On women, class and feminism, by @annadjinn

Cross-posted from: The Feminists Hood
Originally published: 06.01.18

This post is based on some notes I contributed to a social media discussion about whether class is relevant to a feminist analysis of the sex trade. Someone suggested I make them more widely available, so I’m posting them here. They are a bit rough – but hopefully they might be of some interest.

Traditionally women’s class was determined by her father’s class, unless she was married and then it was determined by her husband’s. Of course it has changed somewhat now but not entirely. There are still those household surveys that more or less assume that if there’s a man in the household, his position determines the entire household’s economic and social class. This has been institutionalised by Universal Credit, which is paid to the highest wage earner – almost always the man in a straight household with children. This represents a profound defeat for women.

Another thing that is often overlooked is the enormous, huge, mountainous, decades-long workstream performed by the vast majority of women that is unrecognised and unpaid: bearing and raising kids.  …

 

The Feministahood : Feminist musings of Anna Djinn, @annadjinn

Middle Class Values vs Radical Ones by Terri Strange

Cross-posted from: The Untameable Shrews
Originally published: 14.08.18

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In this piece I’m going to give some insights about tendencies, behaviors and ways of functioning that are particularly middle class and that I believe do great damage to movements and activism. The majority of my work as an activist has been within the radical feminist movement but I have also had experience with socialist groups and organizations as well as been involved in anti-war activism. I have found the same tendencies in every greater social movement I’ve been a part of. It has been most heartbreaking for me in the feminist movement because that is where I am most pulled and dedicated. As such I will be sharing several experiences that typify the behaviors that I am talking about. I will avoid naming individuals and focus more on the behaviors because although these are my experiences with individuals, they are not uncommon.

The middle class has one main social function – social control. It is a place of silent comfort for many and an aspiration of others who think the lifestyles of the middle classes are something to covet. Their primary function is as the managerial class – the one that keeps the working and poverty classes in line, as best they can as well. They do this by embracing and enforcing hierarchies and inequality that should have no place in society, let alone political struggles. The need to truly change the distribution of power and resources in this society has been a necessity for a long time and it’s quite clear that those with power will stop at nothing to maintain their place in society’s pecking order. At the cost of everything and everyone else. …

 

This article was published on Untameable Shrews.

 

The Arctic Feminist : I lazily blog about whatever I want. Always from a radical feminist perspective

The Return of Idealism and the erasure of Black Feminist Theory, via @andrews_cath

Counterpoint magazine published an opinion piece today entitled “The return of idealism: identity and the politics of oppression” written by Elaine Graham-Leigh. It’s a (very) long explanation of an argument I have seen in various forms within current feminist debate about the fallacies of identity politics. As the title of the piece suggests, the crux of her argument is that identity politics is a product of postmodern theory and fundamentally opposed to a materialist socialist analysis of the politics of oppression. Thus she says:

It follows therefore [for identity politics] that the important identity is not the one to which you belong by virtue of your descent or your biology, but the one with which you identify. In this view, women, for example, are not oppressed because of any relation to their female sex, but because and to the extent that they identify as women and signify this through their performance of femininity. The reality of the sex of their bodies is as unimportant as all material reality. It therefore follows that the identification as a woman, which is important, does not have to proceed from having a female body, which is not. The identity has become unmoored from the physical reality.

As numerous white feminist thinkers have noted before her, the emphasis on identity rather than shared biological circumstances can make activism harder [1]. The common thread running through her lament and those of a similar nature is: why can’t all women pull together to overcome common oppression? Why must what separates us -identity in this case- undermine collective action?

And here we come to the reason why I am writing this reply to Graham-Leigh. Because, her essay provides us -unconsciously or not- the answer to this question.

In her historical analysis of the origins of socialist feminism and identity politics, Graham Leigh fails to include the contribution of black feminist thought on these subjects, and when she does she does not evidence the same breadth of knowledge she shows in the rest of her essay. This is important because black feminist thought is precisely the bridge which links (this is a deliberate analogy follow this link and read the book it lead to) the contemporary debate between socialist and postmodern feminists she is discussing [2].

