Saturday, October 20, 2012

Let's Just All Get Incorporated, Then!

The reason?  Watch this, from Fox News:

How oddly things intertwine and knot.  One reason for the 37% figure of federal income taxes paid by the richest one percent of taxpayers is that the calculations attribute the income tax firms pay to their owners, and most of the owners belong to that top one percent.  Here the suggestion is that ALL of the incidence of the taxes falls ultimately on the consumers!  You can't have it both ways, conservatives.

How the incidence of any tax goes is an empirical question, by the way, and depends on the characteristics of a particular marketplace.  But it's extremely unlikely that corporations can just raise their prices whenever corporate taxes rise.

And on those high US corporate income taxes:  That's the rate.  The actual taxes paid by US firms are much lower than the initial rate because of all the deductions and tax loopholes.  Indeed, the US ranks pretty low in corporate taxes paid among the OECD countries. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Most Hilarious Class Warfare Piece Ever!

Must be this one (via Alicu blog):

Class warfare is a form of bigotry; it shouldn’t be tolerated any more than we would other forms of bigotry in public life.
Most people think of bigotry only in terms of race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. But at its core, bigotry simply is intolerance – which all too often leads to singling people out for attack based upon their group identity.
Think for a moment about the small business entrepreneur just starting out in his basement, mortgaged to the hilt, wondering if he will make it. Everyone loves these heroes when they are struggling to survive. But when they rise from the basement and make it all the way to the penthouse, these heroes suddenly are “not paying their fair share.” Today, it is open season on them.
As the spending-driven debt crisis grows in America and among the 50 states, we would not accept such vilification toward the poor and elderly who consume taxpayer resources. We certainly would not accept such vilification toward the working class or minorities. So why do we tolerate the vilification of those most successful in America?
According to the IRS, the top 1 percent of earners take home 17 percent of the nation’s total taxable income. Yet they pay 37 percent of the nation’s taxes. They are paying a disproportionate share of the burden of government and yet the Occupy protestors, public employee unions and even President Obama demonize them.

Even the title of the piece is wonderful:

The Unctuous, Impoverishing Bigotry Of Class Warfare

Just to get this out of the way:  I'm certainly not advocating bigotry towards the rich or stating that they are bad people just because they are rich or anything else similar.  But there's a huge difference between asking whether the one-percent is paying their fair share and calling asking that question "an open season" on them.

So why did I find the piece stomach-hurting funny?  Because a) most of the class warfare goes on in the reverse direction, nonstop, for decades if not for centuries and b) because of that data on how the top one-percent are paying a disproportionate share of the "burden of the government."

On part a):  Remember the 1990s?  Remember the piglets at the teats of the government sow?  Remember the moniker  "welfare queens"?  Those kinds of arguments are still common on the net but few people think they are a form of class warfare.  Neither is the Citizens United decision seen as part of that long-standing war.

On part b):  One reason* for those 17% vs. 37% figures is a previous one-percenter victory in that real class war:  The seventeen-percent-figure excludes capital gains (including realized capital gains) because they are not taxable income.  Yet capital gains are a major source of income for the very rich.  Indeed, it constitutes 60% of the income of the Fortune 400, for instance.

Another reason is that the 37% figure is about federal income taxes, not all taxes, and not even about all federal taxes.  The following quote corrects the same conservative argument using slightly older data:

