Not all pain is considered equal. Period.

Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash

Giving birth is perhaps one of the only occasions in a woman’s life where she is permitted to feel pain. It is universally accepted that childbirth is an abhorrent experience — in the Judeo-Christian worldview, it is literally a punishment from God. Some don’t even survive it.

Note: The word…


Nigel Farage’s “campaign” is as dangerous as it is self-serving.

Nigel Farage is a fan of xenophobia, unveiled racism and over-simplification. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

He tried to set himself up as the Donald Trump of Great Britain, stoking up xenophobia to turn the ‘white’ working class against immigrants, minorities, women, liberals, lefties, and all manner of apparent undesirables. …


If you want to understand a country, listen to its women.

All photos are the author’s own, for more see @theopenbookshelf.

After an entire childhood stuck firmly within the trappings of the English Canon, I read my first Chinese author a few months before my sixteenth birthday. Her name was Jung Chang and reading her literally changed my life.

For the next decade, I read nothing but Chinese women's literature. I…


And, if not, is it worth saving?

Photo by M. B. M. on Unsplash

Democracy, as we know it, is dying. And, if we’re brutally honest with ourselves, that might not be such a bad thing. It has taken a global pandemic for us to fully realise it, but something is broken and it goes far beyond who we voted for.

In Great Britain…


And other reasons for women to lean left.

Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism by Kristen R. Ghodsee (2019), photographed for The Open Bookshelf.

Though it is always amusing to see people — particularly Americans— throwing ‘socialist’ around as an insult, I can see why those who have benefited from the subjugation of women under capitalism might find socialism threatening.

Keeping women firmly under the thumb of oppression makes it easier for emotionally and…


Rejecting the capitalist trap of always needing more.

Photo: Manny PANTOJA/Unsplash

I’m far from the only freelancer to find herself the target of business development managers promising to triple my client-base in six months. …


And what it taught me about value.

Photo by qianshu cd on Unsplash

Two weeks after graduating from university in England, I hopped on a plane and moved to China. It was obviously far more complicated than this, but it certainly felt as fast as a two-part sentence. …


I’m fighting for my daughter’s daughter’s society, but is that enough?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Dear Ijeawele takes on new meaning when you read it as a mother.

Looking back on more than a century of feminist activism, it’s incredible to think about how much we have achieved. Those socialised as female are now permitted to attend university, to vote regardless of race and class, to divorce without losing their children. We have won ourselves the right to…


We need to learn to separate history from the past

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash.

For those of us who studied history to degree level, separating ‘history’ from ‘the past’ seems fairly elementary. The past is what happened and history is how people have written about it. When I first began my training as a historian nearly ten years ago, I saw history as apolitical…


A three-step guide from someone who gets paid to read.

If I have to read one more article telling me “How to read XX books in a year”, I might have a nervous breakdown. It’s not that I don’t admire the people writing them, and their remarkable ability to fit reading so cleverly into everyday life. The problem is that…

Abbey Heffer

China specialist, feminist, political scientist in progress. Reviews, socialism & everyday academia. Low-brow, no jargon/acronyms. Editor of The Open Bookshelf.

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