Let me explain: in her essay, Graham- Leigh explicitly argues that “intersectional feminism” or “intersectionality” is a product of identity politics. She quotes from the foundational work on this subject by Black legal feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw [3] and says:

Crenshaw’s argument was that black women were minimised in feminist campaigns which saw white women’s experiences as the default, and by Black liberation struggles which focused on men. As she said, ‘discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens at an intersection, it can be caused by cars travelling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a black woman is harmed because she is at the intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination.’ Black women could experience discrimination as women, as black people, and sometimes specifically as black women, ‘not the sum of race and sex discrimination, but as black women.’

This is an important insight, but it does not amount to an entire systemic understanding of oppression [4]. To be fair to Crenshaw, it was not her intention to provide one. It is perhaps an indication of the difficulties of understanding oppression through identity politics that intersectionality theory is left to do all the heavy lifting here. The term intersectionality is commonplace in online discussions of oppression, as for example in the popular phrase ‘my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit’. In its least nuanced form, however, it can become little more than a ranking system, ordering people according to how many different axes of oppression they can claim.

This dismissal of intersectionality betrays Graham-Leigh’s lack of knowledge not only of the origins of this theory, but also, its historical development from the moment from which this text was published (1989) and the present [5]. Crenshaw is indeed the woman who coined the term “intersectionality”, but the analysis she proposes has been present in black feminist thinking for most of the twentieth-century as Angela Davis shows quite clearly in Women, Race and Class (1981).

Drawing on this history, during the eighties, black and “third-world” feminist scholars were instrumental in analysing the oppression of women within their local, cultural, religious and class circumstances using the Marxist tools of analysis Graham-Leigh assumes were only employed by (white) socialist feminists. Particularly, Patricia Hill Collins and Chandra Mohanty, to name just two, have been grappling with the question of how to organise collective action against oppression between women who despite sharing a common biology reality, resolutely do not face the same oppressions when the material circumstances of their lives are examined [6]. Indeed, Patricia Hill Collins’s theory of a “matrix of domination” in which race, class, and gender are understood as “interlocking systems of oppression” is grounded precisely on the materialist analysis Graham-Leigh champions. For example:

Adhering to a both/and conceptual stance does not mean that race, class, and gender oppression are interchangeable. For example, whereas race, class, and gender oppression operate on the social structural level of institutions, gender oppression seems better able to annex the basic power of the erotic and intrude in personal relationships via family dynamics and within individual consciousness. This may be because racial oppression has fostered historically concrete communities among African-Americans and other racial/ethnic groups. These communities have stimulated cultures of resistance. While these communities segregate Blacks from whites, they simultaneously provide counter-institutional buffers that subordinate groups such as African-Americans use to resist the ideas and institutions of dominant groups. Social class may be similarly structured. Traditionally conceptualized as a relationship of individual employees to their employers, social class might be better viewed as a relationship of communities to capitalist political economies. Moreover, significant overlap exists between racial and social class oppression when viewing them through the collective lens of family and community. Existing community structures provide a primary line of resistance against racial and class oppression. But because gender cross-cuts these structures, it finds fewer comparable institutional bases to foster resistance. [7]

Although, Black (and postcolonial) feminist thought developed what is now understood as “intersectionality” squarely within the Marxist tradition, this does not mean that all feminism which proports to be “intersectional” is necessarily materialist. There is -as Leigh Graham shows- a liberal version of this theory which does indeed replace structural materialist analysis for “personal identity” and “personal experience of oppression” as their defining factors. But as Nancy Fraser notes, the co-option and transformation of materialist analysis by (neo)liberal feminists has been a feature of third wave feminism and it is no surprise, therefore, that it continues today [8].

So, to return to the original question. Why can’t all women pull together to overcome common oppression? Why must what separates us -identity in this case- undermine collective action? I hope the answer is now clear. While the centrality of black and brown feminist thought is ignored, or misrepresented in white women’s analysis, there can be no real hope of pan-women solidarity. If we appropriate this work as our own, while simultaneously implying that this very thought is limited and the cause of conflict between us, we can find no common ground at all.