When Rep. Bachmann or Karl Rove or anyone else claims that 1 percent of Americans pay 40 percent of all taxes, they are flat out wrong. That’s because they are conflating the federal income tax with all taxes. It’s true that in 2007 (the last year for which complete data are available) the richest 1 percent paid about 40 percent of all the federal income taxes. But the federal income tax is only one part of the federal tax system, and of course, there are also state and local taxes.
In fact, federal income taxes make up just 42 percent of all federal taxes, and only one-quarter of all taxes, systemwide across our country. The federal income tax is progressive—meaning that higher-income households pay, on average, higher tax rates—but it’s practically the only piece of our country’s tax system that is.
Payroll taxes, which make up 40 percent of all federal revenue, are regressive. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, in 2007 a household in the middle class paid about 9.5 percent of their income in payroll taxes while someone in the top 1 percent paid just 1.6 percent of their income in payroll taxes. State and local taxes are also regressive. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy reported that the average state and local effective tax rate for the top 1 percent is only 5.2 percent, while the average tax rate on the middle 20 percent is 9.4 percent.
By ignoring the regressive parts of federal, state, and local tax codes, and either implicitly or explicitly suggesting that federal income taxes are the only taxes, conservatives are artificially inflating the share of taxes paid by the rich. When other federal and nonfederal taxes are taken into account, the 1 percent’s share of taxes paid declines quite a lot.
The CBO found that the top 1 percent paid 28.1 percent of the total federal tax burden in 2007. And a more recent analysis by the Tax Policy Center estimates that the share of federal taxes paid by the top 1 percent dropped to 25.6 percent in 2011.
Furthermore, the share of taxes paid by the top 1 percent drops even more when taking into account state and local taxes. An analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice found that when state and local taxes are included the share of total taxes paid by the top 1 percent in 2010 is only 21.5 percent. This is just about half the “headline” 40 percent that conservatives like to claim.

Guess what the income share of the top one percent was in 2007?  It was 20.3% of all income.  So if the top one percent paid 28.1% of all federal taxes that year is the system terribly unfair?  If the top one percent paid 25.6% of federal taxes in 2011  and 21.5% of all taxes in 2011, is the system terribly unfair?  After all, their share in the income wasn't that much smaller than those percentages, especially given the absence of capital gains in the definition of taxable income.

Now compare that to the horrible-terrible-absolutely awful argument that a mere one percent of all taxpayers, with 17% of all income, paid for 37% of all "this nation's taxes" [sic].

*The post discusses other reasons but not the question whether corporate income tax payments should be attributed only to the shareholders or not.  The former lies behind the 37% tax figure for the top one percent.


The Value of Midwives?

A Finnish net article looks at  regional differences in the number of women giving birth who suffer from severe perineal tears. 

What caught my eye about the article wasn't that much the regional differences within Finland but the comparison to Swedish data.  One researcher notes that severe perineal tears happen in about three percent of all Swedish births whereas the Finnish average is only 0.6 percent.  It looks like the US comparable figure might be four percent.

Assuming these data are correct, why is the Finnish average lower?   The same researcher thinks this has to do with midwifery (my translation):

Mika Gissler, a research professor at the Institute of Health and Welfare, knows the reason.  According to him Finland has preserved the old manual skills of midwives:  In natural births one supports the baby's head so that tears in the vagina or the perineal area can be avoided. 

It could be that there's something off in the Finnish data.  It could also be that the same midwife skills have been preserved elsewhere.  But if not, here's something that could benefit women giving birth in other countries.  And the change wouldn't be expensive, either.

I also found it interesting that one reason for an increase in severe perineal tears is that obstetricians now try to avoid doing Caesarian sections.  An unintended side-effect of a good policy?

Caterpillars and Left-Handed Irishmen. The Republican Response to the War-On-Women.

This is good clean fun.  The would-be Vice-President of the United States, the still most powerful country on earth, believes that the best way to put to bed the utterly ridiculous view that the Republican Party is running a war on women is to ridicule the very idea:

GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan on Thursday night poked fun at the Democratic argument that the GOP is waging a “war on women.”
“Now it’s a war on women; tomorrow it’s going to be a war on left-handed Irishmen or something like that,” Ryan told donors at a Naples fundraiser, according to Shushanna Walshe of ABC News.
Probably better than Reince Priebus' caterpillar comment* from last April:

“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “It’s a fiction.” 

"Poking fun" at the opponent's argument can be a good strategy.  It suggests that the initial claim was outrageous and only deserves a joke in return.  But when the initial claim is not outrageous but, in fact, true, "poking fun" adds insult to injury.

The war-on-women is so unimportant that it can be joked about.  By a guy whose votes on abortion would please Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue,   and whose votes on fair employment for women would have pleased any extreme misogynistic patriarch until 2012 when he had to pretend to be more moderate, what with the elections coming.

The more serious Republican defense against the allegations that they wage war against women is that since Republicans don't think they are waging a war against people in general this must mean that they don't wage war against women. Or something of this sort (from last April but you have heard it over and over more recently):

“Because it is a fiction, Thomas,” Priebus replied. “It’s a fiction because, number one, there is no war on women. … The fact of the matter is that the real war on women, the actual thing that I think most women in this country are most concerned about, which is a good job, a good family, being able to live the American dream, provide for your kids and your family, that war on women is being perpetrated by President Barack Obama.”

