International Women’s Day Reading List

From feminist theory, to history and contemporary politics, these are some of Pluto’s best books, old and new, that celebrate radical women.

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Revolutionary Learning: Marxism, Feminism and Knowledge by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab Carpenter T03129

Revolutionary Learning by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab explores the Marxist and feminist theorisation of knowledge production and learning. From an explicitly feminist perspective, the authors reconsider the contributions of Marx, Gramsci and Freire to educational theory, expanding Marxist analyses of education by considering it in relation to patriarchal and imperialist capitalism.  The reproductive nature of institutions is revealed through an ethnography of schools and pushed further by the authors who go on to examine how education and consciousness connects with the broader environment of public policy, civil society, the market, and other instruments of ‘public pedagogy.’

The book’s use of work by feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial scholars means it will have significant implications for critical education scholarship, but its use value extends beyond educational praxis; providing the tools dissect, theorize, resist and transform capitalist social relations.

 

Captive Revolution: Palestinian Women’s Anti-Colonial Struggle within the Israeli Prison System by Nahla AbdoAbdo T02851

Throughout the world, women have played a part in struggles against colonialism, imperialism and other forms of oppression, but their vital contributions to revolutions, national liberation and anti-colonial resistance are rarely chronicled.

Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolution seeks to break the silence on Palestinian women political detainees. Based on stories of the women themselves, as well as her own experiences as a former political prisoner, Abdo draws on a wealth of oral history and primary research in order to analyse their anti-colonial struggle, their agency and their appalling treatment as political detainees. Through crucial comparisons between the experiences of female political detainees in other conflict; a history of female activism emerges.

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Leila Khaled: The Poster Girl of Palestinian Militancy’ International Woman’s Day

We’re celebrating International Woman’s Day with ‘the poster girl of Palestinian militancy’ and subject of Sarah Irving’s biography: Leila Khaled. Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation tells the story of Khaled’s remarkable life as a female activist in a man’s movement. From hijacking planes, to her involvement in radical sects, Leila Khaled’s activism made her as era-defining as Che Guevara.

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When Leila Khaled hijacked her first plane, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was a left-wing organization with international links and the declared intention of winning the return of the Palestinian people to the lands they had left only 20 years before. This was the era of Che Guevara, killed in Bolivia just two years earlier, and of liberation struggles in South East Asia. The right of oppressed peoples to resist by armed means was discussed worldwide, and the heroes of these movements decorated the walls of student bedrooms and left-wing homes. The second wave of feminism was also breaking, adding another aspect to the environment in which news of this young female hijacker would be received.

In Leila’s Middle East home, Israel had just defeated the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the Six Day War, humiliating the Arab world militarily and capturing the remaining Palestinian territories west of the River Jordan and north of the Sinai. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, including thousands of refugees from the initial establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, had been living under Jordanian and Egyptian rule, but were now subject to Israeli military occupation. Despite this, the world’s attention to the Palestinians themselves was minimal. They were seen by the West as a small, dispossessed refugee people, caught up in the hostility between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, and of little importance except as an excuse for aggression by Arab powers. Amongst the Palestinians of the refugee camps of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, discontent had been brewing. A resistance movement, which had been growing since the mid 1960s, had been further radicalized and popularized by the Six Day War and by Palestinians’ increasing suspicion of the hollow support voiced by Arab regimes. As Rosemary Sayigh, who lived in Lebanon throughout the 1970s, puts it:

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‘Feminism is for Everybody’ bell hooks for International Woman’s Day

bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody is the antidote to every ‘when’s international men’s day?!’ tweet. Designed to be read by all genders, this short, accessible introduction to feminist theory, by one of its liveliest and most influential practitioners, seeks to rescue feminism from esoterism and academic jargon; simplifying, arguing and convincing.

