Women and the Family
PDF EBook by Leon Trotsky
EBook DescriptionReally useful pamphlet to read, for several reasons. Women and the Family PDF EBook Perhaps people often wonder why the formative years of post- PDF1917 Russia became the first place in Europe to legalise abortion and divorce on demand, one of the first to legalize homosexuality, and had one of the first governing bodies to recognise the crushing effect the implementation and ideology the nuclear family had on women. Reading these snippets of history makes that much easier to understand: the vast social change precipitated by the revolutions of 1917 were started and led by women and only brought forward with the participation of women. It was a time when the day to day lived experience of struggle confirmed the equal importance of women and men. It was a time where moving forward towards what many believed to be a socialist future necessarily demanded the emancipation of women from the family and their involvement in the depths of social life. This text brings to life the ol' saying "no socialism without women's liberation and no women's liberation without socialism".
That said, it's worth maintaining a critical appreciation of Trotsky's writing on women at this historical time. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see some of his ideas and positions were a product of their time. He often writes in praise of 'mothers' as opposed to 'women' - often seeing them both as synonymous - and there's still the implicit suggestion in some of his writings that motherhood and reproduction define in large part the female sex. We understand, living in the slipstream of gay and women's liberation movements, this kind of thinking to have been thoroughly superseded. The mere ability for the female sex to reproduce does not (and should not) imply that that should define their social positioning and role. In the language of post-Beauvoir feminist scholars this is to say, one's biological sex - and what one's sex is capable of - bares no necessary connection to one's gender.
Trotsky was writing in a completely different period - and with hindsight we can also see his work on women is very far ahead of its time. While at times he seems to suggest that simply replacing the family (and thus the material conditions of oppression) will liberate all women from oppression, this would be to ignore the intricacies of what he argues. He does put serious emphasis on the need for cultural change amongst the working class (which I read as needing to have a battle of ideas and attitudes). Trotsky's writing's on women are hands down a middle finger to this crude "things will automatically be fine after the revolution" argument some make. Trotsky recognised that even after the explosion of revolutionary social change, oppressive ideas had to be actively challenged and smashed with a "battering ram". The process of change for women will never be automatic.
This, for me, is a stark reminder that overcoming oppression is not going to be only a matter of destroying it's material base (although, obviously, that's utterly central and crucial). But we also need to fight for ideas in the here and now and beyond, be against oppression at every turn, and maybe then we can take advantage of the fruits of our struggles and build a better future. Like this book? Read online this: Women's Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle, Women's Studies Quarterly (91 (91:1 2): Women, Girls And The Culture Of Education (V. 19, No. 1 & 2).
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