Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism

And Other Arguments for Economic Independence


By Kristen R. Ghodsee

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A spirited, deeply researched exploration of why capitalism is bad for women and how, when done right, socialism leads to economic independence, better labor conditions, better work-life balance and, yes, even better sex.

In a witty, irreverent op-ed piece that went viral, Kristen Ghodsee argued that women had better sex under socialism. The response was tremendous — clearly she articulated something many women had sensed for years: the problem is with capitalism, not with us.

Ghodsee, an acclaimed ethnographer and professor of Russian and East European Studies, spent years researching what happened to women in countries that transitioned from state socialism to capitalism. She argues here that unregulated capitalism disproportionately harms women, and that we should learn from the past. By rejecting the bad and salvaging the good, we can adapt some socialist ideas to the 21st century and improve our lives.

She tackles all aspects of a woman’s life – work, parenting, sex and relationships, citizenship, and leadership. In a chapter called “Women: Like Men, But Cheaper,” she talks about women in the workplace, discussing everything from the wage gap to harassment and discrimination. In “What To Expect When You’re Expecting Exploitation,” she addresses motherhood and how “having it all” is impossible under capitalism.

Women are standing up for themselves like never before, from the increase in the number of women running for office to the women’s march to the long-overdue public outcry against sexual harassment. Interest in socialism is also on the rise — whether it’s the popularity of Bernie Sanders or the skyrocketing membership numbers of the Democratic Socialists of America. It’s become increasingly clear to women that capitalism isn’t working for us, and Ghodsee is the informed, lively guide who can show us the way forward.


Elena Lagadinova (right, with Angela Davis) (1930–2017): The youngest female partisan fighting against Bulgaria’s Nazi-allied monarchy during World War II. She earned her PhD in agrobiology and worked as a research scientist before she became the president of the Committee of the Bulgarian Women’s Movement. Lagadinova led the Bulgarian delegation to the 1975 United Nations First World Conference on Women. Because free markets discriminate against those who bear children, Lagadinova believed that only state intervention could support women in their dual roles as workers and mothers. Courtesy of Elena Lagadinova.


For the last twenty years, I have studied the social impacts of the political and economic transition from state socialism to capitalism in Eastern Europe. Although I first traveled through the region just months after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, my professional interest began in 1997, when I started conducting research on the impacts of the collapse of communist ideology on ordinary people. First as a PhD student and later as a university professor, I lived for more than three years in Bulgaria and nineteen months in both eastern and western Germany. In the summer of 1990, I also spent two months traveling through Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and the soon-to-disappear German Democratic Republic. In the intervening years, I’ve been a frequent visitor to Eastern Europe, delivering invited lectures in cities such as Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, and Warsaw. Because I often travel by car, bus, and train, I’ve seen firsthand the ravages of neoliberal capitalism across the region: bleak landscapes pockmarked with the decrepit remains of once thriving factories giving way to new suburbs with Walmart-style megastores selling forty-two different types of shampoo. I’ve also studied how the institution of unregulated free markets in Eastern Europe returned many women to a subordinate status, economically dependent on men.

Since 2004, I’ve published six scholarly books and over three dozen articles and essays, using empirical evidence gathered from archives, interviews, and extended ethnographic fieldwork in the region. In this book, I draw on over twenty years of research and teaching to write an introductory primer for a general audience interested in European socialist feminist theories, the experience of twentieth-century state socialism, and their lessons for the present day. After the unexpected success of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries, socialist ideas are circulating more broadly among the American public. It is essential that we pause and learn from the experiences of the past, examining both good and bad. Because I believe in the pursuit of historical nuance, and that there were some redeeming qualities of state socialism, I will inevitably be accused of being an apologist for Stalinism. Vitriolic ad hominem attacks are the reality of our hyperpolarized political climate, and I find it quite ironic that those who claim to abhor totalitarianism have no trouble silencing speech or unleashing hysterical Twitter mobs. The German political theorist Rosa Luxemburg once said: “Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.” This book is about learning to think differently with regard to the state socialist past, our neoliberal capitalist present, and the path to our collective future.

Throughout this book, I use the term “state socialism” or “state socialist” to refer to the states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union dominated by ruling Communist Parties where political freedoms were curtailed. I use the term “democratic socialism” or “democratic socialist” to refer to countries where socialist principles are championed by parties that compete in free and fair elections and where political rights are maintained. Although many parties referred to themselves as “communist,” that term denotes the ideal of a society where all economic assets are collectively owned and the state and law have withered away. In no case has real communism been achieved, and therefore I try to avoid this term when referring to actually existing states.

