International Workers’ Day

Today is International Workers’ Day, so I found a good series of videos on the relation between feminism and working class women, and feminism on the left, by Those Pesky Dames. Feminism is often followed and participated in by more upper and middle class women than working class women. In these times of austerity, with women facing the brunt of the majority of cuts in services, it is vital that activist groups both on the left and in feminist circles include the voices and actions of working class women. Feminism needs to be more accessible to those without a university level education or time on their hands to do lots of research online (which, due to health problems and having such time on my hands, is how I managed to get to grips with some of the academic language). Anyway, the Dames’ video playlist says a lot of things better than I can, so give them your time and YouTube hits. 

On matters of why feminism is needed in the ranks of socialism in the UK, there is this, which as a socialist (non-affiliated with any party) saddens and angers me.

May Day bank holiday is coming up! Unfortunately, for us in the UK we may not have a bank holiday on the first Monday of May for much longer as the Conservative Government in 2011 plan to move the extra bank holiday in May to October, and May Day has come under their sights as the May bank holiday to be cut. There is more on the international history of May Day on the page, and is well worth a look as a jumping off point. 

Also, in an interesting twist, I found this article on the socialist feminist roots of International Women’s Day, founded in 1909! 

In Solidarity,

Pix

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An open letter to American feminists on the death of Margaret Thatcher

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.

maarnayeri

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.

With thanks,

Hampshire Feminist Collective

Further things you may want to read as to the political landscape of the 1980s in the UK:

Why cutting women’s services is a false economy

By Annie O’Halloran (aka Pix, to those who view our posts on Facebook)

PLEASE SHARE! Austerity is hitting hardest for women in the UK, people with disabilities, unemployed people, and many other groups.

[content note: sexual assault; domestic violence]

Sure Start centres
Sure Start provide free drop in centres for parents, offering drop-in sessions, access to health visitors and GPs. They provide support groups for parents with learning disabilities, such as conditions on the autistic spectrum, and early intervention via parenting classes for all families. Where children are at risk of being taken into care by Social Services, parents are highly encouraged to take these free classes. It costs the UK taxpayer £2,500 a week to keep one child in the care of social services. On average it costs £7,150 a week to keep one of the 3,500 Sure Start centres open. Without measuring the costs of other benefits, if a Sure Start centre can keep 3 children out of Social Services’ care, they save the taxpayer money. They are an invaluable resource to mothers who have just had a baby, helping them to socialise and lessening the feelings of isolation that can come with being home alone with a new baby. As they are free to all regardless of income level, they help form a sense of social cohesion and community. The intent of these centres when they were set up was to lessen the gap between children from lower income families and their financially better off peers in terms of early performance in the education system. (sources: http://www.fassit.co.uk, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/24/budget-cuts-surgical-strikes)

Rape crisis centres
Rape crisis centres provide services to people who have experienced sexual assault and rape. A well documented potential consequence of sexual assault is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. If a service user of a rape crisis centre decides to go to the police, they are often there as support for court cases and other aspects of the criminal justice system. It is estimated that dealing with the fallout of domestic violence and abuse costs the UK Economy £23 billion. In 2006, the Home Office estimated the cost of sexual abuse and assaults to be four times that amount. Rapes and sexual assaults are heavily under-reported as crimes, and the most common perpetrators are people known to the victims. (source for economic figures: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_16688.pdf)

Domestic abuse/violence services
These services provide safe escape routes, advice, and support in prosecuting offenders for women and children escaping violent and abusive relationships. Refuge, the biggest charity organisation dealing with this, along with the Home Office stated that in England and Wales two women a week are killed by partners or ex-partners. As stated above, it is estimated that domestic abuse and its effects cost the England and Wales economy £26 billion a year. Women’s Aid estimate that for every £1 spent, £8 is saved, in that there are fewer burdens on the NHS, local services and the benefits system. Domestic abuse and violence has increased 17% since the onset of the recession, yet funding for services has been slashed. Refuge states that 50% of women will experience domestic violence or abuse, sexual assault or stalking in their lifetimes. (sources: http://refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/what-is-domestic-violence/domestic-violence-the-facts, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/31/domestic-violence-rape-crisis-cuts_n_2049137.html)

The cuts to these particular services are a false economy, in financial terms when it comes to the economy. In a long term social sense, they are absolutely invaluable! Austerity isn’t working, and will cost lives and emotional and physical suffering.