 

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Everywhere I go I proudly tell folks who want to know who I am and what I do that I am a writer, a feminist theorist, a cultural critic. I tell them I write about movies and popular culture, analysing the message in the medium. Most people find this exciting and want to know more. Everyone goes to movies, watches television, glances through magazines, and everyone has thoughts about the messages they receive, about the images they look at. It is easy for the diverse public I encounter to understand what I do as a cultural critic, to understand my passion for writing (lots of folks want to write, and do). But feminist theory — that’s the place where the questions stop. In- stead I tend to hear all about the evil of feminism and the bad feminists: how “they” hate men; how “they” want to go against nature — and god; how “they” are all lesbians; how “they” are taking all the jobs and making the world hard for white men, who do not stand a chance. When I ask these same folks about the feminist books or magazines they read, when I ask them about the feminist talks they have heard, about the feminist activists they know, they respond by let- ting me know that everything they know about feminism has come into their lives thirdhand, that they really have not come close enough to feminist movement to know what really happens, what it’s really about. Mostly they think feminism is a bunch of angry women who want to be like men. They do not even think about feminism as being about rights — about women gaining equal rights. When I talk about the feminism I know — up close and personal — they willingly listen, although when our conversations end, they are quick to tell me I am different, not like the “real” feminists who hate men, who are angry. I assure them I am as a real and as radical a feminist as one can be, and if they dare to come closer to feminism they will see it is not how they have imagined it.

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Journalism from below: the 100th anniversary of the Workers’ Dreadnought

Pluto author Katherine Connelly has written a new piece for Counterfire.org, published on International Women’s Day, and on the 100th anniversary of the pioneering revolutionary newspaper created by working-class suffragettes – the Workers’ Dreadnought.

We’ve reproduced the article below – but you can also find it on the Counterfire website, here. You can find out more about Katherine’s book, Sylvia Pankhurst: Suffragette, Socialist and Scourge of Empire (Pluto, 2013) by clicking on the cover image. You can also buy it on the Pluto website with 10% off (just £11.50 including free UK P&P).

Katherine Connelly

womans_dreadnought1On 8 March 1914 a suffragette demonstration in Trafalgar Square was met by mounted police and considerable violence towards the demonstrators. The next day five women and five men were brought before an angry magistrate who complained “Half Scotland Yard had turned out to keep a lot of desperadoes in order!”[1] While these experiences were hardly new for the suffragette movement, this demonstration represented radical changes afoot in the votes for women campaign.

The demonstration was organised by the East London Federation of the Suffragettes (ELFS), a group that only two months before had separated from the largest militant suffragette organisation, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which disapproved of the ELFS’s emphasis on building a campaign that centrally involved working-class women. The 8 March demonstration reflected the distinctive politics of the ELFS which was led by the socialist suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst. Continue reading

Radical roots of International Women’s Day


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As you may have heard, today is International Women’s Day. Amongst the cosy media friendly torrent of depoliticised declarations of womanhood you may be forgiven for not noting its radical history.

The original purpose of the day was the forging of solidarity with women around the globe and to demand an end to exploitation, inequality and oppression. First proposed by German communist leaders Clara Zetkin and Luise Zietz, it was inspired by the National Women’s Day celebrated by the Socialist Party of America in 1909. Following the russian revolution in 1917, the day was celebrated throughout the eastern bloc. In 1977 the UN declared its support for International Women’s Day, which spread the celebration to an international level. This manifestation would now celebrate Women’s rights and world peace.

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Have a look at the Pluto titles on Women’s movements and bypass the de-politicisation of the international Women’s Day! The the ongoing conflicts, struggles and problems fought for by the women’s movement are by no means over and cannot be dismissed by simplistic choice between femininity or radicalism. Even the focus on Women’s achievements, though important, does little to acknowledge the ongoing structural inequalities that remain unchanged and must be challenged with nuance and subtlety. bell hook’s groundbreaking work led the way in thinking about the women ignored by mainstream western-centric feminism such as female migrant workers, sex workers, transgendered people and black women. Other titles below show the shifting role of womanhood as the effects of war, the nation, and labour struggles make their impact and show how the co-option of feminism by mainstream liberal democracy can lead to a dissolution of its emancipatory potential. Happy IWD!

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Ain’t I a Woman

bell hooks

A Pluto Classic. A provocative and inspiring book on the culture and politics of black women’s rights.

“A fiery piece of polemic filled with merciless criticism of feminism and black activism alike for their neglect of black women’s rights … provocative and inspiring … visionary.” – New Statesman

“One of the twenty most influential women’s books of the last twenty years.” – Publishers Weekly

£21.99 only £19.50 on the Pluto site

Feminist Theory – New Edition

From Margin to Center

bell hooks

A new edition of a classic work – a sweeping examination of the core issues of sexual politics by one of feminism’s most important and critical voices.

£21.99 only £19.79 on the Pluto site

Shadow Lives

The Forgotten Women of the War on Terror

Victoria Brittain. Foreword by John Berger. Afterword by Marina Warner

Reveals the impact on the wives and families of men incarcerated in Guantanamo, or in prison in Britain and the US, during the ‘war on terror’.

