armed groups — the largest of which are Kurdish-based Peoples Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Defence Units (YPJ) — that is subordinate to the grassroots democratic structures of the Democratic Federation of North Syria.

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cracks down on opponents — including the left-wing, Kurdish-led Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose 59 MPs have all been issued with arrest warrants and whose leaders are in jail — HDP parliamentary group co-chair and Instanbul MP Filiz Kerestecioğlu declared that the HDP’s women MPs would join the International Women’s Strike on March 8.

Women's March against Trump in Denver, Colarado on February 21.

March 8 is International Women's Day, a day initiated by socialist women in 1909 to commemorate a strike by US women garment workers. In 1917, demonstrations by women workers on IWD in Russia sparked the revolution that brought down the Tsar.

IWD is marked globally, but in recent years the politics has often become depoliticised. However, this year a range of attacks on women around the world has led to the call for a International Women’s Strike to mark the day.

International Women’s Day (IWD) in Australia has lost its radical edge. In recent years, it has become more about holding cosy breakfasts and receptions where female bureaucrats and businesswomen can rub shoulders with political leaders and congratulate themselves on their “success”.

These events can make us forget that IWD has a radical socialist history of women determinedly marching for their rights. And once it even helped spark a revolution.

Of course, die-hard misogynist and self-confessed Donald Trump fan Sam Newman was hostile to the AFL Women’s (AFLW) league infamously calling it “unbelievably stupid and ridiculous” on Channel Nine’s The Footy Show.

It turns out plenty think otherwise.

Marginalised communities from Native Americans to Black people to Muslims and Latino immigrants, who have suffered under successive US governments for centuries, are now up against a new aggressive and blunt attack by President Donald Trump. Aside from rolling back a slew of rights in just weeks in office, Trump has also stoked the sparks of a new resistance across identity lines with the potential to draw on diverse histories of oppression and struggle.

Amid the horrors of Syria’s multi-sided civil war, a ray of hope has broken out in the north.

Led by left-wing Kurdish forces in Rojava following a 2012 insurrection that liberated the area from the regime’s control, the Rojava Revolution aims to build a new system on the principles of women’s liberation, a multi-ethnic participatory democracy, ecology and solidarity.

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