Originally published: 04.10.15
I am a socialist feminist. In that order. This is because I am a working class woman. Also in that order.
I have been a socialist since I was old enough to understand that I was poor and not everybody else was.
I have been a woman since a dirty fucker flashed his flaccid penis and grey hairy sagging balls at me. When I was in my school uniform. So as a girl child I felt like being a girl is over now for me, best crack on and act like a grown up fairly sharpish.
I have been a feminist since I thought well this shit isn’t on. My brother and me cousins and me mates don’t have this shit on top of everything else we all have.
Working class women fight. We organise. We agitate. We do it for our communities, our families. We often do it seemingly for men. It is not new to us. We know why we fight. Putting the “feminism” on hold for the sake of class struggle is standard. We’ll get to that woman stuff after the revolution or what have you. You all know the type of comrade. Doesn’t mean the work being done isn’t for and about and often times led by women. We know.
Though our sisters don’t always. They fight for women. They are feminists. They are even radical feminists. Or they are intersectional feminists. Or they are Black feminists. Or they are anarcho-feminists. I could go on. And we all agree on fighting for women. We don’t agree always on what a woman is, or how to fight for them. But we fight.
And fighting is hard. And organising is hard. And surviving is hard.
I took the decision many many moons ago to fight what I needed to fight as myself. Not as part of myself with people who have that one part in common. As myself.
Today my very good friend Monica said to me (and she has said this before) that people keep telling her I am scary. That they can’t fathom working with me because they can’t even bare to read the things I write online. It’s just too aggressive. And she is always puzzled when this happens (and she very kindly told me it has happened more than once from different people). So she went back to read some things. And being originally from Yorkshire much of it didn’t bother her though she does understand that in actual fact it is scary for some people who aren’t used to this way of speaking and conducting oneself. So being both kind and wise she asked me a question. If you understand that people say these things and it doesn’t cause you to want to change I would like to know why. Is it because you can’t change or is it a point of principle. I have always found that the wisest people ask the most sensible of questions.
Of course it is a point of principle.
I grew up poor, female and angry. Angry but clever. I knew how to please people. How to be good. How to be smart. How to get good grades. How to make boys like me and girls want to be my friend. And it all worked out very nicely thank you. I got the highest SAT scores in my rough working class inner city primary. I got a place at a good church school. I got into all the top sets and got all the top grades. And all my friends were segregated from me. My clever, wonderful, hard working and massively insightful female friends were not where I was. Instead I was with articulate and studious and quiet girls. And confident, outspoken, clever boys.
And then I dyed my hair pink and got into a lengthy discussion with faculty about why making a statement with your hair instead of your intellect isn’t ok (yeah actually it’s totally fine). So when the pink faded back to blonde I shaved it off.
I was young, female and free. Because I looked like a boy. In my football shirt and jeans with my bald head I looked like a small, skinny working class lad. I became involved in youth politics, I went to an international youth summer camp in Germany. I met with councillors and politicians and I helped shape summer programs for working class kids. And I did it with other working class kids.
And within 9 months of this I went crazy. Bat shit crazy. Because as my hair grew back and my schoolwork became important again (passing without working was very possible but very frowned upon) I was juggling being working class with being someone who mattered. And you cannot be both. You must be articulate. You must be polite. You must even be respectful about Ken sodding Clarke.
If I as a child can understand the multiple layers of fuckeries within this charade I’m quite certain the women who are ALWAYS being victimised by angry and difficult women can. They choose not to. I choose to say fuck you. Like it or lump it. Just don’t ever come to me preaching sisterhood or solidarity. These women wouldn’t know the meaning of the word solidarity if they were hit round the head with a solidarity shaped frying pan.
And men who want to be siblings in the struggle for gender equality? Jog on lad. I’ve no time for you till you acknowledge that fundamental truth. Women are people. It really is that simple.
Sian Steans: New to blogging, focus on impact if austerity on women and intersection of poverty, class struggles and feminism.