“A searching, sensitive, and wrenching account of the ordeal of the women left behind, their torment, their endurance and courage, their triumphs over the cruel “extension of prison to home.” And not least, a revealing picture of what we have allowed ourselves to become.
– Noam Chomsky

“This is a window into an invisible world…a reminder that abandoning normal legal standards has serious consequences for the Rule of Law.” – Helena Kennedy, QC

£14.99 only £13.00 on the Pluto site

Memoirs of an Early Arab Feminist

The Life and Activism of Anbara Salam Khalidi

Anbara Salam Khalidi. Foreword by Marina Warner. Translated by Tarif Khalidi

The first English translation of the memoirs of Anbara Salam Khalidi, the iconic Arab feminist.

“These memoirs are a fascinating record of experiences witnessed by a pioneer feminist in Beirut whose name is rightly synonymous with the feminist, social and literary renaissance of the Arab East. … From now on [neither] the history of Beirut in the modern period nor the history of the modern feminist movement in the Arab world [can] be written without reference to these very memoirs. “ – Kamal Salibi, prominent Lebanese historian and former Professor of History at the American University of Beirut

“Reading the memoir of Anbara Salam Khalidi is an inspiring and disturbing experience: here is a truly exceptional woman, who was moved throughout her life by those qualities that remain the highest ethical ideals: courage, love, generosity, independence of spirit–and modesty. But as well a poignant and forthright picture of an individual woman’s life, the book was immediately recognised as a major work of historical testimony when it appeared in 1978. Anbara stands witness to a momentous period [of history]; throughout, she was in the vanguard of reform, present and active at key turning points of the turbulent twentieth century. … These memoirs have rightly become a classic with the Arabic public, and now, in her son Tarif Khalidi’s translation, can at last reach Anglophone readers. The book offers us unparalleled insight into a rare human being, whose fascinating account of her life will make every reader wish to have known her; her story sharpens the sense that the freedoms that some of us are fortunate to enjoy were hard-won by forebears like Anbara.” – Marina Warner, from the foreword

£16.99 only £15.00 on the Pluto site

How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women

Lindsey German

Shows how conflict has changed women’s lives and how those changes have put women at the centre of peace campaigning.

“Lindsey German links two major forms of women’s involvement in war: as activists opposing conflict and as workers during it. Seen through the prism of women’s experience, German tells a fascinating and important story.” – Nina Power, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Roehampton University and the author of One-Dimensional Woman (2009)

£16 only £14.00 on the Pluto site

Feminism Seduced

How Global Elites Use Women’s Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World

Hester Eisenstein

A reinterpretation of mainstream feminism, showing how elites in developed countries utilise women’s labour and ideas to maintain their power.

“One of the leading intellectuals of contemporary feminism builds a troubling analysis of where mainstream American feminism has gone—celebrating gains for middle-class women, but also converging with ruthless corporate interests that exploit or marginalize most of the world’s women. … Her remedy, need to be heard by everyone concerned with women’s interests and with social justice.” – Raewyn Connell, author of Southern Theory

“In this impressive book, Hester Eisenstein provides a provocative update of the classic argument of the relationship between Marxism and feminism. … What sets her analysis apart is her unflinching critique of hegemonic feminism’s complicity in abandoning issues of class and race even as it pays lip service to them. “ – Manisha Desai, Director Women’s Studies Program, University of Connecticut

£18.99 only £17.00 on the Pluto site

Hidden From History

300 Years of Women’s Oppression and the Fight Against It

Sheila Rowbotham

‘An important and valuable achievement.’ New York Times
‘Groundbreaking … One of the first books to make women’s history available to a wide audience.’ Guardian

£14.99 only £13.00 on the Pluto site

Making Peace with the Earth

Vandana Shiva

Demolishes the myths of corporate globalisation and shows its devastating environmental impact.

“One of the world’s most prominent radical scientists.” – The Guardian

£14.99 only £13.00 on the Pluto site

Radical reads for International Women’s Day

On this day in 1908 15,000 women needletrades workers in the USA marched for the vote and better pay. In 1911 the first International Women’s Day was celebrated, having been proposed by the German revolutionary socialist Clara Zetkin to ‘set aside a particular day each year to remember women and their struggles.’

Here are our top recommendations of Pluto Press books related to women’s liberation. The struggle continues!

Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent, Laurie Penny

Penny Red

Notes from the New Age of Dissent

Laurie Penny. Foreword by Warren Ellis

Selected writings from a prominent voice of the new activist left. Reflections on being young, broke and angry in the twenty-first century.

“Cuts, sexism and riots, Laurie Penny’s fresh and angry voice captures the moment and the important issues – highly recommended.” – Polly Toynbee

“Penny is re-inventing the language of dissent, delivering verbal taser-barbs to the left and right, and causing apoplexy among the old men in cardigans who run the British blogosphere.” – Paul Mason, economics editor of BBC’s Newsnight

£12.99 only £11.50 on the Pluto site

Feminism Seduced, How Global Elites Use Women’s Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World, Hester Eisenstein

Feminism Seduced

How Global Elites Use Women’s Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World

Hester Eisenstein

A reinterpretation of mainstream feminism, showing how elites in developed countries utilise women’s labour and ideas to maintain their power.

“One of the leading intellectuals of contemporary feminism builds a troubling analysis of where mainstream American feminism has gone—celebrating gains for middle-class women, but also converging with ruthless corporate interests that exploit or marginalize most of the world’s women. … Her remedy, need to be heard by everyone concerned with women’s interests and with social justice.” – Raewyn Connell, author of Southern Theory

“In this impressive book, Hester Eisenstein provides a provocative update of the classic argument of the relationship between Marxism and feminism. … What sets her analysis apart is her unflinching critique of hegemonic feminism’s complicity in abandoning issues of class and race even as it pays lip service to them. “ – Manisha Desai, Director Women’s Studies Program, University of Connecticut

£18.99 only £17.00 on the Pluto site

Comrade or Brother? A History of the British Labour Movement, Mary Davis

Comrade or Brother? – Second Edition

A History of the British Labour Movement

Mary Davis

A revised, updated and expanded edition of this classic feminist account of British labour history.

“The book stands comparison with A.L.Morton’s ‘People’s History’ and G.D.H. Cole’s ‘Common People’. But it is more than just this. It is in a real sense a history for our own times” – John Foster, Emeritus Professor, University of the West of Scotland

“This book is ideal for its purpose. I only wish it had been available in the decades when I was teaching trade union courses.” – Jim Fryth, Labour History Review

£15.99 only £14.00 on the Pluto site

Women’s Rights: Small Guides to Big Issues, Geraldine Terry

Women’s Rights

Small Guides to Big Issues

Geraldine Terry

A guide to womens’ rights the world over — part of our new Small Guides to Big Issues series published in asssocation with Oxfam

“This small guide to women’s rights is a hard-hitting exposé of one of the most important issues facing the world today.” – Polly Toynbee for the Guardian

£9.99 only £8.50 on the Pluto site

Eco-Sufficiency and Global Justice: Women Write Political EcologyAriel Salleh (ed)

Eco-Sufficiency and Global Justice

Women Write Political Ecology

Edited by Ariel Salleh

Explores solutions that can prevent environmental meltdown whilst also empowering the oppressed populations of the world.

“In these times of multiple crises and breakdowns, no one dimensional reductionist framework will show a way out. The Eco-Sufficiency anthology based on the diversity and pluralism of perspectives inspired by ecofeminism is a must read for anyone searching for alternatives” – Vandana Shiva, Director of the Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology, New Delhi; author, activist, and winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize

“These essays on grassroots struggles over labour, MDGs, or Kyoto, reveal the workings of a sustaining ‘meta-industrial’ economy. To help political ecologists and ecological economists take this into their analyses … We will revamp institutions and theories founded on dominance and competition. By far and away the best collection of ecological feminist writing I have found.” – Professor Richard Norgaard, Energy and Resources, University of California, Berkeley

£19.99 only £17.50 on the Pluto site

International Women’s Day offers from Pluto

The women's movement remains active and a necessity

It was 100 years ago, in 1911, that International Women’s Day (IWD) was honoured for the first time, with more than 1 million men and women attending rallies across Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. It was the start of an energised and vibrant campaign for women’s rights to work; vote; be trained; hold public office; and, ultimately, to end discrimination.

It is of course no great revelation that such discrimination has not been historically overcome, though we should retain some perspective –things are much better now than they were when IWD was first launched. But inevitably revolution begets reaction, and in the wake of significant legislative advances, and the economic advancement of women across our societies, opposition has persisted, with often violent consequences.

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