We are supposed to ignore the fact that on all women-specific issues the Republicans vote against women's rights and fairness.  Had it been up to the Republicans in the Congress in 1960s there would be no Civil Rights laws, no Equal Pay Act and no federal laws against gender discrimination at workplace.  Indeed, Republicans have fought against all of the anti-discrimination statutes and still do.  And let's not even get into the reproductive rights issues!

But on one sense I get what Ryan and Priebus and others of their ilk are saying.  To many among that group women are so unimportant (except as the factories of future Republicans) that their issues can be safely ignored.  It's hard to see the treatment of people that unimportant as a war.


It was a bad analogue anyway because there IS a war against caterpillars.  It uses biological and chemical weapons.

Paper, Scissors, Rock

That guessing game (which is good for deciding on who will clean up after a party, say) is an example of a non-transitive relationship.  Aren't you glad to learn that?

It can also be used as a source for fun thoughts:

Except that fun games shouldn't be subjected to such scrutiny.  We can't even be bothered to subject political claims to any real scrutiny!

I always try to play random in that game because most people think the opponent does not.  And I hardly ever had to do the worst kind of cleaning after parties*...  Though I usually help out, of course, being a kind-hearted goddess who also cares about her pristine reputation.
*In two wins out of three games, mind you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Telling Your Workers Which Presidential Candidate Is Best For The Business

What do you think of that? 

Mitt Romney loves the idea:

Romney, speaking on a call to the very conservative National Federation of Independent Business, tells a group of business owners that they should “make it very clear” how they feel about the candidates. The audio, discovered by In These Times, also captures Romney telling the business owners to “pass… along to your employees” how their jobs might be effected by who wins in November:
I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope — I hope you pass those along to your employees. Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.

So does Joe Walsh, the Tea Party's Golden Boy:

“If you run, own, or manage a company, tell your employees! What was the CEO this week that said, if Obama is reelected, I may have to let all of you go next year? If Obama’s reelected, if the Democrats take Congress, I may not be able to cover your health insurance next year. If there’s ever a year where people who run, manage, and own their companies are going to energize their employees, it better be this year. We’re up against it.”

I think the imbalance of power makes these proposals unethical, whether they are legal or not.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Political Fluff in The Second Presidential Debate

What would Romney do to benefit women in the workforce, based on last night's debate?

The specifics he argues are to do with a) a strong economy and b) more flexitime for women.  If I combine those two I get the idea that a strong economic tide will lift all boats, including finally those boats that need flexitime because of the societal gender roles which leave childcare and such mostly to women.

That sounds like political fluff to me.  How would Romney achieve more flexitime for workers in general?  And if only women with children are expected to take advantage of that flexitime, wouldn't they look like more cumbersome workers and end up with lower earnings etc?

Obama did somewhat better, in terms of fluff, because he also promised to enforce existing laws against discrimination and made the connection between economic opportunities and access to birth control. 

Romney then promised not to let the government or the employers decide who can have access to contraceptives. But I'm not sure what he meant by that statement when it comes to the question whether health insurance policies offered by firms could specifically exclude coverage for contraceptives or not.  Such exclusions don't mean that women would no longer have access to contraception; it just wouldn't be covered.

Truth to tell, the issue invites fluff treatments, partly because many voters don't like the topic at all but largely because so many of the problems are based on existing gender roles at home.  Still, I shouldn't let the fluff go past unquestioned.

Today's Weird Feminist Political Themes, Growing From The Debates

First theme:  NEVER admit you are a feminist!  

Even if you are, in the sense that you believe in gender equality (say, in equal opportunities and in   equal valuation of traditionally female and male spheres of activity), because the real, hidden definition of a feminists is -- guess what?  A man-hater, naturally.  Or at least someone who only cares about wimminz.

We have Rush Limbaugh (feminazis...)  to thank for so very much, friends, and not the least for that distorting mirror (showing horrible armpit hair reaching down to those unfortunate Birkenstocks) the society places in front of us feminists. 

It now takes enormous courage just to come out of that equality closet, sigh.  Hence all those "I'm not a feminist but..." people out there.