On the topic of semantics, I have also endeavored to be sensitive to contemporary intersectional vocabularies. For example, when I talk about “women” in this book, I am primarily referring to cisgender women. The nineteenth- and twentieth-century socialist “woman question” did not consider the unique needs of trans women, but I have no desire to exclude or alienate trans women from the current discussion. Similarly, in my discussion of maternity, I do recognize that I am discussing those who are female-assigned-at-birth (FAB), but for the sake of simplicity, I use the word “woman” even though this category includes some who identify as men or other genders.

Because this is an introductory book, there will be places in the text where I don’t go into full detail about the debates surrounding topics such as Universal Basic Income (UBI), surplus value extraction, or gender-based quotas. In particular, although I believe that they are absolutely essential, I don’t spend a lot of time discussing universal single-payer health care or free public postsecondary education, because I feel these policies have been discussed at length elsewhere. I hope readers are inspired to explore more about the issues raised within these pages, taking this book as an invitation for further exploration of the intersections of socialism and feminism. I also want to make it clear that this is not a scholarly treatise; those in search of theoretical frameworks and methodological debates should consult the books I’ve published with university presses. I also recognize the long and important tradition of Western socialist feminism, although it is not discussed in these pages. I encourage interested readers to refer to the books listed in the suggestions for further reading.

For all of the direct quotations and statistical claims made throughout the book, I include consolidated citations in an endnote at the end of the relevant paragraph. Few substantive endnotes accompany this text, so most readers can feel free to ignore the endnotes unless they have a question about a particular source. General historical material can be found in the suggestions for further reading. When discussing personal anecdotes, I have changed the names and identifying details to preserve anonymity.

Finally, with the many social ills plaguing the world today, some might find the chapters on intimate relations a bit too prurient for their taste; some might think that having better sex is a trivial reason to switch economic systems. But turn on the television, open a magazine, or surf the internet, and you will find a world saturated with sex. Capitalism has no problem commodifying sexuality and even preying on our relationship insecurities to sell us products and services we don’t want or need. Neoliberal ideologies persuade us to view our bodies, our attentions, and our affections as things to be bought and sold. I want to turn the tables. To use the discussion of sexuality to expose the shortcomings of unfettered free markets. If we can better understand how the current capitalist system has co-opted and commercialized basic human emotions, we have taken the first step toward rejecting market valuations that purport to quantify our fundamental worth as human beings. The political is personal.

Valentina Tereshkova (born 1937): The first woman in space, Tereshkova orbited the Earth forty-eight times in July 1963 on Vostok 6. After her career as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova became a prominent politician and led the Soviet delegation to the 1975 United Nations World Conference on Women. She is still widely viewed as a national heroine in Russia today. Courtesy of Elena Lagadinova.



The argument of this book can be summed up succinctly: Unregulated capitalism is bad for women, and if we adopt some ideas from socialism, women will have better lives. If done properly, socialism leads to economic independence, better labor conditions, better work/family balance, and, yes, even better sex. Finding a way into a better future requires learning from the mistakes of the past, including a thoughtful assessment of the history of twentieth-century state socialism in Eastern Europe.

That’s it. If you like the idea of such outcomes, then come along for an exploration of how we might change things. If you are dubious because you don’t understand why capitalism as an economic system is uniquely bad for women, and if you doubt that there could ever be anything good about socialism, this short treatise will provide some illumination. If you don’t give a whit about women’s lives because you’re a gynophobic right-wing internet troll, save your money and get back to your parents’ basement right now; this isn’t the book for you.

Of course, some might argue that unregulated capitalism sucks for almost everyone, but I want to focus on how capitalism disproportionately harms women. Competitive labor markets discriminate against those whose reproductive biology makes them primarily responsible for child bearing. Today, this means humans who get pink hats in the hospital and the letter “F” next to the name on their birth certificate (as if we’ve already failed by not coming into the world as a boy). Competitive labor markets also devalue those expected to be the primary caregivers of children. Although societal attitudes have evolved in this regard, our idealization of motherhood means that most of us still believe that baby needs mama a whole lot more than papa—at least until the child is old enough to play sports.

