Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Back To The Future: Feminist Struggles Against Waged Work

I want to point out three suggested readings. Two are articles at the excellent Caring Labor blog, an article about the Canadian feminist union SORWUC, and an article by the historian Dorothy Sue Cobble about feminism and service-sector work. The third suggestion is the set of material in the "work" section of the online archive of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. Much of these articles deals with underappreciated and understudied aspects of the past. Specifically, these articles describe attempts at building powerful fighting organizations that confronted power in waged workplaces and which were informed by feminist values and women's concerns.

Ths material is worth reading for its own sake, for the way it speaks to current concerns with workplace organizing and with feminism. I've been writing a series of pieces on workplace organizing and feminism (the most recent piece is here and contains links to the rest of the pieces so far). Past experiences of this sort of struggle have lessons to teach us that we can and should use in the present.

It's also worth reading this material because we need a past. That is, we could use a sense of past feminist struggles on the job, as part of present feminist struggles on the job. I think many of us have inherited a limited understanding of feminism, of the possibilities of feminism. As part of this we've also inherited a partial understanding of the activities of actually existing feminists. This can shape our impulses in the present when it comes to activity. It's easy to feel like being a feminist means doing a few things and it's easy not to associate feminism with other activities - like workplace organizing and other attempts to build organizations of working class people who seek to exert power. This can lead feminists to neglect workplace organizing and lead workplace organizers to overlook the feminist components of their activity. A better grasp of the history of feminist struggles on the job and against waged work would help enrich our activities in the present and help us see various ways our organizing fits into a broader feminist agenda.

1 comment:

JRB said...

Love the sentiments expressed here. Feminism and class struggle have always been the same struggle in so many ways, yet there is a tendency to lose sight of this when we lose sight of even very recent history -- or don't fully account for what is happening around us right now. Stellar insight.

Thanks so much for the links.