One of my two key areas of scholarship is the contemporary feminist movement. I have written three books and a series of papers on this topic.
My latest book is published by Manchester University Press and is called Me, Not You: the trouble with mainstream feminism. This asks: what violence can we do, in the name of fighting sexual violence? It presents a challenging critique of #MeToo and similar Anglo-American campaigns, which are dominated by self-described ‘nasty women’, who refuse to be silent and compliant and who name and shame perpetrators in the media. These women also tend to be privileged and white. I argue that mainstream feminism filters righteous anger about gender inequality through race and class supremacy. This turns ‘me, too’ into ‘me, not you’: an exclusive focus on white women’s pain and protection, and a desire for power and control sated through criminal punishment or institutional discipline.
But punitive systems tend to disproportionately target marginalised people, who become collateral damage of the white feminist ‘war machine’. It is also a short step from sacrificing marginalised people to seeing them as enemies, which happens in campaigns against the sex industry and transgender inclusion. In this reactionary feminism, ‘me, not you’ refers to hoarding resources, policing borders and shutting doors. This critique of the real nastiness of white feminism uses examples including the suffragettes, the Slutwalks, #MeToo and contemporary partnerships between anti-trans feminists and the resurgent right.
The book draws some of my previous peer-reviewed papers on contemporary feminism, especially focused on sexual violence, sex work, and trans inclusion. The most recent ones are listed below.
- ‘Every Woman Knows a Weinstein: political whiteness and white woundedness in #MeToo and public feminisms around sexual violence’, appears in Feminist Formations here and the open-access version is here.
- ‘The Fight Against Sexual Violence’ appears in Soundings here and the open-access version is here.
- ‘Whose Personal is More Political? Experience in Contemporary Feminist Politics’ appears in Feminist Theory here and the open-access version is here.
- ‘Sex Wars Revisited: a rhetorical economy of sex industry opposition’ is published in the open-access Journal of International Women’s Studies, available here.
- ‘Speaking Up for What’s Right’ is published in Feminist Theory here and the open-access version is here.
- ‘Reckoning Up: sexual harassment and violence in the neoliberal university’ is published in Gender and Education here and the open-access version is here.
My second book came out in 2014: entitled The Politics of the Body: gender in a neoliberal and neoconservative age (Polity Press). This analysed debates and initiatives on the topics of sexual violence, sex work, gender and Islam, and reproduction. It uncovered dubious rhetorics and paradoxical allegiances, and contextualised these within the powerful contemporary geopolitical coalition of neoliberalism and neoconservatism. The book argued that feminism could be caricatured and vilified at both ends of the political spectrum, and that Western feminisms were faced with complex problems of positioning in a world where gender often came second to other political priorities. You can read more about the book here, and read extracts from it here.
In 2008 I published my first book, Women in Science, Engineering and Technology: three decades of UK initiatives (Trentham Books). This book presented an accessible overview of the recent history of UK initiatives designed to encourage girls and women into non-traditional fields such as science, engineering, technology, construction, and the trades. It examined girls and science projects in schools, training programmes for women in manual trades, activist groups for students and women professionals, and government-sponsored initiatives such as the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) and the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET. Using archival and interview data spanning the 1970s to the early 2000s, it explored the aims and frameworks of the initiatives, examined the practices developed, and commented on the mixed results achieved.