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Diana E. H. Russell

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Title: Diana E. H. Russell  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Feminist method, Dorothy E. Smith, Catherine Malabou, Feminist constructivism, Feminist film theory
Collection: 1938 Births, Anti-Apartheid Activists, Anti-Pornography Feminists, Anti-Prostitution Feminists, Feminist Studies Scholars, Harvard University Alumni, Living People, Radical Feminists, Sexual Abuse Victims Activists, South African Expatriates in the United Kingdom, South African Expatriates in the United States, South African Feminists, South African Non-Fiction Writers, South African People of English Descent, South African Sociologists, South African Women Writers, South African Women's Rights Activists, White South African People
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Diana E. H. Russell

Diana Russell
Born (1938-11-06) 6 November 1938
Cape Town, South Africa
Occupation feminist author, activist
Period 1973–present
Literary movement Women's rights, Human rights, Anti-apartheid

Diana E. H. Russell (born 6 November 1938) is a feminist writer and activist.[1] Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, she moved to England in 1957, and then to the United States in 1961.[1] For the past 25 years she has been engaged in research on sexual violence against women and girls. She has written numerous books and articles on rape (including marital rape), femicide, incest, misogynist murders of women, and pornography. For her book The Secret Trauma, she was co-recipient of the 1986 C. Wright Mills Award. She was also the recipient of the 2001 Humanist Heroine Award from the American Humanist Association.[2]

Russell was an organizer of the First International Tribunal on Crimes against Women, in Brussels in March 1976.[3]


  • Early years in South Africa 1
  • Education in Britain and the United States 2
  • Fighting apartheid in South Africa 3
  • Teaching feminism 4
  • Research and writings on rape and sexual abuse 5
  • Organizing the First International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women 6
  • Redefining and politicizing "Femicide" 7
  • Works 8
    • Books 8.1
    • Essays 8.2
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Early years in South Africa

Diana Russell was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. Her father was South African and her mother who was from Britain had settled down in South Africa after her marriage. Russell was one of six children, and also had a twin brother. After completing her Bachelors from the University of Cape Town, at the age of 19, Russell left for Britain.[4]

Education in Britain and the United States

In Britain Russell enrolled in a Post Graduate Diploma in Social Science and Administration at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1961, she passed the Diploma with Distinction and also received the prize for the best student in the program. She moved to the United States, in 1963 where she had been accepted into an interdisciplinary PhD program at Harvard University. Her research focused on sociology and the study of revolution.

Fighting apartheid in South Africa

Russell's research focus probably stems from her own involvement in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. In 1963, Russell had joined the Liberal Party of South Africa that had been founded by Alan Paton, the author of Cry the Beloved Country. While participating in a peaceful protest in Cape Town, Russell was arrested with other party members. After the arrest, Russell like many others in the Liberal Party, came to realize that non-violent strategies were futile against the brutal violence and repression of the white Afrikaner police state. Thereafter Russell joined The African Resistance Movement (ARM), an underground revolutionary movement fighting apartheid in South Africa. The principal strategy of the ARM was to bomb and sabotage government property, and though Russell was only a peripheral member of the ARM, she still risked a 10-year incarceration if caught.

Teaching feminism

In 1968, Russell married an American psychologist who taught at the University of California in San Francisco. Subsequently, she started teaching as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Mills College, in Oakland, California in 1969. Not only did she offer one of the first women's studies courses in the college, but it was also one of the earliest of such courses offered in the United States. During the 22 years she taught at Mills College, she developed many more courses in feminism and pushed for Feminism to emerge as a major field of study at the college.

