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In Sisterhood: Support The Strike At London Met’s Women’s Library

June 21, 2011, 8:02 pm

There’s a long history of feminist resistance in England

Eighteen months ago found your Radical in London.  On the trail of radical feminist Leah Fritz, I had also decided to check out what archival material was available on the feminist anti-pornography movement in London.  What I found at The Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University changed the shape of my research.  I discovered that, just as radical feminists in the United States had become intractably divided over the representation of eroticism, Andrea Dworkin’s ideas had roamed across the pond and found both opposition and fertile ground on the British left.  In the UK, where there is no absolute right to free speech, and where skinhead violence had produced legislation against hate speech that would have violated the First Amendment in the United States, the struggle took some similar, but also different forms.

I loved the Women’s Library and vowed to return to do more comparative research that pushed the nationalist frame of my project.  Imagine my shock when I received an alert that dramatic cuts at London Met would endanger the work of this valuable collection and eliminate the BA in history.  From the History of Feminism Network:

The Women’s Library is home to world-renowned collections on women’s struggles throughout history and has hosted excellent exhibitions on women workers and female led-strikes. This Wednesday 22nd June 2011 Women’s Library staff will themselves take action to ensure that London Met University continues to be a thriving centre for the study of gender and feminism.

London Met Unison and UCU have voted for a one day strike on 22nd June unless the management resolve their dispute over compulsory redundancies (200 announced so far) and the closure of 70% of courses.

These cuts are of concern to all of us working in the fields of feminism and gender studies, across UK higher education institutions. Judging the value of academic disciplines according to narrow definitions of economic viability will particularly discriminate against already marginal subjects. The History BA is among those London Met courses set to close, despite it having long been such an important focus for the study of women’s history and with the Women’s Library hosting this years Women’s History Network Annual Conference.

This is why we want to express our strong support for the Women’s Library staff and everyone at London Met taking industrial action next week.

Come along to support the picket line! Meet 8am sharp, outside the Women’s Library, 25 Old Castle St, London E1 7NT (5 mins from Aldgate East Tube).

Send messages of support to moreinfo@thewomenslibrary.ac.uk and
t.doherty@londonmet.ac.uk

As the friend who sent me this confided, “While I don’t know a whole lot about the cuts, I’m heartsick that an archive like The Women’s Library is in danger. This is especially troubling for those of us who are pursuing subjects that are not necessarily represented in larger archives – I fondly remember my time at that archive.”  So should we all.

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