 

 

[1] For example, Linda Alcoff, “Cultural Feminism Versus Post-Structuralism: The Identity Crisis in Feminist Theory,” Signs. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, (1988) 13: 3, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3174166

[2] Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, 2. ed., New York, NY: Kitchen Table, 1983.

[3] Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum (1989) no. 1, http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/uclf/vol1989/iss1/8

[4] My italics.

[5] See, Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge, Intersectionality, Polity Press, 2016.

[6] Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “‘Under Western Eyes’ Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28: 2 (2002): https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/342914

[7] Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, Unwin Hyman, 1990, pp. 221–238, http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/252.html

[8] Nancy Fraser, “Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History,” New Left Review, 56 (mar.-Aprl. 2009), https://newleftreview.org/II/56/nancy-fraser-feminism-capitalism-and-the-cunning-of-history

 

 

Cath Andrews is a historian of Mexican politics. She’s blogs at  Hiding Under the Bed is not the Answer  and who writes for e-feminist and Toda historia es contemporánea. She tweets at @andrews_cath

Top Ten Most Read Articles of 2017

How do they know who to kill?, by @marstrina  

“However. Here’s what I think anyone pushing the “sex is a social construct and therefore it is up to me to decide if my reproductive organs are male or female” has an absolute moral duty to account for: if sex is not a “real” and meaningful political or economic category, on what basis did the parents of the hundreds of millions of women and girls lost to femicide know who to kill? This is not state mandated, low-resolution social engineering: each individual family, each individual father, and sometimes mother, has made a decision to abort this baby, but not that baby. Each individual village midwife or grandmother or mother in law in a village somewhere has decided to take this child and leave them by the side of the road to die, but not that child. These people are not scientists and they are certainly not feminists. They didn’t get their decisions out of a Janice Raymond book, so give me a fucking break, use your educated-beyond-its-capability brain for a second and think about it: if sex doesn’t really exist, how do they know who to kill?”

 

The Thing about Toilets, at Not the News in Brief 

“The thing about toilets is that it’s not just about toilets. It’s about ALL the public spaces which could present a risk to women and/or children because of factors such as confined space, being locked in, restricted escape routes and being either explicitly or potentially in a state of partial/complete undress. These spaces include public toilets (no, not your private one at home, stupid), changing rooms in shops, gymns, leisure centres etc, prisons, rape crisis centres, dormitories, shelters and more.”

 

The Problem That Has No Name because “Woman” is too Essentialist.  by @ClaireShrugged

Screenshot_20170315-144208“…what’s a shorter non-essentialist way to refer to ‘people who have a uterus and all that stuff’?” In many ways, Laurie Penny’s quest to find a term describing biologically female people without ever actually using the word woman typifies the greatest challenge within ongoing feminist discourse. The tension between women acknowledging and erasing the role of biology in structural analysis of our oppression has developed into a fault line (MacKay, 2015) within the feminist movement. Contradictions arise when feminists simultaneously attempt to address how women’s biology shapes our oppression under patriarchal society whilst denying that our oppression is material in basis. At points, rigorous structural analysis and inclusivity make uneasy bedfellows.”

 

‘Men, shut up for your rights!’, by @wordspinster

“If you haven’t spent the last decade living on another planet, I’m sure you will recognise the following sequence of events:

A powerful man says something egregiously sexist, either in a public forum or in a private conversation which is subsequently leaked.

There is an outpouring of indignation on social media.

The mainstream media take up the story and the criticism gets amplified.

The powerful man announces that he is stepping down.

His critics claim this as a victory and the media move on—until another powerful man says another egregiously sexist thing, at which point the cycle begins again.

The most recent high-profile target for this ritual shaming was David Bonderman, a billionaire venture capitalist and member of Uber’s board of directors. It’s no secret that Uber has a serious sexism problem. Following a number of discrimination and harassment claims from former employees, the company commissioned what turned out to be a damning report on its corporate culture. At a meeting called to discuss the report, Arianna Huffington (who at the time was Uber’s only female director) cited research which suggested that putting one woman on a board increased the likelihood that more women would join. At which point Bonderman interjected: ‘actually what it shows is that it’s likely to be more talking’.

