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UCL Women's Liberation



UCL Women’s Liberation SIG Spring Term 2021 – Bec Wonders

By UCL Women's Liberation, on 1 April 2021

‘Complicated Sisterhood: negotiating socialist feminism in the second wave periodicals Red Rag and Scarlet Women

Bec Wonders, doctoral researcher, Glasgow School of Art

The Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s and 1980s in the UK saw a surge in women’s publishing that generated a networked feminist communications circuit in the form of newsletters and magazines. These periodicals functioned as essential forums through which to develop and disagree on their political positions. The letters and editorials reveal that the internal debates and disagreements with which second wave feminists were grappling still remain contentious today.

One such site of contention was the attempt by socialist feminists to give both socialism and feminism equal concern, based on the broad conception that the oppression of women was situated within the struggle against capitalism, and therefore some argued that men could (and should) be included in the women’s movement. This was met with suspicion and hostility from radical and revolutionary feminists, who understood the specific nature of women’s oppression as being rooted in male domination and autonomous feminist organising as necessitating the exclusion of men.

However, not all women fell neatly into one camp or the other. Several periodicals created space for this tension to unravel, the most notable of which are Red Rag: A Magazine of Women’s Liberation (1972-1980) and Scarlet Women: Newsletter of the Socialist Feminist

Current (1976-1982). While significant differences exist between the two publications, both featured disagreements in the form of editorials and letters that demonstrate the existential workings-out of what each periodical should be and how it could act as a bridge between socialism, Marxism and feminism.

These examples may demonstrate to feminist scholars and activists today how print-based networks provided a necessary space for negotiating feminist conflicts about collective working, and how to bridge ideological positions and strategies. Moreover, these records facilitate the creation of intergenerational coalitions between women by placing our contemporary negotiations in a temporal continuum that follows on from the struggles of second wave feminists and resists the historiographical model of the repetitive jump-starting of feminist generations.

UCL Women’s Liberation are delighted to welcome Bec Wonders.

Bec Wonders is a feminist researcher in the field of feminist conflict, the Women’s Liberation Movement and feminist publishing networks at the Glasgow School of Art. She earned a Masters in Publishing at Simon Fraser University and co-founded the Vancouver Women’s Library. Currently, Bec runs Frauenkultur: an online archive of second wave feminist writing. Bec is also a freelance illustrator and printmaker. Her work can be found at www.becwonders.com.

When: Apr 28, 2021 14:00-15:00 London

A recording is now available via UCL Media Central ‘Complicated Sisterhood: negotiating socialist feminism in the second wave periodicals Red Rag and Scarlet Woman

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