By Lena Dominelli
I finished this book the day Barbara Castle
died. She was a passionate campaigner for women’s rights and equal
pay. Child benefit, she insisted, was to be paid into the purse,
not the wallet. But, to the end, she maintained she was not a
feminist. In this book Lena Dominelli asks what to Castle would
have been an unthinkable question: “should we work with men?” Both
women would, I think, answer yes if it achieved social justice and
equality for women. Castle, though, would have added “and also for
It is not only the definition of feminism that
is problematic – others are equally slippery. Professionalism,
social care and even social work are put forward as valued concepts
but also as code for oppression and injustice. I would like to know
why this is.
I felt this book suffers for being published
at a time when social work is receiving more support than for a
generation. Dominelli’s concerns that social work would be devalued
within a General Social Care Council, for example, were written
before social work became a graduate profession with enforceable
This book feels too pessimistic. Things have
moved on and I am hopeful we now have a framework where we just
might achieve equality.
Lynne Berry is chief executive,
General Social Care Council.