Second theme: The society needs more feminist consciousness.

For how otherwise can someone write a whole blog post about "what women want in a president" and come up with this?

It’s true that issues are important, including social and cultural matters, as well as a plan on growing the economy and affordable day care and equal pay and flex time. But women, like all voters, also cue into the type of leader someone might be, and what their personality and communication skills say about them as a man.
I think many women are conflicted on this in their personal life choices as well as in their political leaders.  Often women express a desire that they want what has been traditionally called the “Alan Alda man” — someone who’s sensitive who will key into their feelings, listen and not be overly masculine. But often they choose the opposite. Many women think they have to decide between a man who is gentle but weak and one who is strong but mean. When given the choice, women opt more for the John Wayne type.

Did you spot what's weird about the post?  Being a leader and being a boyfriend/husband are equated.  Try reversing that and ask what male voters want in a female president.

Binders Full of Women. Or on the Second Presidential Debate.

Did you watch the second presidential debate?   I couldn't get to it until today.  What's hard about that delay is trying not to "pre-hear"  how those zillions of external judges rated the two contestants in style and difficulty and truthiness points.   I mostly managed to cover my ears and go tralalala-can't-hear-you  but not quite.  Thus, I heard that Obama did better and might even have won those style points, before I watched the video.

And better he did. 

Now about the contents:  The "binders full of women" is obviously the bit I should discuss here.  It cropped up because of this question from Katherine Fenton in the audience:
In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

Fenton, by the way, was attacked at a conservative site.   That's not kosher, in my view.  Are we now going to do a search on every person asking questions and spread the findings on the clothes lines all over the Internet?  There's a point in making sure that the questions don't come from insiders in either campaign but other than that?  It's just gross, and might make people hesitant about presenting questions altogether.

In any case, and without going on a long side-track about the contents of Fenton's question (see my Gender Gap series for more details), Romney in his answer brought up his record as the governor of Massachusetts:

Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.

I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women.
I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.
 But David Bernstein at the Boston Phoenix writes that Romney didn't initiate this process:

What actually happened was that in 2002 -- prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration -- a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.
They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.

 Bernstein also notes that while Romney's record of hiring women was good in comparison to what went on in the other states, he appointed women to run those parts of the state government he didn't care about, and

Secondly, a UMass-Boston study found that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006. (It then began rapidly rising when Deval Patrick took office.)

I was enjoying the two candidates telling us how they were the best-friends-forever to all those undecided women voters out there.  It's one of the few times in a decade that something like that happens!  Never mind if the emotions are real or not, that show was kinda fun to watch:  Two newly recruited feminist guys...

This doesn't mean that there's no difference between the platforms of Romney and Obama when it comes to issues that matter more to women than men,  on average.  If Obama has somewhat neglected those issues during his term, Romney would not neglect them, nosirr! 

He'd actively pursue and chase every single fundamental Christian belief about women's reproductive rights, starting with his promise to put back the global gag rule on abortion, and he'd actively ignore supporting any attempts to make sex discrimination at workplaces harder.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

This Is Fun. The Details of Romney's Tax Plan

Can be found here. 

Chrystia Freeland on the Plutocrats

This is a very interesting interview:

Journalist Chrystia Freeland has spent years reporting on the people who've reached the pinnacle of the business world. For her new book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, she traveled the world, interviewing the multimillionaires — and billionaires — who make up the world's elite super-rich. Freeland says that many of today's richest individuals gained their fortunes not from inheritance, but from actual work.
"These super-rich are people who, as they like to say, 'did it themselves,' " Freeland tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "And what's interesting for me, and actually I didn't expect it, I think it's a paradox of this sort of working super-rich, which is that you would think ... that having done it yourself, you might have more sympathy, be closer to the 99 percent."
But, she says, that's often not the case. "In many ways, that personal history of really feeling like, 'I did this! By myself!' actually creates more of a chasm between them and the rest of us, and, I would say, a certain degree of disdain."

Here's an interesting quote from Freeland:

Those at the very top, Freeland says, have told her that American workers are the most overpaid in the world, and that they need to be more productive if they want to have better lives.

Indeed, she relates this person telling her that if American workers want to get paid ten times the amount Chinese workers do then they should be ten times as productive!

