Big Feminism: The Fiftieth Anniversary Issue of Signs
Signs was founded in 1975 as part of an emergent tradition of feminist scholarship and has been publishing continuously ever since, establishing itself as a preeminent journal in the field of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. At the time of the journal’s conception, Signs’s founding editorial staff sought not only to raise consciousness and develop theories around women’s oppression but also to challenge the taken-for-granted and to strive for theoretical nuance and interdisciplinarity. To honor half a century of publication, our fiftieth anniversary issue aims to generate new questions and critical discussion around “Big Feminism,” around the role and power of feminist theory, today and into the future.
These fifty years have witnessed consequential feminist debates (over sexuality, over the category “woman,” over approaches to difference, over representations of “third-world” women) and the emergence of new analytical and theoretical frames (around experience, identity, agency, desire, the body, violence, inequality, coalition, work, family, and relationships between self and other, to name just a few). The Signs archive stands as a testament to the creativity, vitality, reach, and impact of feminists and feminist thinkers. Virtually no area of social life and no academic discipline has been untouched or unchanged by those who have contributed their work to the journal.
And yet, as the editors of a recent special issue have written: “The work in this field has never been richer, the future of our field never more imperiled.” (Carla Kaplan, Durba Mitra, and Sarah Haley, “Outraged/Enraged: The Rage Special Issue,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 46, no. 4 (2021): 785-800, 786.) From the standpoint of 1975, 2025 may appear to be a feminist pipe dream. Rights that were once aspirational have been codified into law; there are women heads of state the world over; women have not only entered but have transformed the professions; LGBTQ rights, while very much a work in progress, have been achieved to a degree that even recently seemed unimaginable. At precisely the same time, the ground beneath our feet is collapsing.
As we write this, we are facing the end of abortion rights and a global upsurge of fascism in which misogyny figures centrally. And, #MeToo notwithstanding, violence against women continues unabated. From this moment of profound triumph and profound precarity, how do we, as feminists, imagine the next fifty years? What are our feminist visions (utopias and dystopias) for 2075? What work will it take to bend the arc toward gender justice?
This special anniversary issue of Signs seeks to engage with the big feminist questions that remain outstanding after all these years.
- How has the definition of feminism evolved, and what does it encompass now?
- How do we grapple with the relationships and nuances between feminism, gender, sexuality, race, and capitalism?
- How might we imagine a feminist vision for the future, from where we stand now? How might we get there?
- Whence the durability of patriarchy? Of violence against women? Of the denial of reproductive justice?
- What are the new forefronts of feminist theory? Compulsory heterosexuality, intersectionality, and gender performance (among others) are concepts that have shaped our feminist thinking over the past fifty years. What are the emergent feminist theories of the fifty years to come?
- Given the strength of the patriarchy in the 2020s, including but not limited to the shocking efforts to roll back long-standing reproductive rights, what will it take to dismantle this system?
- Over the past fifty years, feminists of color, queer feminists, and disabled feminists, among others, have transformed the movement with critical attention to race, sexuality, nationality, ability, and age—and yet these inequalities remain. How do we attend to these disjunctures? What inequalities remain unrecognized? How can we transform our own movement while still working for transformation in the wider world?
- Has the knowledge produced in field of women’s/gender studies managed to advance the work of social and political transformation?
- What will it take to build better, stronger bridges between academic feminism and feminist activism on the ground? What new coalitions should we be building, and how?
- How, finally, will feminist historians, writing in 2075, remember 2025? How do we understand our present from the standpoint of the future, from the retrospective anterior? (Sasha Su-Ling Welland, “What Women Will Have Been: Reassessing Feminist Cultural Production in China: A Review Essay,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 31, no. 4 (2006): 941-66.)
Signs particularly encourages transdisciplinary and transnational essays that address substantive feminist questions, debates, and controversies without employing disciplinary or academic jargon. We seek essays that are passionate, strongly argued, and willing to take risks.
The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2022.
Please submit full manuscripts electronically through Signs’s Editorial Manager system at http://signs.edmgr.com. Manuscripts must conform to the guidelines for submission available at http://signsjournal.org/for-authors/author-guidelines/.