 

Include me out. How ‘inclusion’ is killing feminism, by Sister Hex 

“The problem with this modern obsession for ‘inclusion’, especially for university societies, is that it’s not only killing the soul of feminism or lesbian/gay rights but it’s basically devoid of any common sense.

The reason we’ve always had separation in activism has never been particularly about exclusion specifically, but for reasons of focus, empowerment, allowing an oppressed voice space to speak and sharing experience. This, in turn, lead to clear analysis and particular campaigning. Separation in activism is both common and successful and has been used in anything from civil to gay rights.”

The Misogyny Of Modern Feminism, by @GappyTales ‏ 

… At the root of women’s oppression lies an unassailable biological reality. Women are denied reproductive rights, paid less than men for doing the same job, and carry out the vast bulk of unpaid labour in the home, for no other reason than we are biologically female. As a woman I don’t get to opt out of this reality. I don’t, for instance, get to say to my employer that today I’m identifying as male so will be expecting a pay rise commensurate with that fact. Gender on the other hand is imposed and performative, so I can present as feminine in make up and heels, or I can choose to shave my head and wear masculine clothing. Either way my biology and the discrimination I suffer as a result of it remains a fact, not a privilege. …”

The Sex Delusion by @GappyTales 

“We live in an age of alternative facts.

And so this article will begin with the premise that there are knowable truths, separate from our personal perspectives and belief systems. Water is wet, for example. Whether on the left or right of the political spectrum, water is never dry. With this in mind, here are some long agreed upon and universally recognised word definitions: 

1. Woman: An adult human female.

2. Female: Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilised by male gametes.

3. Gender: The state of being male or female, especially as differentiated by social and cultural roles and behaviour.

So a knowable truth gleaned from these definitions would be that sex is a biological reality, and gender a more malleable social construct. Let’s consider then, the medical condition of gender dysphoria, experienced by individuals as a distressing mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. Let’s imagine it on a spectrum. How many people do we know with no mismatch at all between their biological sex and the stereotypically gendered traits and behaviours associated with it? The truth is very few humans fit perfectly into pink and blue boxes meaning, surely, that we can dispense with any ideas of an existing gender binary. ”

 

Dress Rules for Women over 40 by @JumpMag   

“Another summer, another list of rules for women on what they should and shouldn’t wear. From the ‘how to get a bikini body’ articles (top tip – buy a bikini, put it on your body, done!) to this incredibly stupid list of rules for women over 40 years.

Here are my dress rules for women over 40.”

Colonialism and Housewifization – Patriarchy and Capitalism at Mairi Voice 

Maria Mies:   Patriarchy and the Accumulation on a World Scale

This book provides a most important analysis of the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism. Maria Mies’ thesis is that patriarchy is at the core of capitalism, and in fact, capitalism would not have had its success in its accumulation of capital without patriarchal ideals and practices.

She builds on Federici’s analysis of the witch hunts, which were instrumental in the early developments of capitalism and argues, convincingly and in-depth, that the exploitation and oppression of women allowed for its successful domination of the world.  …

A brief history of ‘gender’ by @wordspinster 

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In New York City in 1999, I heard a talk in which Riki Anne Wilchins (self-styled ‘transexual menace’, and described in the Gender Variance Who’s Who as ‘one of the iconic transgender persons of the 1990s’) declared that feminists had no theory of gender. I thought: ‘what is she talking about? Surely feminists invented the concept of gender!’

Fast forward ten years to 2009, when I went to a bookfair in Edinburgh to speak about The Trouble & Strife Reader, a collection of writing from a feminist magazine I’d been involved with since the 1980s. Afterwards, two young women came up to chat. Interesting book, they said, but why is there nothing in it about gender? …

 

