The Future of Feminism, by Sylvia Walby, Polity Press, €20.90, $22.95.
“Feminism is not dead,” is a strong opening statement for Sylvia Walby’s book and sets the tone for the debate she brings forward. Unlike the tenets of post-feminist theory, Walby claims that feminism is still “vibrant.” However, it has evolved “from identity politics towards alliances, coalitions and networks,” cohabiting in global and local contexts. These changes have modified the challenges feminism faces. Gender mainstreaming, engagement with intersecting projects and the intensification of the neoliberal context are issues forcing feminism to adapt and think of new solutions.
As feminism has become more visible through governmental institutionalization, feminists are increasingly found within the institutions of power as well as outside of them. Mainstream feminism is de facto less visible as a militant force. In addition, working hand in hand on projects that are not exclusively feminist affects how feminism is acknowledged. For example, Walby notes an “effective synthesis” between feminism and social democracy – embodied in trade unions that seek work improvement conditions for all. Another challenge for feminism lies in the current economic and environmental crises: they both affect women to a proportionally wider extent than men, with the additional burden of the low status granted to (typically female) domestic and caring work.
This is an optimistic book about the future of feminism, even while keeping in mind today’s realities. If one can at times regret a ‘West-centered’ approach to current feminist issues and movements, Walby’s erudite overview and analysis make it a worthwhile read.