Panel: Women: the Longest Revolution?: Platypus 2016 convention
Panel event: Women: The Longest Revolution?
held Saturday, April 2, 2016
Marilyn Nissim-Sabat (Lewis University)
Christine Riddiough (Chicago Women's Liberation Union)
Judith Gardiner (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Named after Juliet Mitchell’s 1966 essay, this panel will explore the long history of the struggle for women’s liberation from the vantage point of the Left today. Mitchell critiques bourgeois feminist demands such as the right to work and equal pay to posit the need instead for equal work. She calls for a politics capable of taking on the fundamental transformation of society and more immediate demands “in a single critique of the whole of women’s situation.” In keeping with the spirit of this essay, we ask again what the relationship might be between the struggle for general social emancipation and the particular tasks of feminism? How have Leftists imagined this relationship historically? What do we make of it today?
While the “woman question” has played an important role in the history of the Left, its automatic inclusion in current Leftist politics does not necessarily reflect a greater understanding of what the struggle for women’s liberation might mean politically. How exactly is it “the longest revolution?” When did it begin? If the crisis of bourgeois society in the industrial revolution posed the need for women’s freedom as inseparable from the project of human emancipation, then what do we make of the later separation of the feminist movement from the workers’ movement for socialism? What do the seeming successes of feminism tell us when thought in relation to the failure of the proletarian struggle to deepen the task of human freedom?