YOUNG PEOPLE IN CARE AND OFFENDING: A BROKEN SYSTEM

Cross-posted from: Feimineach
Originally published: 26.06.15

On the 23rd of June, 2015, the PRISON REFORM TRUST LAUNCHED A REVIEW to examine why children aged 10 to 17 who are in care are more likely to offend than children who are not in care. [1] The Trust acknowledges that the majority of young people in care do not offend or come into contact with the youth justice system; however, “children and young people who are, or have been, in care are over five times more likely than other children to get involved in the criminal justice system.” The Trust continues: “In a 2013 survey of 15-18 year olds in young offender institutions, a third of boys and 61% of girls said they had spent time in care. This is despite fewer than 1% of all children in England being in care.”  The review aims to identify why young people in care are disproportionately represented in the youth justice system and, importantly, how to respond to this problem. 
Read more YOUNG PEOPLE IN CARE AND OFFENDING: A BROKEN SYSTEM

The American Election – by women

White women sold out the sisterhood and the world by voting for Trump.  via @doublexmag

According to CNN, 53 percent of white female voters voted for Donald Trump. Fifty-three percent. More than half of white women voted for the man who bragged about committing sexual assault on tape, who said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, who has promised to undo legislation that has afforded health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans, whose parental leave plan is a joke, who has spent his campaign dehumanizing nonwhite people, who has spent 30-plus years in the public eye reducing women to their sexual attributes. More than half of white women looked at the first viable female candidate for the presidency, a wildly competent and overqualified career public servant, and said, “Trump that bitch.”

What leads a woman to vote for a man who has made it very clear that he believes she is subhuman? Self-loathing. Hypocrisy. And, of course, a racist view of the world that privileges white supremacy over every other issue. …


Read more The American Election – by women

My History by Antonia Fraser – Book Review

Cross-posted from: Adventures in Biography
Originally published: 25.01.16

Antonia FraserPrivilege is relative, isn’t it.  As long as there is someone wealthier, smarter or better-off than you, then it’s hard to consider yourself privileged.  Even when you most certainly are.

English biographer Antonia Fraser DBE is something of a paragon.  Her biographies are best sellers (Mary Queen of Scots) that get made into movies by the hollywood elite (Marie Antoinette).  The several I have read are engaging, impeccably researched and – on occasion and appropriately – laugh out loud funny (Warrior Queens).

In her ‘Memoir of Growing Up’ Fraser, now in her eighties, is at pains to describe what an ordinary girl she was, and how middle-class her upbringing.  This despite being the granddaughter of an Earl and, on her mother’s side, a wealthy Harley Street medico.  She grew up in North Oxford (not as well-to-do, Fraser assures us, as South Oxford) where her father was a don and, later, a Labour minister in England’s post-WWII government.
Read more My History by Antonia Fraser – Book Review

Tory Housing Transformation Nothing more than another attack on the poorest by @JayneLinney

Cross-posted from: Jayne Linney
Originally published: 11.01.16

Sadiq Khan was in yesterday’s Mirror offering his opinion on the Tories “plan to transform sink estates“;  he speaks of how “having a secure and affordable home meant my parents could build a better life for me…”; this was also my experience.

My mum when widowed January 21 1965, was in the process of moving home, with my dad they’d bought a new bungalow  and sold the terraced house they’d lived in for a decade, completing on Saturday 16/01/65. Due to the insurance documents not being signed at the same time, when my dad died of an unknown chronic heart disease on the Thursday, she and I were made homeless.

After two years of ‘making do’ at my grandparents we moved into a maisonette, on a new and at the time, state of the art council estate. Over the past 49 years the same estate has gone from being the flagship for Leicester City Council to so-called sink estate, now surrounded by  iron bars. Yet it was that estate where I grew up, went to grammar school and ultimately university and on to post-grad education.


Read more Tory Housing Transformation Nothing more than another attack on the poorest by @JayneLinney

‘This shameful Bill aims to demolish working-class life’

Cross-posted from: Morning Star
Originally published: 04.01.16

GROWING up on a council estate in the early 1970s meant a level of safety that working-class families now can only dream of.

The house I grew up in had been the home of my grandparents and when they died — my coalminer grandad of emphysema and my grandma of heart disease — the tenancy was passed on to my mother.

This provided a safe and secure home that is still in my family’s possession in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, today.

We didn’t “own” this property in the way homes are owned today, but it was our home. We decorated it the way we liked it, we lived in it, we were safe in it. I lived in that council house until I was 19 years old and had my own council tenancy in Nottingham’s inner city with my baby son in 1989 — where I lived until I moved to London in 2013.

