I have identified myself as a feminist for many many years. Under the impression the word summed up who I was, why I felt strongly about the inequality women face on this planet. Inequality I could see. By 6th form I knew it had a name, and I devoured academics whose work I didn’t really get. My first introduction to feminism not coming from Simone De Beauvoir, but from Dolly Parton. And life in communities which were turned into demonised impoverished matriarchies by the disappearance of skilled work under Thatcher. The left abandoned those communities. They passed on a history with a nostalgic focus on that skilled male work and union mythology. Preserved their own insitutions while neo liberalism continually attacked those communities. Knowing that the industry taken was the only defence they had. Public sector work done by women serving their communities. often all that replaced that industry. Our new left are concerned with the children these communities produced, now demonised as ‘chavs’ or by barely challenged institutional racism. Setting that into nostalgic history they claim as their own. While continuing or hiding the debate about how much social policy governing mothers should punish them for their moral fecklessness.
I did a speech at Oxford Uni, which was entitled ‘While were talking about feminism. what happened to equality’. I talked about how my understanding of the effect of gender inequality had changed over the years, and how I had contextualised early beliefs. Especially when I became a mother.
A year watching our liberal feminist media ok with equality being turned back( more concerned about vajazzle,s) changed the way I view feminism. An anti cuts movement where the ‘feminists’ within recognise the effect of left wing misogyny in denying them a go on the megaphone, but not it’s effect when exploiting the price women will pay for austerity. The mere mention of motherhood bringing about accusations of ‘heteronormative’ values and fetishisation of the family. Sponsored lunches where body fascism is discussed by the fauminist MPs who are rolling back equality, and Louise Mensch, Stella Creasy and Gaby Hinsliff pondering how feminism might be more successful if exemplified by market driven political parties committed to the exploitation of gender for cheap and free labour. And expansion of exploitative credit markets.
I continued to reflect, I realised that most of the theoretical feminism I had absorbed over the years, had been so I could justify my shoes and clothing choices to middle class women whose lives and history did not resemble mine. Recently I was asked about the feminist critique of Blue Labour, and my response before I thought was this.
‘Working class women don’t give a fuck about feminism and feminism doesn’t give a fuck about them’. I thought it was probably a bit harsh. Then I realised it was absolutely true.
Slutwalk’s biggest critics were middle class feminists. Terrified of women asserting sexuality which did not fit in their narrow ideals. Missing the point entirely that sexuality, however it is expressed, should not be used to justify violence. The #ididnotreport hashtag showing how ludicrous that concern was in this context.
Naomi Wolf published this last week(possibly before)- explaining that feminism had lost it’s way and should reach out to the pro-life cause. I finally realised the liberal feminism I had been told was feminism was nothing of the sort. It was the compromise the generations before us made for acknowledgement of their existence and their opportunity to compete.
Feminism as an ism to be discussed without context, in system which requires motherhood and caring responsibilities to remain invisible so it can perpetuate. Working Class women didn’t need to fight for entry to the workplace, they have had it for centuries. Theirs was a fight against the exploitation their position in this economic system brought. When we fight for our reproductive rights, it is because motherhood is being used as a way to push us out of the workplace and into poverty. Because out of the workplace, the only way to survive is scapegoat in receipt of state support or a relationship. It is because the motherhood which keeps women out of the boardroom. does it by keeping most of us as exploitable cheap labour. By keeping us as scapegoats for the government of the day. The equality needed was never theoretical, but those with access to this new domain where feminism is an ism never needed to reflect on that.
Liberal feminists could teach the rest of us to make better choices. Use better language and be polite about the fact that everyone is looking at boardrooms to find out where equality is missing, while social policy was that mothers should fuck their way out of poverty. Frank Field can cut benefits so women can be taught to be better by middle class women and professionals at Surestart centres. The fight of women this time, not necessary because only women who needed to make better choices are under attack. The fight was about how to encourage them to do so.
In this house. Feminism as theory and identity has outlived it’s usefulness along with the sub culture of a left more concerned with their own piety. And press feeding poverty porn to their favoured political party. I am over feminism. I want to talk about equality. And I don’t want to do it through a prism that is blind to the reality of the situation.
Am not rejecting everything the word feminist is used to describe, but I won’t be using that word to describe what drives me any more. Because quite frankly. as a word it serves only to ghettoise reality for 52% of population. To a fring ism. And that just isn’t in my interests.
Added later: comments re: ‘biggest’ criticisms of slutwalk coming from …got sent critiques like this one and one in next post.