Others will argue that unregulated capitalism is not bad for all women. Yes, for those women lucky enough to sit at the top of the income distribution, the system works pretty well. Although women at the executive level still face gender pay gaps and remain underrepresented in leadership positions, on the whole things aren’t too shabby for the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world. Of course, sexual harassment still hinders progress even for those at the top, and too many women believe that if you want to run with the big dogs, you may have to suck it up and ignore the groping and unwanted advances. And race plays an important role as well; white women do a lot better in aggregate than do women of color. But when we look at society as a whole, on average, women are comparatively worse off in countries where markets are less encumbered by regulation, taxation, and public enterprises than they are in nations where state revenues support greater levels of redistribution and larger social safety nets.

Choose your data source, and you find the same story. Unemployment and poverty plague women with children. Employers discriminate against women without children because they might have them in the future. In the United States in 2013, women over the age of sixty-five suffered from poverty at much greater rates than men and dominated those in the category of “extreme poverty.” Globally, women face higher rates of economic deprivation. Women are often the last to be hired and the first to be fired in cyclical downturns, and when they do find employment, bosses pay them less than men. When states need to slash government spending on education, health care, or old age pensions, mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives must pick up the slack, diverting their energies to care for the young, the sick, and the elderly. Capitalism thrives on women’s unpaid labor in the home because women’s care work supports lower taxes. Lower taxes mean higher profits for those already at the top of the income ladder—mostly men.1

But capitalism was not always so savage. Throughout much of the twentieth century, state socialism presented an existential challenge to the worst excesses of the free market. The threat posed by Marxist ideologies forced Western governments to expand social safety nets to protect workers from the unpredictable but inevitable booms and busts of the capitalist economy. After the Berlin Wall fell, many celebrated the triumph of the West, consigning socialist ideas to the dustbin of history. But for all its faults, state socialism provided an important foil for capitalism. It was in response to a global discourse of social and economic rights—a discourse that appealed not only to the progressive populations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America but also to many men and women in Western Europe and North America—that politicians agreed to improve working conditions for wage laborers as well as create social programs for children, the poor, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled, mitigating exploitation and the growth of income inequality. Although there were important antecedents in the 1980s, once state socialism collapsed, capitalism shook off the constraints of market regulation and income redistribution. Without the looming threat of a rival superpower, the last thirty years of global neoliberalism have witnessed a rapid shriveling of social programs that protect citizens from cyclical instability and financial crises and reduce the vast inequality of economic outcomes between those at the top and bottom of the income distribution.

For much of the twentieth century, Western capitalist countries also endeavored to outdo the East European countries in terms of women’s rights, fueling progressive social change. For example, the state socialists in the USSR and Eastern Europe were so successful at giving women economic opportunities outside the home that initially, for two decades after the end of World War II, women’s wage work was conflated with the evils of communism. The American way of life meant male breadwinners and female homemakers. But slowly, socialist championing of women’s emancipation began to chip away at the Leave It to Beaver ideal. The Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957 spurred American leaders to rethink the costs of maintaining traditional gender roles. They feared the state socialists enjoyed an advantage in technological development because they had double the brainpower; the Russians educated women and funneled the best and the brightest into scientific research.2

Fearing Eastern Bloc superiority in the space race, the American government passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in 1958. Despite a continuing cultural desire for women to stay at home as dependent wives, the NDEA created new opportunities for talented girls to study science and math. Then, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10980 to establish the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, citing national security concerns. This commission, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, laid the groundwork for the future US women’s movement. Americans received a further shock in 1963, when Valentina Tereshkova became the first female cosmonaut, spending more time orbiting the Earth than all male astronauts in the United States had, combined. Later, Soviet and East European dominance at the Olympics spurred the passage of Title IX, so that the United States could identify and train more female athletes to snatch gold medals away from the ideological enemy.3

In response to state socialist prowess in the sciences, the American government sponsored an important study titled “Women in the Soviet Economy.” The head of the study visited the USSR in 1955, 1962, and 1965 to examine Soviet policies to integrate women into the formal labor force as an example for American legislators. “Concern in recent years on the waste of women’s talent and labor potential led to the appointment of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, which has issued a series of reports on various problems affecting women and their participation in economic, political, and social life,” the 1966 report began. “For any formulation of policy directed toward the better use of our women power, it is important to know the experience of other nations in utilizing the capabilities of women. For this reason as well as others, the Soviet experience is of particular interest at this time.” The precedent set by the state socialist countries in Eastern Europe acted as an influential example for American politicians at the same historical moment that Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique and revealed how unsatisfied middle-class, white women felt with their circumscribed domestic lives. But in the current political climate, it may be hard to fathom how a rivalry between superpowers could have sparked interest in the status of women.4