 


Read more ‘This shameful Bill aims to demolish working-class life’

Why Women’s Spaces are Critical to Feminist Autonomy by Patricia McFadden

Cross-posted from: Isis International

The issue of male presence, in physical and ideological terms, within what should be women-only spaces is not just a matter of ideological contestation and concern within the Women’s Movement globally; it is also a serious expression of the backlash against women’s attempts to become autonomous of men in their personal/political relationships and interactions. As human societies have become more public through the intensified struggles for inclusion by various groups of formerly excluded constituencies (the largest of which is made up of women of differing classes, ages, sexual orientations, abilities, ethnicities, nationalities, and locations), so the struggle for the occupancy and definition of space has also taken on a concomitant significance.

In this short article, I want to explore some of the reasons why this contestation over women’s spaces has arisen. I also want to argue strenuously that women must not allow men into our spaces because strategically this would be a major political blunder for the future of the Women’s Movement, wherever it is located and engaged with patriarchal hegemony and exclusion. To argue for men’s inclusion into women’s political and structural spaces is not only fundamentally heterosexist; it also serves an old nationalistic claim that women need to take care of men, no matter where they are located and or what they are engaged with. This claim is inherently premised on the assumption that women who are not attached to or associated with a man are dangerous, rampant women who must be stopped. That is why the statement that women need to “take men along” smacks not only of the deep-seated patriarchal assumption that women’s mobility requires male approval. It also facilitates the transference of socio-cultural practices into the Women’s Movement that nurture male privilege and pampering in spaces that women have fought for centuries to mark as their own.  ….

The rest of this article is available at Isis International.

On the question of radical feminism and women as an underclass by @saramsalem

Cross-posted from: Neocolonial thoughts and it's discontents
Originally published: 29.07.15

41ggc7o4IFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Radical feminism has always been a strand of feminism that I have been uncomfortable around. Part of this is because of my own internalized sexism that makes me shy away from very radical demands, especially in the realm of personal relationships, beauty standards, and so on. But a bigger issue I have had with it is its blatant Euro/US-centrism that makes it almost useless in contexts such as Egypt. I finally had a chance to read one of radical feminism’s most famous texts, “A Dialectic of Sex” by Shulamith Firestone. I have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised, even as the text confirmed many of my problems with radical feminists. On the one hand, I see clear benefits in these kinds of texts – they are very clear in terms of identifying who is responsible for patriarchy and because of this they are able to make clear demands that movements can organize around. They also touch on parts of gender relations that other feminist strands tend to leave under-theorized, notably questions of love, relationships, and psychology. On the other hand, it is clear that these texts use European and American societies as the norm, and when they do mention non-Western societies it is usually to say that they are “more primitive” or that they are headed in the same direction as Western forms of patriarchy once they develop a little more. Some of the key differences I see between radical feminism and postcolonial feminism, for example, are in the ways that men are conceptualised, and how the family and culture are conceptualised. Another difference is that in texts such as Firestone’s that use Freud so heavily, there is bound to be the question of whether we can generalize about the “female psyche” across space and time. These are some of the questions I want to think through in this post. …

 

Read the full text here. 

Neo-Colonialism and it’s DiscontentsA blog by Sara Salem on Postcolonialism, Marxism, feminism and other conspiracies.  Twitter: @saramsalem

Smoking your cigarettes, drinking your brandy. Messing up the bed that you chose together

Cross-posted from: Sian Steans: Thoughts on a page
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.
Read more Smoking your cigarettes, drinking your brandy. Messing up the bed that you chose together

I’m coming out…………….as Working Class by @psycho_claire

Cross-posted from: The Psychology Super-Computer
Originally published: 09.10.15

There has been a lot of talk on my twitter timeline recently about class. Specifically the tensions of negotiating Middle Class spaces as a Working Class woman; and whilst I don’t intend to add my comments to what’s been happening it has given me the impetus to write this post.

So, this is me, coming out as Working Class: I’m a working class woman, trying to negotiate the very foreign world of academia and I have some thoughts I want to share on this experience.

