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We love this simple explanation of intersectionality by Miriam Dobson. Here at HFC we try to be as Intersectional as possible. If you have advice on how we could improve please do email us.
By Megan Sherman
[content note: domestic violence, abuse]
Murderer Mick Philpott’s judicial and media trials could have given his victims the dignity and justice of a frank discussion about the social disgrace of gendered violence which formed the crux of the case, but by men’s politicking and posturing in the media, the sadistic abuse of women and children has been denied the oxygen of public debate. In its place hard-right rags pulled Philpott’s state benefits centre-stage and the left by necessity took the bait, calling bullshit on the most cynical of anti-welfare propaganda.
The welfare issue dominated post-trial analysis at great expense for feminism. Facts about Philpott’s profile as an abuser and the heightened vulnerability of women whose key support services are being cut and closed wilt from the public scene. A scrap of information here and there in the New Statesman and Daily Mirror sadly doesn’t drown out the din of the talking heads of privilege, aka. the Tory commentariat, the morality makers in an age of corporate owned, right-wing mass media.
Imagine an objective documentary of Philpott’s crimes (trigger warning): over the course of the protagonist’s life, his chronic, violent hatred for others mutates. He becomes ever crueller and humiliating to the young women he romances. First he beats one with planks. Later he’s imprisoned, after repeatedly stabbing a girlfriend who threatens to leave him, puncturing several of her major organs — an outcome which only at the hands of somebody as nasty as Mick Philpott one could entertain the thought of calling something glib like a ‘lucky escape’.
After being released, Mick continues to charm and exploit multiple partners, living with many of them in the same house at the same time. He attempts to control their reproduction, manipulates them for his own material gain, and, not content with beating women himself, he teaches children to hit their mothers. It’s a rotten life. Finally, he burns down a house in which six children are asleep for the very last time, incensed by his partner’s threat to emancipate herself from his tyranny.
It’s a sad account of callous abuse and control which reflects a bloodcurdling reality for women in Britain. Two women die each week as a result of domestic abuse, and countless more cower through a life immediately threatened by the terrifying sadism of their partners. Society’s ethic can be gauged as much by what’s ignored in public debates than by their obvious content. Silence, fear and ignorance gives power to domestic abuse, and still frank conversations about misogyny are largely uncharted by — actively avoided by some of — the mainstream media.
Only the most decadent tabloid consumer would look at the facts of the Philpott case and bark questions about the abuser’s benefits as if they were a determinant of criminal action case. His criminality was symptomatic of a particularly extreme and violent misogyny, not welfare — a seemingly obvious point which events have shown it’s sadly necessary to continue pointing out. It’s worth noting however that the link between socio-economic poverty and imprisonment can be supported, and, crucially, it reflects entirely on the deep-seated problems of intersecting inequalities and not at all on the wisdom of supporting those trapped in the peripheries of the social net.
Conservatives — who in the same breath endorse cuts to Sure Start, rape crisis centres, domestic abuse shelters, and stigmatise single or poor mothers — laughably demand with indignant fury that all feminists languish in the putrid memory of Margaret Thatcher, macho-power incarnate, hetero-normative nuclear family extraordinaire, who wheeled back just about everyone’s rights, stigmatised LGBTQ identities and upheld the most calcified prejudice in public, not least calling feminism ‘poison’. That the media could wheel out feminism in their inevitable slip-shod hagiography of Thatcher, but barely mention it during the post-trial analysis of Philpott highlights the ignorant, lax attitude towards gender equality in Tory Britain.
It’s depressing that the politicking of men in the media drowns out the most salient feature of the Mick Philpott narrative, the safety of women and children. In the long term, any media model with a chance of being socially progressive must move towards democratic control, by which the marginalised can allocate resources to media that can prove it is acting in the public interest, best representing diversity, giving scope to the fullest possible range of narratives and discourse, and, ultimately, actively busting stereotypes and prejudice. Until then it falls upon feminists to keep on challenging anyone who denies that it’s Mick Philpott’s violent misogyny, not his welfare status, which makes him a burden on society.