Today, socialist ideas are enjoying a renaissance as young people across countries such as the United States, France, Great Britain, Greece, and Germany find inspiration in politicians like Bernie Sanders, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Jeremy Corbyn, Yanis Varoufakis, and Sahra Wagenknecht. Citizens desire an alternative political path that would lead to a more egalitarian and sustainable future. To move forward, we must be able to discuss the past with no ideologically motivated attempts to whitewash or blackwash either our own history or the accomplishments of state socialism. On the one hand, any nuanced account of twentieth-century state socialism will inevitably encounter the sputtering and bluster of those who insist that it was pure evil, end of story. As the Czech writer Milan Kundera wrote in his famous novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being: “The people who struggle against what we call totalitarian regimes cannot function with queries and doubts. They, too, need certainties and simple truths to make the multitudes understand, to provoke collective tears.”5 On the other hand, some young people today joke about “full communism now.” Leftist millennials might not know about (or prefer to ignore) the real horrors inflicted on citizens in one-party states. Gruesome tales of the secret police, travel restrictions, consumer shortages, and labor camps are not just anticommunist propaganda. Our collective future depends on a balanced examination of the past so we can discard the bad and move forward with the good, especially where women’s rights are concerned.

Since the middle of the nineteenth century, European social theorists argued that the female sex is uniquely disadvantaged in an economic system that prizes profits and private property over people. Throughout the 1970s, socialist feminists in the United States also asserted that smashing the patriarchy wasn’t enough. Exploitation and inequality would persist so long as financial elites built their fortunes on the backs of docile women reproducing the labor force for free. But these early critiques were based on abstract theories with little empirical evidence to substantiate them. Slowly, over the course of the first half of the twentieth century, new democratic socialist and state socialist governments in Europe began to test these theories in practice. In East Germany, Scandinavia, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe, political leaders supported the idea of women’s emancipation through their full incorporation into the labor force. These ideas soon spread to China, Cuba, and a wide variety of newly independent countries across the globe. Experiments with female economic independence fueled the twentieth-century women’s movement and resulted in a revolution in the life paths open to women previously confined to the domestic sphere. And nowhere in the world were there more women in the workforce than under state socialism.6

Women’s emancipation infused the ideology of almost all state socialist regimes, with the Franco-Russian revolutionary Inessa Armand famously declaring: “If women’s liberation is unthinkable without communism, then communism is unthinkable without women’s liberation.” Although important differences existed between countries and none achieved full equality in practice, these nations did expend vast resources to invest in women’s education and training and to promote them in professions previously dominated by men. Understanding the demands of reproductive biology, they also attempted to socialize domestic work and child care by building a network of public crèches, kindergartens, laundries, and cafeterias. Extended, job-protected maternity leaves and child benefits allowed women to find at least a modicum of work/family balance. Moreover, twentieth-century state socialism did improve the material conditions of millions of women’s lives; maternal and infant mortality declined, life expectancy increased, and illiteracy all but disappeared. To take just one example, the majority of Albanian women were illiterate before the imposition of socialism in 1945. Just ten years later, the entire population under forty could read and write, and by the 1980s half of Albania’s university students were women.7

While different countries pursued different policies, in general state socialist governments reduced women’s economic dependence on men by making men and women equal recipients of services from the socialist state. These policies helped to decouple love and intimacy from economic considerations. When women enjoy their own sources of income, and the state guarantees social security in old age, illness, and disability, women have no economic reason to stay in abusive, unfulfilling, or otherwise unhealthy relationships. In countries such as Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and East Germany, women’s economic independence translated into a culture in which personal relationships could be freed from market influences. Women didn’t have to marry for money.8

Of course, just as we can learn from the experiences of Eastern Europe, we shouldn’t ignore the downsides. Women’s rights in the Eastern Bloc failed to include a concern for same-sex couples and gender nonconformity. Abortion served as a primary form of birth control in the countries where it was available on demand. Most East European states strongly encouraged women to become mothers, with Romania, Albania, and the USSR under Stalin forcing women to have children they didn’t want. State socialist governments suppressed discussions of sexual harassment, domestic violence, and rape. And although they tried to get men involved in housework and child care, men largely resisted challenges to traditional gender roles. Many women suffered under a double burden of mandatory formal employment and domestic work, as so well captured in Natalya Baranskaya’s brilliant novella, A Week Like Any Other. Finally, in no country were women’s rights promoted as a project to support women’s individualism or self-actualization. Instead, the state supported women as workers and mothers so they could participate more fully in the collective life of the nation.9

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, new democratic governments rapidly privatized state assets and dismantled social safety nets. Men under these newly emerging capitalist economies regained their “natural” roles as family patriarchs, and women were expected to return home as mothers and wives supported by their husbands. Across Eastern Europe, post-1989 nationalists argued that capitalist competition would relieve women of the notorious double burden and restore familial and societal harmony by allowing men to reassert their masculine authority as breadwinners. However, this meant that men could once again wield financial power over women. For instance, the renowned historian of sexuality Dagmar Herzog shared a conversation with several East German men in their late forties in 2006. They told her that “it was really annoying that East German women had so much sexual self-confidence and economic independence. Money was useless, they complained. The few extra Eastern Marks that a doctor could make in contrast with, say, someone who worked in the theater, did absolutely no good, they explained, in luring or retaining women the way a doctor’s salary could and did in the West. ‘You had to be interesting.’ What pressure. And as one revealed: ‘I have much more power now as a man in unified Germany than I ever did in communist days.’” Furthermore, following the publication of my New York Times op-ed, “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism,” I did an interview with Doug Henwood on his radio show, Behind the News. One listener, a forty-six-year-old woman born in the Soviet Union, emailed the show to say that I had “nailed it” in my discussion of romantic relations in “the old country,” as she called it, “but also the way men lord it over women with money here [in the United States].”10

The collapse of state socialism in 1989 created a perfect laboratory to investigate the effects of capitalism on women’s lives. The world could watch as free markets were conjured from the rubble of the planned economy, and these new markets variously affected different categories of workers. After decades of shortages, East Europeans eagerly exchanged authoritarianism for the promise of democracy and economic prosperity, throwing their countries open to Western capital and international trade. But there were unforeseen costs.

The rejection of the one-party state and the embrace of political freedoms came bundled with economic neoliberalism. New democratic governments privatized public enterprises to make room for new competitive labor markets where productivity would determine wages. Gone were the long lines for toilet paper and the black markets for jeans. Coming soon was a glorious consumer paradise free from shortages, famines, the secret police, and the labor camp. But after almost three decades, many Eastern Europeans still wait for a bright capitalist future. Others have abandoned all hope.11

The evidence is incontrovertible: like so many other women across the globe, women in Eastern Europe are once again commodities to be bought and sold—their price determined by the fickle fluctuations of supply and demand. Writing in the immediate aftermath of state socialism’s collapse, the Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulić explained, “We live surrounded by newly opened porno shops, porno magazines, peepshows, stripteases, unemployment, and galloping poverty. In the press they call Budapest ‘the city of love, the Bangkok of Eastern Europe.’ Romanian women are prostituting themselves for a single dollar at the Romanian-Yugoslav border. In the midst of all this, our anti-choice nationalist governments are threatening our right to abortion and telling us to multiply, to give birth to more Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Croats, Slovaks.” Today, Russian mail-order brides, Ukrainian sex workers, Moldovan nannies, and Polish maids flood Western Europe. Unscrupulous middle men harvest blond hair from poor Belorussian teenagers for New York wig makers. In St. Petersburg, women attend academies for aspiring gold diggers. Prague is an epicenter of the European porn industry. Human traffickers prowl the streets of Sofia, Bucharest, and Chişinău for hapless girls dreaming of a more prosperous life in the West.12

Older citizens of Eastern Europe fondly recall the small comforts and predictability of their life before 1989: free education and health care, no fear of unemployment and of not having money to meet basic needs. A joke, told in many East European languages, illustrates this sentiment:


  • "Wonderful ... Kristen Ghodsee doesn't wear rose-tinted spectacles ... but she seeks with great brio and nuance to lay out what some socialist states achieved for women ... That Ghodsee also makes this a joyous read is the cherry on the cake."—Suzanne Moore, Observer

  • "Brilliant ... engaging ... Ghodsee is not naive [and] brings the necessary scepticism to her thesis [which] comes into sharp focus when she looks at what happened after the Wall fell ... [a] valuable record of how things were and how they could be."—Rosie Boycott, Financial Times

  • "Convincing, provocative and useful."—Times Higher Education

  • "The virtue of Ghodsee's smart, accessible book is that it illustrates how it might be possible for a woman-or, for that matter, a man-to have an entirely different structural relationship to something as fundamental as sex, or health...