I grew up on council estates, after my family home was repossessed in the recession in the 1980s because my parents could no longer afford the mortgage. I watched from an upstairs window as my dad argued with the bailiffs when they came to repossess the car. We didn’t have much money when I was growing up. My parents worked in low income jobs and life was tough. At birthdays and Christmas I grew so used to being told “We can’t afford that” that I stopped asking for expensive gifts. I remember one year when I wanted a Ghettoblaster for my birthday, and it nearly broke my parents paying for it.
Read more I’m coming out…………….as Working Class by @psycho_claire

School Uniforms: Reinforcing Patriarchal Norms? by @LK_Pennington

The streets in Scotland are full of children in navy blue, black and grey school uniforms trudging or skipping back to school. This week, schools in England and Wales return: with children in school uniforms that are very clearly gendered with lovely pleated skirts for girls and polo shirts for boys. Considering the increased awareness of the harm caused by gendered stereotypes as seen in the campaigns Let Girls be Girls and Let Toys be Toys , why are school uniforms still embraced? Is there really a difference between Lelli Kelli selling sparkly shoes for girls that come with make-up and Clarks selling school shoes for girls that you can’t play sports in, as per their recent advertising campaign?

I’m always perplexed by the obsession with school uniforms and the questionable defence of forcing children to attend school in clothing that are simply not designed to be played in. School uniforms may have worked in the halcyon days of the 1950s and 1960s when children were forced to sit in rows and learn by rote. Considering the amount of proof there is demonstrating that that is the least effective way of teaching, why on earth are we still obsessed with stuffing children in clothing which simply does not match current theories in childhood education?

Whenever I ask this question, there are two answers that always pop up: that children behave better in uniforms because they respect themselves and the educational environment and that it decreases bullying. I have yet to see evidence that supports either statement.

I have read studies which link increased performance of students in state exams to uniforms, but once you read the research it turns out that uniforms aren’t the only change in the school. Frequently, the implementation of uniforms follows a change in management or the discipline policy. These have actual measurable outcomes. Forcing six-year-olds to wear ties does not. The strictest uniform policy in the world will not compensate for poor management or poor teaching. Kids wearing jeans to a school where the staff and management respect one another and the children will do far better than children in ties in a school where staff are demoralised with poor management.

Many countries do not use school uniforms and have just as much good behaviour, bad behaviour and ‘results’ as schools in the UK. It must be noted that most schools will still have a uniform policy banning offensive t-shirts, non-existent skirts, branded sports clothing and, in certain areas, banning gang colours. You can have a dress code that requires children to be presentable that doesn’t involve cheap nylon pleated skirts or ties.

Let’s be honest here, a lot of school uniforms that are available are of poor quality, made by sweatshop labour and rip easily. It is more cost effective, especially for those on limited incomes, to buy a few pairs of jeans from Tesco or Asda that can be worn throughout the year, than it is to buy uniforms that are “seasonal”. This is without addressing the utter ridiculousness that is the price of school shoes or schools demanding children wear official uniform to gym class. Do children really play football better in shorts with the school logo on?

Another reason given for school uniforms is poverty; the theory being that if all the children are in the same outfit, then children won’t get bullied over clothing. Ten minutes in a school playground will demonstrate just how wrong this theory is. If your school has an expensive uniform available from only one shop, then parents on limited incomes will struggle to pay for it. Kids can also tell the difference between clothes from Tesco’s and clothes from John Lewis even in schools, which have generic cheap uniforms. They can tell the difference between boots bought from Clarks and knock-offs from ShoeZone. If they are bullied for clothing, they are just as likely to be bullied for wearing uniform as they are for wearing Tesco’s brand jeans.

This argument also fails to address the real issue of bullying. Bullies go after the weakest link. If it isn’t uniform, it will be something else. The problem is not that the children are dressed the same or not; the problem is that the school has a culture of bullying which is not being addressed effectively. That’s the definition of a bad school. Pretending that clothes will make it go away is naive and disrespectful to the children who are victimised by bullying. It makes them responsible for being bullied because they aren’t dressed appropriately rather than blaming the bullying on the school environment that allows bullying to continue without intervention.

