Gail Chester discusses radical and anti-capitalist feminism



Gail Chester talks about the movement’s list of demands, suggesting that direct action, combined with lobbying Parliament, is the most effective way of bringing about change.

What do you do when you disagree with decisions that the government has made?

Can you think of any issues that you feel should be addressed through lobbying Parliament?

Is it ever OK to break the law in order to change a law?



I wanted to ask you about the demands.

OK, the question is, who are you making those demands of? I suppose it must have been quite early on actually, because I think it was still when there were only the four demands, or maybe the fifth demand had come along by that stage. But the point is that all the demands up to that point were demands of the state. It’s interesting because I suppose that was what made me a radical feminist in a way, was like, well actually, you know, we need to make demands of men. It’s all very well, it wasn’t that we said, well you shouldn’t be making demands of the state, although I think probably I wasn’t quite sure about the point of that, but actually, what is the point in making demands of the state when they can’t possibly fulfil them?

I think the point is that what I was fighting against then, intuitively, and what I would still fight against, is, as it were, the parliamentary road, that you can’t do it all through Parliament, you have to have the direct action and that, you know, Government is never ever going to pay any attention to you if you just kind of ask them nicely. It felt back then that making those demands in the way that they were being made was just asking nicely. And it wasn’t that we didn’t think that those things were terribly important, I mean, you know, abortion and contraception, obviously, you know, free twenty-four hour childcare, who could say not, you know? I mean, they were vital. And, I didn’t know then but have since learnt that basically they were just kind of scribbled on the back of an envelope, you know, at Ruskin I think. So, one would not at all be critical of the women who drew up those demands, and again, I suppose coming out of the Left it was a useful model for giving you something to proceed with. But the point is that demands were not enough. And also, of course, as then became clear, there were whole vast areas of life that they did not cover. And that is also the nature of demands, that however many demands you have, you still, there’s going to be something that you are not going to be able to encompass within your demands.

Gail Chester discusses radical and anti-capitalist feminism
26 July - 25 August 2011
Sound recording
Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project
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