    Ghodsee approvingly notes the growing appeal of socialist ideas among young people in the United States and Western Europe, and her book is a useful reminder that the spread of these ideas would not just advantage the Bernie bros but might also better women's lives in significant ways. More orgasms alone might be a fine thing. But a change in the structural conditions under which more orgasms might be possible is another level of turn-on entirely."—Rebecca Mead, TheNew Yorker
  • "With acumen and wit, [Ghodsee] lays bare the inequities women face under capitalism and the desirability of decoupling 'love and intimacy from economic considerations.'"—O Magazine

  • "What if all it takes to get laid more is to embrace democratic socialism?... Ghodsee demonstrates how, historically, women have reported greater sexual satisfaction under democratic socialist (and even communist) governments."—Sophia Benoit, GQ Magazine

  • "[A] short, crisp and wonderfully engaging polemic [that] couldn't be more urgent.... A tonic for a badly ailing discourse.... Ghodsee's book shows that for women, socialism can at least improve the conditions for pleasure, and perhaps inextricably, love."—Liza Featherstone, Jacobin

  • "A provocative and deftly argued text."—Broadly

  • "Capitalism has fundamentally shaped and warped the ways we relate to each other, sexually and otherwise...leading us to view intimacy and love as things that only exist in finite quantities, and that are only worth investing in worthy relationships. Ghodsee's book offers an alternative to this model, looking back at the state-socialist regimes in the 20th century, under which the state liberalized divorce laws, legalized abortion, invested in collective laundries and nurseries, and enabled women to attain more economic freedom-and in turn, better sex."—The Cut

  • "A straightforward account of how capitalism harms women-including, yes, in our intimate lives... It made me want to do much more than vote."—Jewish Currents

  • "Ghodsee's focus...on sex and sexual relations emerges elegantly from the argument she has developed: that a feminist politics is central to socialism because it cannot avoid its foundation in economic principles. So long as women are economically dependent on men, there can be no equality; without such equality, she argues, heterosexual relations will suffer and so will the experience of sex itself."—In These Times

  • "There are many reasons to revisit socialist policies in a time of widening inequality, but a feminist perspective offers some of the most powerful incentives."—The Guardian

  • "Reliant on the commodification of everything, capitalism's triumph is a calamity for most women. Their hard slog as mothers and careers can never be remunerated within market societies which, by design, are compelled to commodify their sexuality, robbing them in the process of their autonomy, even of the opportunity to enjoy sex for-themselves. Without romanticizing formerly communist regimes, Ghodsee's new book retrieves brilliantly the plight of hundreds of millions of women in those countries as they were being stripped of state support and thrust into brutal, unfettered markets. Employing personal anecdotes, forays into the history of the women's movement and an incisive mind, Ghodsee is enabling us to overcome the unnecessary tension between identity and class politics on the road towards the inclusive, progressive movement for societal change we so desperately need."—Yanis Varoufakis, author of Adults in the Room

  • "A quietly damning indictment of the Lean In approach to women's empowerment through the corporate boardroom. Ghodsee makes a compelling case for a more expansive understanding of feminism, where remaking the economy is central. A necessary reminder that today's socialism should be as much about pleasure as it is about power and production."—Kate Aronoff, coeditor of Democratic Socialism, American Style

  • "This book is funny, angry, and urgent-it's going to make readers think very differently about how they work, and how they live. Ghodsee is going to start a revolution. I'm already making a placard."—Daisy Buchanan, author of How To Be a Grown-Up

  • “Written with academic clarity and professional empathy, this book takes the reader into an insightful journey on why women are pushed to the economic margins of a highly unequal society under capitalism.”—The Hindu Business Line

  • "A passionate but reasoned feminist socialist manifesto for the 21st century... Ghodsee's treatise will be of interest to women becoming disillusioned with the capitalism under which they were raised."—Publishers Weekly

  • "A pointed examination of the Soviet experiment... Using her years living in Bulgaria as fodder for the narrative, along with decades of research, [Ghodsee] makes the case that there are lessons capitalist countries can and should learn from socialism... At the same time, the author isn't blind to the failures of socialist regimes... While the title is the literary version of click-bait, the book is chock-full of hard-hitting real talk."—Kirkus Reviews

On Sale
Mar 3, 2020
Page Count
256 pages
Bold Type Books

Kristen R. Ghodsee

About the Author

Kristen R. Ghodsee has her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and is professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She has written six books on gender, socialism, and post-socialism in Eastern Europe, examining the everyday experiences of upheaval and displacement that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Ghodsee also writes on women’s issues for the Chronicle of Higher Education and is the co-author of Professor Mommy: Finding Work-Family Balance in Academia. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications such as Eurozine, Dissent, Foreign Affairs, Jacobin, and the New York Times.

Learn more about this author