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Making It

Melissa Benn: New Feminism?, 5 February 1998

Different for Girls: How Culture Creates Women 
by Joan Smith.
Chatto, 176 pp., £10.99, September 1997, 9780701165123
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The New Feminism 
by Natasha Walter.
Little, Brown, 278 pp., £17.50, January 1998, 0 316 88234 8
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A Century of Women: The History of Women in Britain and the United States 
by Sheila Rowbotham.
Penguin, 752 pp., £20, June 1997, 0 670 87420 5
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... There was something unsettling about the serried ranks of New Labour women elected on 1 May last year. All those structured smiles and cheerful jackets gathered round our leader made me feel like a bad-tempered Daily Mail reader or one of those glorious man-hating feminists of myth who live in Hackney and refuse to shave their legs. What I hadn’t realised was that this unmonstrous regiment of women came much closer to representing the end of something – feminism as a natural ally of radical politics – than to representing a key moment in the long march through the institutions ...

Motherblame

Anna Vaux: Motherhood, 21 May 1998

Bad Mothers: The Politics of Blame in 20th-Century America 
edited by Molly Ladd-Taylor and Lauri Umansky.
New York, 416 pp., £16, April 1998, 0 8147 5119 9
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Madonna and Child: Towards a New Politics of Motherhood 
by Melissa Benn.
Cape, 288 pp., £12.99, January 1998, 0 224 03821 4
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... more sensibly ask is ‘How to be a mother at all?’ This, in any case, is the point at which Melissa Benn picks up the story – and on which her ‘new politics of motherhood’ is pinned. For Benn, all mothers are working mothers: the mother who doesn’t work is an anachronism, representative, ‘like the miner ...

Family History

Miles Taylor: Tony Benn, 25 September 2003

Free at Last: Diaries 1991-2001 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 738 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 09 179352 1
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Free Radical: New Century Essays 
by Tony Benn.
Continuum, 246 pp., £9.95, May 2003, 9780826465962
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... passed since tea and talk in Baghdad; the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein remain unknown, but Tony Benn is alive and well and coming soon to a concert hall near you. Leaving Parliament in 2001 to devote more time to politics, Benn joined the B-list of political celebrities. He has appeared at the Glastonbury Festival and ...

Dark Emotions

Jenny Turner: The Women’s Liberation Movement, 24 September 2020

Misbehaviour 
directed by Philippa Lowthorpe.
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Nightcleaners 
directed by the Berwick Street Film Collective.
Lux/Koenig/Raven Row, £24, July 2019
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Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the UK Women's Liberation Movement, 1968-present 
by Margaretta Jolly.
Oxford, 334 pp., £22.99, November 2019, 978 0 19 065884 7
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... and doing things, because they didn’t. But socialist feminists in the 1980s and 1990s, as Melissa Benn wrote in the Guardian in 2000, ‘were suddenly considered unfashionable, dull’. Benn, who as a young journalist worked on Sweet Freedom as a researcher, characterised Rowbotham in particular as ‘a ghost ...

Barely under Control

Jenny Turner: Education: Who’s in charge?, 7 May 2015

... is bang on: obviously, you’ll focus your energy on that nudging. This is what Janet Downs and Melissa Benn, in their e-book School Myths, call ‘pseudo-improvement’ – the data look good, but the quality of the learning isn’t. At school level, as Downs and Benn say, it leads to a ‘narrow, impoverished ...

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