Bullying is part of the patriarchal structure of our society, which sets up everyone in a hierarchy of importance. It marginalises any child who does not ‘fit’ the mould. In many ways, school uniforms are outward emblems of social control designed to make children ‘others’. If you think of the work which requires uniforms, most are of low status and equally low pay: jobs which are frequently performed by women.

Clothing is the outward signifier of respect: those in power require these to make a clear distinction between those with power who have value and those who have neither. As a society, we are reaping serious social damage due to our lack of respect for our children.

The conformity encouraged by school uniforms is about maintaining hierarchical social control. It is misogynistic as well as classist: setting out a clear difference between those who are important and those who are not important.

Fundamentally, school uniforms only serve to reinforce Patriarchal norms at the expense of our children’s education and their self-respect.

Motherhood is not for every woman by @LK_Pennington

Cross-posted from: Louise Pennington
Originally published: 22.06.14

Every single time I read this statement, I twitch. Because I do know what the author, in this case Melanie Holmes, means  but it’s inevitably from a place of privilege. I certainly agree with this statement:

Motherhood is not for every woman. And we shouldn’t assume that it is. It is unjust to view females’ lives through the lens of motherhood. Instead, we should view females through a wide‑angle lens.

Not all women want to be mothers, many become mothers by accident and some want to become mothers but are denied that through infertility or life. Not all mothers are “great” (however you want to define that) but most mothers are “good enough” – a statement which is as patronising as it can be true. Most mothers are doing their best whilst living in a culture which devalues and, frequently, hates women.

The problem I have with the “motherhood is not for every woman” rhetoric is encapsulated in Holmes’s concluding sentences:

When we speak about motherhood, let’s be realistic. No one can have it all. Some don’t want it all. And it doesn’t make them selfish, dysfunctional, or “less than.”

The problem is the phrase “have it all” is absolutely limited to  white, well-educated middle class women who are not disabled and nor do their children have disabilities who live in house free from domestic violence in an area where street violence is minimal and the schools and childcare are excellent. Many women living on this planet are working extreme hours living in absolute poverty with no access to education, healthcare or, in many cases, clean water. There is a vast chasm between white, ‘western’ women who have ‘it all’ (however you define that) and the reality of the lives of most women who become or want to become mothers.

It’s much easier to be a mother when you have money, healthcare, and sanitation. It is much easier to mother your children when they do not have profound disabilities in a culture with very little support for your child and basic access to education for your children, whilst guaranteed by law in the UK, rarely exists. It assumes that you have access to every single specialist that your child needs to support them. It ignores women who have disabilities themselves, who are most likely to be living in poverty. It ignores women living in poverty working 3 jobs to pay the rent whilst their child’s father refuses to pay child maintenance. It ignores the women who are experiencing domestic violence and are desperately trying to protect their children from a violent father and a social structure which blames the mother rather than holding the father responsible for his violence. It ignores women living in conflict zones: from gang-ridden areas of major cities to war zones across the world. Being a mother in an area where violence is the norm is incredibly difficult.

We’ve got to ensure that the “motherhood isn’t for everyone” and “motherhood isn’t the most difficult job in the world” rhetoric don’t end up silencing or erasing women for whom motherhood is indeed like being a soldier – esp when you live in a conflict zone from Iraq to any area where gang violence is endemic.

Motherhood would be easy if we didn’t live in a capitalist-patriarchy. It would be easy if male violence weren’t a real threat that all women live with. It would be easy if access to clean water were actually considered a basic human right and not a commodity to be sold. It would be easy if our government actually invested in our children with well-funded schools, libraries, parks, and healthcare instead of spending £3 billion year on nuclear submarines. It would be easy if mothering our children were valued.

The capitalist-patriarchy harms us all but it disproportionately affects Women of Colour, women with disabilities, and women living in poverty. Not all women want to be mothers, not all women can be mothers and not all women should be mothers. But, we need to recognise that mothering is made harder than it should be because of the culture in which we live.

We need to be realistic about the context in which we live.