Research and writings on rape and sexual abuse

Rape and other forms of sexual exploitation and abuse of women has been one of the primary focuses of Russell's research and writings. In her book, The Politics of Rape (1975) Russell suggested that rape was a display of socially defined perceptions of masculinity instead of deviant social behavior. Her other books in this area are Rape in Marriage(1982), Sexual Exploitation: Rape, Child Sexual Abuse, and Workplace Harassment (1984). In 1986, Russell published the The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women (1986). It was one of the first scientific research study of incestuous sexual abuse to be published. For it she received the C.Wright Mills Award in 1986. In 1993, she edited an anthology on pornography, Making Violence Sexy: Feminist Views on Pornography. Her 1994 book, Against Pornography: The Evidence of Harm which includes 100 pornographic photos, was a study establishing how pornography encourages men to rape and leads to increased incidents of rape.

Organizing the First International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women

Russell lobbied other feminists for two years and eventually was successful in organizing the first International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in Brussels, Belgium in 1976. The conference which lasted for four days, in which individual women from different countries testified to their personal experiences of various forms of violence and oppressions because of their gender, was attended by 2,000 women from 40 countries. Simone de Beauvoir in her introductory speech to the Tribunal said: "I salute the International Tribunal as the beginning of the radical decolonization of women." Later, Belgian feminist Nicole Van de Ven with Russell documented the event in a book titled, Crimes Against Women: The Proceedings of the International Tribunal (1976).

Redefining and politicizing "Femicide"

In 1976 Russell redefined ‘Femicide’, as "the killing of females by males because they are female." At the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women, she testified to numerous examples of lethal forms of male violence against women and girls from different cultures around the world. Russell's intention was to politicize the term, and bring attention to the misogyny driving these lethal crimes against women, which she said gender-neutral terms like murder don’t do. Russell who is puzzled about the lack of response of women's groups in the United States to the use of the term 'Femicide' still continues to advocate the use of 'Femicide' to women's groups in the United States and around the world. She explains that in order to deal with these extreme crimes against women, it necessary to recognize that like race based hate crimes, "Femicides are [also] lethal hate crimes," and that most killings of women by men are "extreme manifestations of male dominance and sexism."[5]

However, feminist movements in many countries in South America, as in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Chile, and El Salvador among others, have adopted the use of Russell's politicized 'Femicide' and have successfully used it socially, politically and legally to address lethal violence against women in their respective countries.[6]

In 1992 Russell co-edited an anthology titled Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing.



  • 2001: Femicide in Global Perspective.  
  • 2000: The Epidemic of Rape and Child Sexual Abuse in the United States.  
  • 1998: Dangerous Relationships: Pornography, Misogyny and Rape.  
  • 1997: Behind Closed Doors in White South Africa: Incest Survivors Tell Their Stories.  
  • 1997: Incest in White South Africa.  
  • 1993, Dec.: Making Violence Sexy: Feminist Views on Pornography.  
  • 1993, Sep.: Against Pornography: The Evidence of Harm.  
  • 1992: Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing.  
  • 1990: Rape in Marriage.  
  • 1989: Lives of Courage: Women for a New South Africa.  
  • 1989: Exposing Nuclear Phallacies.  
  • 1986: The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women.  
  • 1984: Sexual Exploitation: Rape, Child Sexual Abuse, and Workplace Harassment.  
  • 1982:  
  • 1976: Crimes Against Women: International Tribunal Proceedings.  
  • 1975: Rebellion, Revolution and Armed Force: Comparative Study of Fifteen Countries with Special Emphasis on Cuba and South Africa.  
  • 1974: The Politics of Rape: the Victim's Perspective.  


See also


  1. ^ a b "Biography". Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "Humanist Heroines: Recipients". American Humanist Association. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
  3. ^ Russell, Diana E. H. Dangerous Relationships: Pornography, Misogyny, and Rape, Sage Publications, 1998, ISBN 0-7619-0525-1, p205
  4. ^ Website. "Diana Russell's Biography". 
  5. ^ Aaron Shulman (29 December 2010). "The Rise of Femicide: Can Naming A Crime Help Prevent It?". The New Republic. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Diana Russell (5 October 2011). Femicide" – The Power of a Name""". Women's Media Center. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 

External links

  • Homepage
  • Diana Russell on web radio, 26 June 2000
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