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New Left Review I/190, November-December 1991

Elizabeth Wilson

Feminism without Illusions?

A year or two ago, when the British media was hyping ‘post-feminism’, there seemed a deep sense of pessimism among feminists, a feeling of isolation, of women’s gains being under attack. Mrs Thatcher’s Iron Maiden caricature of the Strong Woman curdled our aspirations to public advancement, and we were impotent in the face of her successive attacks on the public provision on which British feminism and British feminists have always relied. However critical we were of the social-democratic welfare state, as individuals we needed its schools and hospitals, and it played an important role in our theoretical explorations. Trades unionism was equally important to British feminism, and while we were critical of the unions, too, we certainly never supported the union-‘free’ workforce the Tories have sought to create.

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