It's actually pretty hard to get good data on labor productivity but what there is suggests that American productivity has increased a lot in the recent decades but those gains have gone not to the workers but to the firms (and their owners):

Not to mention the fact that international earnings comparisons should not be carried out as if some free-markets-fairy was setting the earnings with great justice.  Reality can be quite a bit nastier as you might remember from stories like this one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

There's Nothing Worse Than A Bunch of Mean, Hateful Women

So stated the Central Mississippi Tea Party President Janis Lane in an interview last June.   I saw this being discussed on the net last night but wasn't going to write about it because of the time lapse and because I'm always either ahead or behind the news cycle.  But this is just too much fun not to write about.

Here's the exact quote by our Janis, as it comes up in the interview where other people also responded to the questions:

#But do you think there are too many male politicians telling women what to do with their bodies?
#Wade: This is about right and wrong. How is it that they find a cell on Mars, then there's evidence of life on Mars, but if there's a cell in a womb, it's not a baby? ... You don't have the right to kill.
#If that was the case, then they had a right to kill us as blacks. If it's just a matter of having enough votes in the Legislature to kill someone, then there's nothing wrong with it.
#Lane: I'm really going to set you back here. Probably the biggest turn we ever made was when the women got the right to vote.
#What do you mean?
#Lane: Our country might have been better off if it was still just men voting. There is nothing worse than a bunch of mean, hateful women. They are diabolical in how than can skewer a person. I do not see that in men. The whole time I worked, I'd much rather have a male boss than a female boss. Double-minded, you never can trust them.
#Because women have the right to vote, I am active, because I want to make sure there is some sanity for women in the political world. It is up to the Christian rednecks and patriots to stand up for our country. Everyone has the right to vote now that's 18 or over (who is) a legal citizen, and every person that's 18 and over and a legal citizen should be active in local politics so they can make a change locally, make a change on the state level and make a change in Washington, D.C.

I bolded the relevant bit!  Delicious stuff!  Women are meaner than --- let's think a bit --- Hitler or Pol Pot or Stalin!  After all, Lane hasn't observed any nasty behavior in men.  Women are also diabolical (checks for hooves and horns in the mirror, spots nothing different from the usual scales)!

The one exception might be Janis Lane.  She is not diabolical or double-minded.  But she IS a misogynist, and she uses the usual strategy which is to compare the worst in women to either the best of men or to some undefined alternative.

Then she gets into a bit of knot given that she belongs to that group of diabolical people who shouldn't have a vote.  She engages in politics herself.   People should avoid voting for her as she doesn't believe she should be politically active.  She might come up in diabolical spots one morning, finding fangs in her mouth and such. 

Hilarious stuff.  How on earth do people filter out all the news about crime and wars and such, to arrive at such conclusions?  Of course there are lots of nasty women out there.  But to imply that women somehow have the upper hand in overall nastiness, well, that's just too funny for words.  Even though I've written many words about it.

In a serendipitous way I also happened to have a recent discussion about William Congreve's phrase :
"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned," spoken by Zara in Act III, Scene VIII.[1] (This is usually paraphrased as "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned")

This is usually applied in the sense that a scorned women is more furious than any other kind of human being.  But my own observations, having to do with breakups and divorces, is that the fury (and the pain) of the scorned is pretty much gender-neutral.   Isn't it interesting that this often-heard quote comes from a play?

Ann Coulter on Biden's Debate Performance

I try to avoid discussing Ann Coulter's weirdness because that's her shtick.   She, Rush and others of that ilk drag down the debate on purpose and laugh all the way to the bank after doing so.

But this time what she said is worth a feminist lens:

Ann Coulter: Biden "Reminds You Of The Biggest Jackass Boyfriend You've Ever Had" And "You Just Wanted To Strangle Him"

This is a pretty good reversal of the argument made about Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic contest for who would be the presidential candidate.  I wrote then that comparing Hillary Clinton to nasty ex-wives or bossy wives was a sexist way of trying to bring her down:

Note that Barnicle asked the other guys to hate on Hillary Clinton because she reminds him of one of the frightening myths attached to women in general: The ex-wife who takes you to the cleaners. Barnicle is not commenting on Clinton; he is commenting on Clinton's femaleness, and by that extension he is commenting on all women. And this was done in an all-male company on television.

