Thursday, March 7, 2019

Kristen Ghodsee's "Second World, Second Sex"

Kristen Ghodsee is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism, Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence, and the newly released Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women's Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War.

Ghodsee applied the “Page 99 Test” to Second Sex and reported the following:
Page 99 is the second page of my 4th chapter, “A Brief History of Women’s Activism in Domestic Political Context – Case 2: Zambia.” This page is a record of a conversation that I shared with a woman named Chibesa Kankasa in January of 2013 in Lusaka, Zambia. Kankasa was the president of the United National Independence Party (UNIP) - Women’s League for many years, and today she is considered a national heroine in her country. Through her personal story of growing up under British colonialism and the efforts that she and her husband made to create a free and independent country in Southern Africa, this chapter explores the specific historical context of women’s organizing after Zambia’s independence in 1964.

On this page, Chibesa Kankasa tells me:
“This country was ruled by capitalists. It was ruled by colonialists before when it was the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The colonialists ruled with an iron bar. The system was that of horse and the rider. Let the natives be the horses and the white settlers be the riders. Women of this country were looked down on as second-class citizens. We were not allowed to enter any European markets; we called them European butcheries. The reason was because [Europeans thought that] African women had a bad smell.”
Since the book focuses on the relationship between socialist women in Eastern Europe and socialist-leaning background information for why Zambian women later found their interests aligned with women from the Eastern Bloc, particularly during the United Nations International Women’s Year (1975) and the subsequent U.N. International Decade for Women (1976-1985). The major argument of the book is that socialist alliances of leftist women provided an important foil to Western liberal feminists on the international stage during the Cold War, and that superpower rivalries over which economic system could better emancipate women proved a catalyst for social progress for women across the globe.
Learn more about Second World, Second Sex at the Duke University Press website.

Writers Read: Kristen Ghodsee.

--Marshal Zeringue