Zora Simic

In 2016, feminist and queer theorist Sara Ahmed resigned from her post as professor at the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths, University of London, in protest against the failure to address sexual harassment at her institution. Given that she was at the peak of her career and working in a centre she had helped to create, hers was a bold and surprising move, but also entirely consistent with her feminist politics. In one way or another, Ahmed has been writing about this decision, its causes and effects, ever since: first on her blog feministkilljoys; as an example of a ‘feminist snap’ in Living a Feminist Life (2017); in relation to diversity work in universities in What’s the Use: On the uses of use (2019); and now most directly in Complaint!, her tenth book.

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Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again by Katherine Angel & Why We Lost the Sex Wars by Lorna Bracewell

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June 2021, no. 432

Among historians of sexuality, it is customary to stress that there was never just one sexual revolution, but many. There were the pop-culture versions, the countercultural expressions and perhaps most momentously, but least discussed, the everyday or ‘ordinary’ sexual revolution. Or conversely, as French philosopher Michel Foucault so influentially argued in The History of Sexuality Vol. 1: The will to knowledge – first published in French in 1976 and in English in 1978, in the very thick of the so-called sexual revolution – there was no liberating sex from the disciplinary and regulatory effects of modern sexuality, already by then at least three centuries old. One of the delusions of the age was that, as we put sexual repression behind us (by saying yes to sex, for instance), ‘tomorrow sex will be good again’.

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Written by award-winning historian Lucy Delap, Feminisms challenges the obfuscating binaries of the 'feminist waves'. Its main focus looks into aspects of feminism that have often been in conflict or overlooked by contemporary movements. Zora Simic reviews the book for our current April issue, and describes it as ‘building on and acknowledging the work of those who came before, while bringing new ideas and energy to the task.' Listen to Zora read her full review in today's episode.

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Lucy Delap, Reader in Modern British and Gender History at the University of Cambridge, is a consummate historian and not one to privilege her own experience. Indeed, one of her chief aims in her innovative new global history of ‘feminisms’ – the plural is important, no matter how inelegant – is to bring to the fore feminists and other activists for women’s rights who are less well known, but hardly less significant, than the usual suspects. In this aim, and from the very first page, Delap succeeds admirably. Feminisms: A global history opens with an ‘incendiary letter’ published in 1886 in a local newspaper in the British-ruled Gold Coast (now Ghana), written by an anonymous author on behalf of ‘We Ladies of Africa’. At once a protest against the sexual violence of colonial incursion, and an assertion of cultural power and defiance, the letter also flags to a present-day audience that this history will not be the standard White Feminist narrative – and hooray for that.

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All authors who are releasing new books during the global pandemic are at a disadvantage, but some less so than others. It helps to have a title that speaks to the moment, which The Better Half, with its central thesis that women are ‘genetically privileged’, certainly does. The coronavirus, we have learnt, tends to affect men more severely than women. Some have attributed the discrepancy to men being more likely to engage in risk-taking or health-compromising behaviours, while other experts have advanced a genetic explanation.

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The opening dedication in Carmen Maria Machado’s ground-breaking memoir In The Dream House reads: ‘If you need this book, it is for you.’ Here, Machado offers a gift but also a clue. She wrote this book because she needed to. For close to two years, she was in a lesbian relationship in which her partner was abusive to her. In making sense of it, Machado found a few books here and there, but mostly there was nothing – a meaningful silence. In deft strokes that should humble historians and other theorists of the archive, Machado contemplates the ghosts that haunt it. The ‘abused woman’ only became a ‘generally understood concept’ fifty or so years ago. Since then, other ‘ghosts’, including the female perpetrator and the queer abused, have become legible, while remaining shadows. She offers her own memoir – by design, ‘an act of resurrection’ – to the archive of domestic abuse, placing herself and others into ‘necessary context’.

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She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey & The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly

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December 2019, no. 417

The worldwide women’s marches of January 2017 were sparked by the election of Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed ‘pussy-grabber’, to the US presidency in November 2016. Among the millions who marched was movie producer Harvey Weinstein. As with Trump, rumours of inappropriate behaviour with women had long plagued Weinstein, but he also had a history of aligning himself with feminist causes. He had supported Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid and, as co-founder of Miramax, had helped launch the successful careers of many women, including Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow.

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See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill & Rape: From Lucretia to #MeToo by Mithu Sanyal

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September 2019, no. 414

Domestic violence and rape are not easy topics to write or read about. It’s not just because of the subject matter itself, as grim and distressing as the details can be. The writer must grapple with centuries of cultural baggage, competing theorisations and research paradigms, and the politicisation of these issues, for better or worse ...

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How do we get the measure of the phenomenon that is #MeToo? Both deeply personal and profoundly structural, #MeToo has been described as a movement, a moment, and a reckoning. Some critics have dismissed it as man-hating or anti-sex; sceptics as a misguided millennial distraction from more serious feminist concerns ...

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The first volume in this series, Beverley Kingston’s A History of New South Wales, was published in 2006. Since then another five have appeared, including a book on Tasmania by Henry Reynolds and another on Victoria by Geoffrey Blainey. Cambridge University Press may be proceeding with its ...

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