Feminism and ‘the S -word’

Winter 2015

Jo I first heard the phrase ‘the S-word’ being used by Nira Yuval-Davis in a Soundings seminar. It was being used to indicate how the S-word, socialism, is often an issue which is there but cannot be said: it’s the elephant in the room. (Although it has now had a notable resurgence in public discourse post-Corbyn.) This struck a chord for me, because the S-word has long been a point of identification, whilst at the same time its currency within most of my lifetime has always seemed to be on a downward spiral: decreasingly socially acceptable, increasingly politically powerless, deeply unfashionable and often marked through association with dodgy sectarian groups. This is of course because I grew up as one of Thatcher’s children in the 1980s, a time when socialism moved from being a kind of living part of everyday cultural and political discourse, central to the socialised forms of the welfare state and the NHS, to being positioned instead as an ‘ideological’ term outside the centre. But one of the few places where I learnt about socialism - growing up mainly in a fairly centre-right family context - was through the legacies of second-wave feminist work, both activist and academic. This work tended to use the term ‘socialist feminism’ in a very open and experimental way to describe their position and the kind of equal society they wanted to see in the world […]

Soundings 61