Now Coulter uses a similar trick against Joe Biden.   Is it the same trick? 

Not quite, and mainly because "the biggest jackass boyfriend you've ever had" is not the kind of myth evil ex-wives are in this culture and because Clinton was running against a man whereas Biden is not running against a woman. 

But there are some similarities.  For instance, Barnicle was talking to men in the audience only and Coulter seems to be talking to women in the audience only.   And it's Coulter, of course, who always tries to say the most shocking thing possible. 

Still,  this made me wonder if sexism would somehow be OK if it was applied equally to everyone.  Or would it then stop having any effect at all?

This Is Funny: Rosie Perez on The Disadvantages Romney Faces

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Guest Post by Anna: A Feminist Literary Canon, Part Seven: 1980-1990

(Echidne's note:  Part 6 is here , part 5 here and Part 4 here.  Links to earlier posts can be found in Part 4 (assuming they still work..).  Wikipedia articles are used as a general source in this series.)

Audre Lourde (1934-1992) was a Caribbean-American lesbian writer, poet, librarian, and activist. 
Lourde criticized feminists of the 1960s for focusing on the particular experiences and values of white middle-class women. Her writings are based on the "theory of difference", the idea that the binary opposition between men and women is overly simplistic: although feminists have found it necessary to present the illusion of a solid, unified whole, the category of women itself is full of subdivisions. Among other works, Lourde wrote The Cancer Journals(1980), in which she describes her experience with cancer and calls on the reader to relinquish silence and speak out. She focuses on the importance of the love received from the women around her throughout her experience, and the comfort from talking about it with other lesbian cancer survivors. She also discusses coming to terms with the outcome of the operation, which left her with one breast. She explains that although it would be fine for women to resort to a prosthesis if they want to, she chooses not to, thinking that it seems like a cover-up in a society where women are solely judged on their looks. She also discusses the possibilities of alternative medicine, arguing that women should look at all the options. 
Her book Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982) began a new genre known as biomythography, a term she coined which means the weaving together of myth, history, and biography in epic narrative form, a style of composition meant to represent all the ways in which we perceive the world around us.
In Zami, Lourde discusses her upbringing and early life. The book describes the way lesbians lived in NYC, Connecticut, and Mexico. It also discusses Lourde's difficult relationship with her mother, whom she credits for imbuing her with a certain sense of strength; the book ends with a homage to her. Zami is a Caribbean name for women who work together as friends and lovers. 
In one of Lourde's most famous essays, "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House"  from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984), she attacks the underlying racism of feminism, describing it as unrecognized dependence on the patriarchy. She argues that, by denying difference in the category of women, feminists merely passed on old systems of oppression and that, in so doing, they were preventing any real, lasting change. Her argument aligns white feminists with white male slave-masters, describing both as "agents of oppression."
Margaret Atwood (born 1939) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist.
 She is best known for The Handmaid's Tale (1985), a novel which won the 1985 Governor General's Award and the first Arthur C. Clarke award in 1987, and has been adapted for the cinema, radio, opera, and stage. 
It describes a dystopian sexist future in the former United States where women are forbidden to read and hold positions of authority, after a movement called the "Sons of Jacob" has used a staged terrorist attack (blamed on Islamic extremist terrorists) to kill the President and most of Congress, suspend the United States Constitution, and create a theocratic military dictatorship. 
The story is told from the point of view of a handmaid, or concubine, known as Offred, who serves a man called Fred. Although this book is often considered a feminist classic for its criticism of the sexism it depicts, it is worth noting that Atwood recently said (in 2009), "I don't know if I am a feminist." The book also depicts the narrator's feminist mother burning books in a flashback, and warns against anti-pornography feminists aligning themselves with the religious right, since the religious right is against feminism. Atwood also believes that the feminist label can only be applied to writers who consciously work within the framework of the feminist movement.
Gloria Anzaldúa (1942-2004) was an American scholar of Chicano cultural theory, queer theory, and feminist theory.
She is most famous for co-editing This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color (1981) with Cherrie Moraga. 
This anthology explores the feminist revolution from the perspective of women of color and addresses the cultural, class, and sexual differences that impact them.  It includes Anzaldúa's speech called "Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers" (1981), focusing on the shift towards an equal and just gender representation in literature, but away from racial and cultural issues due to the rise of female writers and theorists.
