Cover image for Women and the politics of class
Women and the politics of class
Brenner, Johanna.
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Publication Information:
New York : Monthly Review Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
vi, 330 pages ; 24 cm
Rethinking women's oppression -- Gender and the state -- Gender and class in U.S. labor history -- The feminization of poverty, comparable worth, and feminist political discourse -- The politics of welfare reform -- Welfare reform: reframing the debate -- Socialist-feminism versus communtarian conservatism -- Democracy, community, and care -- Meeting the challenge of the political right -- The best of times, the worst of times: U.S. feminism today.

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HQ1154 .B83 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"Johanna Brenner writes with a clarity of purpose that arises out of a lifetime of participation in the struggles of working-class women. A major voice on the American left."
--Mike Davis, May 2000

Is there a future for feminism? The debate over the direction and politics of the women's movement has been joined recently by post-feminists and anti-feminists, in addition to competing feminist perspectives. In Women and the Politics of Class, Johanna Brenner offers a distinctive view, arguing for a strategic turn in feminist politics toward coalitions centered on the interests of working-class women.

Women and the Politics of Class engages many crucial contemporary feminist issues-abortion, reproductive technology, comparable worth, the impoverishment of women, the crisis in care-giving, and the shredding of the social safety net through welfare reform and budget cuts. These problems, Brenner argues, must be set in the political and economic context of a state and society dominated by the imperatives of capital accumulation.

Drawing on historical explorations of the labor movement and working-class politics, Brenner provides a fresh materialist approach to one of the most important issues of feminist theory today: the intersection of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class.

Author Notes

Johanna Brenner is Coordinator of Women's Studies at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. She has written for New Left Review, Gender and Society, and other periodicals, and is a long-time activist for reproductive rights, welfare rights, and socialism

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Brenner's book includes 10 previously published articles on women and leftist ideology, followed by a concluding essay newly written for this volume. Unfortunately, nothing here is particularly fresh, from the Marxist rhetoric to the rigid judgments on contemporary life. Coordinator of women's studies at Portland State University, Brenner maintains that although second-wave feminism has succeeded in increasing individual women's opportunities and political and economic clout, those who have benefited are middle-class and wealthy women, leaving most women, especially working-class and poor women, out of the picture. Yet the strength of her argument gets mired in her polemical language. Must she refer to "women's lower costs of reproduction" when she means to say that women eat less than men? On the other hand, some of the obscure language could be tactical: feminists who would be annoyed that Brenner opposes the "comparable worth" struggle (equal pay for similar work) will be merely confused when told that it reinforces "the necessity and validity of meritocratic hierarchy." But it's when Brenner hits certain buzzwords, like "family" or "work," that she may alienate more readers. The Working Families Party in New York is often considered a progressive grassroots organization, but Brenner brands it conservative: "it reinforces the ideal of the family/household as the privileged site of economic, emotional, social support and care." Like the socialists of a century ago, Brenner still believes in the collective raising of children and the development of social life around the workplace. This volume will be purchased by the faithful, but the heavy-handedness and density of Brenner's writing may prevent even them from reading it. (Mar. 9) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. v
Introductionp. I
Part I Toward a Historical Sociology of Gender
1 Rethinking Women's Oppressionp. 11
2 Gender and the Statep. 59
3 Gender and Class in U.S. Labor Historyp. 83
Part II Women and Social Policy
4 The Feminization of Poverty, Comparable Worth, and Feminist Political Discoursep. 101
5 The Politics of Welfare Reformp. 118
6 Welfare Reform: Reframing the Debatep. 155
Part III New Politics of the Family
7 Socialist-Feminism versus Communitarian Conservatismp. 165
8 Democracy, Community, and Carep. 186
Part IV Class Politics and Feminist Strategy
9 Meeting the Challenge of the Political Rightp. 201
10 The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: U.S. Feminism Todayp. 220
Conclusion: Intersections, Locations, and Capitalist Class Relations: Intersectionality from a Marxist Perspectivep. 293
Indexp. 325