Dossier Feminisms in the 21st Century: Deadline extended to August 9th


Dossier Feminisms in the 21st Century

Organizers: Claudia Mazzei, Joana Coutinho and Joana das Flores

The word feminism or feminist, according to Karen Offen, is used on a large scale these days in Western and Eastern countries to legitimize the ideas and ideals that defend the emancipation of women; the movements that seek to achieve it and the individuals who support this goal. The word Féminisme (feminism) was already used as a synonym for women's emancipation in French political discourse at the end of the 19th century. As for the first self-proclaimed feminist, author and historian Karen Offen writes that the first person to proclaim herself a feminist was French women's suffrage advocate Hubertine Auclert, who in 1882 used the expression in her periodical, La Citoyenne, to refer to herself and her associates. Still according to Offen's formulations, feminism is a self-explanatory term, but it is not crystallized, since, depending on cultures and societies, its meanings and connotations can differ, which prevents this category from being rigidly closed. In this way, approaching feminist struggles and their continuing legacy, albeit briefly, implies situating their historical evidence, avoiding anachronisms and the absence of criticism within the struggle movement itself. Thinking about women's demands also requires knowing their priorities, because not all women are feminists and not all feminists are women. This statement by Offen is very important for two reasons: firstly, to avoid the perfidious idea that feminism is anti-male, or that all men are potentially oppressive. Secondly, because feminist agendas have had the support (albeit small) of men throughout history to legitimize them. For example, François Poullain de la Barre in 17th century France; Condorcet and Theodore Gottlieb in France and Prussia at the end of the 18th century; and Charles Fourier, Ernest Legouvé, John Stuart Mill and August Bebel in France, Germany and England in the 19th century. When it comes to the participation of men in the feminist struggle in Latin America, we should mention José Carlos Mariátegui in 20th century Peru.

Guaranteeing women's access to the political rights already guaranteed to men was a major theme of the 20th century. In the Latin American context, Mariátegui considered that this would establish legal and political equality between men and women. He highlighted the entry of women into parliament, government, activism and negotiations in the interests of the nation as a concrete experience. When he mentioned women in power and in the public sphere, he was starting from a reality not yet experienced in Peru, speaking more specifically of the Russian and British experience, citing as examples Alexandra Kollontai (one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution of 1917) and Miss. Margaret Bondfield (Prime Minister of Labor in Great Britain). Alexandra Kollontai, one of the protagonists of the revolution, who, as well as holding one of the highest and most important positions, had a unique intellectual output during the Soviet regime. In 1922, Alexandra Kollontai was appointed advisor to the Soviet embassy in Norway, making her the third woman to hold a diplomatic post in the 20th century, after Rosika Schwimmer (1877-1948). Among her works is The Moral of Sex (1921). She also dealt with women in the public sphere, motherhood and women in politics. Maternal rights could not be an end in women's lives, but a means of mediating between the experience of being a mother without ceasing to be a political subject. To this end, she made it possible to debate the role of society and its conservative values, stating that the way to break with this thinking would directly involve the political and sexual liberation of women. For her, this relationship of equality between men and women would found a society that would operate with a new moral value, which would give revolutionary women another place and centrality. Kollontai highlighted all the female collaboration during and after the revolution and pointed out that communism was initially met with resistance from Russian women, especially peasants, as there was still a strong religious predominance throughout the country. As a result, the revolutionary agenda was not only inclusion, but the active participation of women.


In this sense, we highlight how crucial the feminist revolutionary struggle was in criticizing the rights of men inaugurated by the French Revolution, because it was an exclusively male democracy that maintained, to a certain extent, the foundations of feudal domination and exploitation of women. On the other hand, the bourgeois revolution inaugurated a "new era" from the point of view of women's struggles and political organization, with the promise of civilization that would give women concrete and objective conditions to increase their productive power and, consequently, to achieve a better position in social life. In this sense, it is important to analyze these particularities and their setbacks today, understanding that the relationship between developed and developing countries produces a subordination that reverberates in the lack of autonomy of social processes in peripheral countries. For this reason, we are not talking about the same historical subject, but about a historically determined social class formation.

It was in this insurgency that feminism, or rather feminisms as movements, challenged the hegemony of religious knowledge and morality, patriarchal customs, social inequality, but were still limited in the fight against racism and gender inequality, since the binary and semantic conception of sex/gender was maintained for a long time.

In order to think about the contemporary feminist struggle, we need to consider the selective organizational structure of world economies, the peripheral role of developing countries and their concrete expressions of superexploitation and degradation, both of working conditions and of the material conditions of production and reproduction of workers' lives, and the different expressions that feminism takes on in its denunciation of intersectional discrimination (class, race, gender, generation and ecology). This struggle does not happen without feminist demands. By fighting for women's rights, from the perspective we have outlined here, we are at the same time fighting for a new society.

This dossier: "Feminisms in the 21st Century" seeks to bring together articles that analyze the Marxist and decolonial theoretical perspectives in the construction of feminist thought; the historical advances in the feminist movement, among them those on social, political, sexual and reproductive rights, gender identity, motherhood and the world of work, sexual and moral harassment and combating the multiple expressions of violence; the advances and agendas of black and indigenous feminism; the differences between socialist and liberal feminisms in their mediation with intersectionality; the redefinition of feminism by the LGBTQIA+ movements; and the strategies of struggle and articulation of the international feminist movement.

Dead Line: August 9, 2024