She also stresses in her speech the power of writing to create a world which would compensate for what the real world does not offer us. Anzaldúa has introduced the term "mestizaje" to United States academic audiences, meaning a state of being beyond binary (either-or) understanding. In her theoretical works,  Anzaldúa calls for a "new mestiza," which she describes as an individual aware of her conflicting and meshing identities and uses these "new angles of vision" to challenge binary thinking. This "new mestiza" way of thinking is part of postcolonial feminism. In "La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness" (1987), a text often used in women's studies,  Anzaldúa insists that separatism for Chicanas and Chicanos is not furthering the cause, but instead keeping the same racial division in place.
Alice Walker (born 1944) is an American author and activist, as I mentioned before. In 1982 she published The Color Purple, which focuses on the life on black women in the 1930s in the United States, and includes themes of lesbianism and feminism. It is widely considered a feminist classic. 
In this book Walker portrays female friendships as a means for women to summon the courage to tell stories which allow women to resist oppression and dominance. Relationships among women form a refuge, providing reciprocal love in a world filled with male violence. The novel also shows the limitations of gender roles. 
In 1983 she published In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose, a collection composed of thirty-six separate pieces. In this book she coins the word "womanist", which she defines as, "A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mother to female children and also a woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women's culture. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female." This has become a popular and influential concept among feminist women of color.
Andrea Dworkin (1946-2005) was an American author. During the late 1970s and the 1980s, she gained national fame as a spokeswoman for the feminist anti-pornography movement, and for her writing on pornography and sexuality, particularly in Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1981) and Intercourse(1987), which remain her two most widely known books.
In Pornography: Men Possessing Women she argues that pornography and erotic literature in patriarchal societies consistently eroticize women's sexual subordination to men, and often overt acts of exploitation or violence.
In Intercourse, she went on to argue that that sort of sexual subordination is central to men's and women's experiences of sexual intercourse in male supremacist society, and reinforced throughout mainstream culture, including not only pornography but also in classic works of male-centric literature. Dworkin argues that the depictions of intercourse in mainstream art and culture consistently emphasize heterosexual intercourse as the only or the most genuine form of "real" sex; that they portray intercourse in violent or invasive terms; that they portray the violence or invasiveness as central to its eroticism; and that they often unite it with male contempt for, revulsion towards, or even murder of, the "carnal" woman.
bell hooks (aka Gloria Jean Watkins, born 1952) is an American author and activist. She took her pen name, which is intentionally uncapitalized, from her grandmother Bell Blair Hooks. She chose this because her grandmother "was known for her snappy and bold tongue, which I greatly admired." She put the name in lowercase letters "to distinguish myself from my grandmother." Her name's unconventional lowercasing signifies what is most important in her works: the "substance of books, not who I am." 
Her first major work Ain't I a Woman?: Black women and feminism (1981) examines the historical impact of sexism and racism on black women, devaluation of black womanhood, media roles and portrayal, the education system, the idea of a white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy, the marginalization of black women, and the disregard for issues of race and class within feminism. 
In 1984 she published Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center,which confirmed her importance as a leader in radical feminist thought. Throughout the book, hooks uses the term white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy as a lens through which to both critique various aspects of American culture and to offer potential solutions to the problems she explores. hooks addresses topics including the goals of feminist movement, the role of men in feminist struggle, the relevance of pacifism, solidarity among women, and the nature of revolution. 
hooks can be identified in her discussions of these topics as a radical feminist because of her arguments that the system itself is corrupt and that achieving equality in such a system is neither possible nor desirable. She promotes instead a complete transformation of society and all of its institutions as a result of protracted struggle, envisioning a life-affirming, peaceful tomorrow. 
A second edition of this book, featuring a new preface,  "Seeing the Light: Visionary Feminism,"  was published in 2000. 
In the preface to the first edition, hooks, talking about black Americans in her hometown, discusses the meaning of her title From Margin to Center: 
"Living as we did "on the edge" we developed a particular way of seeing reality. We looked from both the outside in and the inside out. We focused our attention on the center as well as the margin. We understood both. This mode of seeing reminded us of the existence of a whole universe, a main body made up of both margin and center."
Note:  Much of the information here is taken from Wikipedia articles.