Are you still there..?

You may have noticed that we’ve been quiet – we’ve got fewer new blogposts, we’ve not run events for a while, and we haven’t used our mailing list recently.

We’re still really passionate about keeping HFC going, about feminist campaigning, and about educating in Hampshire and beyond. But it’s not always easy.

We’ve been struggling with finding a meeting venue – we had to leave our previous venue in Winchester as we were no longer able to afford it, and have not yet found a suitable replacement. If you know of a cheap, accessible, quiet venue with transport links, in central Hampshire, please let us know.

Sometimes other life stuff gets in the way. Active members move to another county or country, or have changes in work or family situations. Sometimes people get ill; we have a lot of members with mental and/or physical health problems or disabilities that can fluctuate, meaning they have less time or energy available.  Possibly feminists with an intersectional outlook are likely to be juggling other oppressions.

With this in mind we are aware that community support can make a real difference to people. Community building is essential activism, but is often overlooked or dismissed. HFC tries to provide safe spaces, which can provide respite from everyday micro-aggressions. As a group, we are starting to recognise that our activism does not always have to be traditional campaigning or protest but can also be providing support networks and mutual aid.

We’re going to start organising low-key socials. Once a month, every third Thursday of the month, in Southampton. We’d also like to hold socials elsewhere in Hampshire; we are aware that recently we have been quite Southampton-centric. This is partly because the majority of our active members who were spread throughout Hampshire have either moved out of the county or have moved to Southampton. We still have some members in other parts of Hampshire however, and are keen to hold more events elsewhere.

If you’d like to get more involved, get in touch. Suggestions to improve HFC are welcome, but new people getting involved with the running and organising are even better. However, if you haven’t got the time or energy to get involved with organisation, we’d still love to see you at a meeting or social, or even interacting with us online.

Our first social will be at the Art House on Above Bar Street in Southampton, this Thursday 17th April from 7pm. Some of us will be doing knitting, drawing or other crafts; do bring craft things if you’d like but it’s definitely not essential!  This is the facebook page for the event.

Our next meeting will be on Sunday 4th May, venue to be confirmed.

AudreLordeSelfCare

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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.

Being ‘out’: the personal is political

[content note: mental health, homophobia, reproductive rights, rape culture]

I’ve recently been struggling with my mental health. This has led me to consider how open I should be about my mental health with others — if I should admit it to other people, if I should post publically on facebook about it. I guess the worry is always that people will judge me and think less of me. It feeds into my own shame and feelings of failure because I am struggling.

Recently, though, I’ve started to take a new approach. To be ‘out’ about my mental health issues, to talk openly and honestly about them. This doesn’t necessarily mean to go into great detail, simply to try not to be ashamed of it. To answer questions honestly, to tell friends if it’s a bad day. To recognise that having poor mental health isn’t something I should brush under the carpet and pretend doesn’t exist for other people’s comfort.

This has got me thinking about how I live my life in general. I am gay so I am ‘out’ in the traditional sense as well. I don’t play the ‘pronouns game’ (where you avoid using gendered pronouns and words when talking about your partner). I talk very openly about being gay and I hold hands with and kiss partners in public as long as it feels safe to do so. Being open about such things prevents a lot of the stress and anxiety that comes from being closeted and allows me to be myself. However, it is more than simply personal: I see being out as a political act. Being visibly gay normalises homosexuality; if people see gay people and know gay people then we are more than simply an invisible minority. Being open provides positive role models and helps young people accept their own sexuality and other people to accept them. I am thankful for those pioneers who came out before me, who said publically that being gay is okay and I’m not ashamed.

I’ve decided, then, to be ‘out’ about my own poor mental health. To talk openly about it and go some small way to erase the stigma. To say, ‘I’m not ashamed of this and you shouldn’t be either,’ to advocate for better mental health services and angrily defend benefits. Being ‘out’ is a political and, I think, deeply feminist act and one that can be transferred to all manner of other issues. I am thinking of the survivors who raise their voice and say, ‘I was raped,’ of the women who say, ‘I had an abortion.’ It challenges taboos and raises consciousness. It opens discussions and allows us to talk and campaign for rights, services and change. Without those who raise their voices and come ‘out’ then we would see no change.

This is not to say that staying closeted is a shameful thing or that people should at all times be out. I recognise that my being out is a personal decision that comes from a position of privilege. I am lucky and privileged to live in a time and a place that I can be out both as gay and as suffering from mental health problems, which in other countries and cultures could cause me to be to be disowned or killed. Speaking about rape is an incredibly brave thing to do and can often be traumatic and triggering for survivors. Not everyone wants to talk about their experiences or should feel they have to. People can lose their jobs when they admit to mental health issues; I know this. We have the right to privacy and to remain silent, to protect ourselves and those we love.

However, I would urge people where possible to come ‘out’. To recognise the political and transformative power of being open and honest about our own experiences.  To say I will not remain silent and I will not be ashamed.