So yesterday was a Big Thing for Brits on the Internet. And then this happened, a statement that needed saying:
A couple of HFC members have become dismayed at some American feminist pages’ lauding of Thatcher as a feminist icon. This is not the case. She described feminism as poison. But in lauding her they are often at pains to make clear that they ‘don’t agree with the politics but as a woman in power she deserves celebrating’. This is reducing her to her gender, and ignoring the harmful effect she had on women, on the LGBTQ community, and her supporting of racist, classist and genocidal regimes. One cannot laud someone’s office whilst ignoring the crimes they do whilst there, and to reduce anyone to their gender is being sexist.
For those not in the UK, it’s easy to see her as an abstract landmark event. For the people living in the UK we have her legacy, it isn’t historic. It’s going on NOW. It’s a pretty fucked up legacy, that is hurting women, people with disabilities, and is making the UK a more and more unequal society. This is not an abstract to us. We are living this.
When a couple of us took the page in question to task on these very issues, they ignored the testimony of a 33 year old woman who was raised in poverty in Thatcher’s Britain. But in a bizarre possible form of sexism reserved all their replies for the male member of HFC.
We find the idea of forced solidarity with Thatcher based upon her gender highly patronising, and would rather celebrate the women of Greenham Common, the miner’s wives and all other women who opposed Thatcher, not because of their gender, but because of what they stood for.
(SC + PIX + IZZI) [from our Facebook page]
When we as feminists call out Caitlin Moran for racism, when we call out transphobic radical feminists — we hope to make some points about how a feminism without intersectionality isn’t a feminism we want any part of, and why bigotry isn’t feminist.
When we call FEMEN out for racism, we hope to do the same. Izzi is a Muslim and a feminist; no one is asking her to stand in solidarity with FEMEN just because they are women.
One of these pages on FB has a massive focus on intersectionality normally; we were BEYOND pissed off. Pix is the member raised in poverty by a single mum and DV survivor. Pix’s mum used to go without food to feed her and her siblings. And Pix’s mum and women like her were vilified by the government of the time. (See study here)
Pix is 33 and joked, ‘I feel like aping the bad Vietnam movie trope of “YOU WEREN’T THERE, MAN.”’
When you laud Thatcher as a feminist icon, you erase that experience. You uphold a racist, homophobic, classist woman who was probably one of the best examples of internalised misogyny to ever hit the halls of power in the UK, or as one of our members put it, ‘Holding Thatcher up as a feminist icon is like kicking intersectionality in the stomach.’
Thatcherism is alive and well in the UK today. We dare American feminists to say that she is a feminist icon to feminists with disabilities in the UK, when they fail to consider her legacy, in the demonization of the working class and people on benefits, disability hate crimes as result of Tory rhetoric, and the ATOS medical tests that have deemed people fit for work who later died, or committed suicide in 2012. We dare them to say that to women like Pix, and her mum, who lived in social housing whilst it was being sold off, and communities in these less affluent areas crumbled. (An excerpt from Owen Jones’s Chavs: The Demonisation Of The Working Class)
Another member found this today, from Tumblr. And it says what we were attempting to say so, so well.
My feminism doesn’t support women who go to immense lengths to cut services that directly help and benefit other women.
My feminism doesn’t support all women simply because they’re women.
My feminism doesn’t support women who use their power to plunder, steal and exacerbate class gaps.
My feminism doesn’t support warmongering and bigoted propaganda wielding.
My feminism doesn’t support anyone who upholds an apartheid state as the beacon of civilization while referring to resistance organizations as “terrorism”.
My feminism doesn’t support white supremacy, exploitation of the proletariat, imperialism and misogyny (wow, shocker, women can perpetuate misogyny!!!!) all of which thatcher was disgustingly guilty of.
My feminism doesn’t support women who reinforce the idea of a heteronormative nuclear family structure, while publicly referring to feminism as poison.
My feminism doesn’t support systematic oppression, full stop.
So, American feminists, please THINK before you get all misty eyed about ‘The Iron Lady’. Please, don’t patronise British people in marginalised sections of our society. Please don’t erase our experiences, and don’t forget your intersectionality when it comes to Lady T.
Hampshire Feminist Collective
Further things you may want to read as to the political landscape of the 1980s in the UK: