Socialist Feminism 101 Recap

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By Sean Duffy

Last month CDSA’s Socialist Feminist Working Group hosted their first educational event, Socialist Feminism 101. A crowd of roughly fifty gathered at the Manning Branch Library, a midpoint between the North Side, South Side, and West Cook branches, and were led by members of the SocFem WG through a robust primer covering the history, theory, and praxis at the heart of socialist feminism. Snacks, LaCroix, and child watch were also provided.

What is socialist feminism? At its core, socialist feminism is feminism with class consciousness and an intersectional analysis. Unlike a Liberal (or bourgeois) Feminist, a Socialist Feminist sees capitalism as being fundamentally linked to patriarchy. Socialist Feminists want to see changes in material conditions and not just increased representation.

SocFem Steering Committee member Laura Colaneri defined the differences between an essentialist view of gender and the constructionist view that’s core to a intersectional analysis. Rather than seeing gender as being determined inherently by biological sex, a constructionist view identifies gender as a social construct, invented by society and not directly tied to one’s body. We are still largely socialized in accordance to the gender binary of course, with Colaneri emphasizing that gender is “not imaginary but imagined.”

Colaneri continued with a discussion on reproductive labor, work that people have to do for themselves to survive and reproduce (such as cleaning, cooking, and caring for children) that is not for the purpose of receiving a wage. “Capitalism relies on the unpaid labor of women”, explained Colaneri, and that because of the extra burden of reproductive labor that women often find themselves working “double days”.

Other speakers from SocFem included Sarah Hurd on the different waves of feminism through history; Emillie Shireman on labor organizing in female-dominated professions (such as nursing); and SocFem Co-chair Rachel Zibrat on the different socialist feminist practices CDSA uses on a chapter-wide level like feminist process and progressive stack. The 101 concluded with a Q+A, or “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Socialist Feminism but Were Afraid to Ask”.

The Socialist Feminist Working Group next meets on August 21. Get all the details here.