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.
Continue reading “On women, class and feminism”
Personal reflections on the theme of women’s internalised oppression in response to Sonia Johnson’s brilliant and important book, “Going Out of Our Minds: The Metaphysics of Liberation.”
“I heard you’re running a sleep deprivation cult,” a leader of the US National Organisation of Women (NOW) said to Sonia Johnson when she visited their offices shortly after helping to organise a feminist retreat, where women – of their own volition – had stayed up late talking and singing.
I laughed when I read that. It reminded me of the many things that have been claimed about me – for example, being compared to Donald Trump, accused of bullying, of concealing important information that I had in fact shared appropriately, of being on an ego trip, of not speaking to survivors, of being “difficult” and “as mad as a box of frogs,” of having a personality disorder, and of using my own history of surviving incest and CSE, and my hearing disability, to “get my own way” in some unspecified way. Rumours have been spread that I did something (exactly what is never specified) that was so terrible in the past that several high-profile women (who barely know me) refused to sit in a room with me. And thus my years of quiet (unpaid) contribution to the feminist and abolitionist movement is disappeared. Continue reading “Women for or against women?”
In this essay I argue that male pattern violence, and the patriarchal system it serves to uphold, cause severe pain and suffering to vast numbers of women and children and that this takes place within plain view of the state. And I argue that therefore male pattern violence is a form of state sanctioned torture of women and children. I also critique the analysis of the Persons Against Non-State Torture organisation.
I refer to male violence against women and children as male pattern violence in an attempt to depersonalise it and sidestep all the circular objections that inevitably arise when women attempt to name male violence, such as Not All Men Are Like That and Some Women Are Violent Too.
Continue reading “On Torture and Male Pattern Violence”
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Click here to see the complete report.
This was my speech in the closing session at Feminism in London on 23 October 2010.
I am here as the chair of the committee who organised this day to thank all those who have helped to make it happen.
A year ago when we started to plan this event, we faced the choice of booking Conway Hall again in the knowledge that it was too small even last year or of taking a leap and booking this bigger and significantly more expensive venue.
We decided to take that leap and soon realised we needed to build a bigger and stronger committee, which has now grown to about 15 women. And I don’t think you could find 15 more resourceful and generous and passionate women if you tried. We range in age from early 20s to late 50s, we are lesbian and we are straight, we are black and we are white. Some of us are mothers and some of us are not or not yet; one of us gave birth this summer. All of us have fitted this work around day jobs, families and personal crises. Rather than list all their names, I thought I would randomly tell you about a few of us. Continue reading “My Speech at Feminism in London 2010”
Tomorrow, 23 October 2015, women from all around the world will be protesting Amnesty’s proposal for full decriminalization of the sex trade, including pimps and punters. I have written elsewhere about the shambles of how Amnesty went about developing this proposal, consulting on it and its so-called research.
I have written 120 Questions that Amnesty needs to answer before going any further with this proposal. I am still waiting for Amnesty to answer.
Women will be protesting outside Amnesty offices in the countries in purple on this map (and maybe others that we haven’t managed to get in touch with yet).
For details of the protest in London, UK, see the Amnesty Action website.
For details of the protest in Washington DC, see the End Sexual Exploitation website.
Regardless whether you can join a physical protest, please share your outrage on social media. We are using the image of the snuffed out candle shown above for the protest, to represent how the proposal is a betrayal of Amnesty’s mission to protect the human rights of the most exploited and vulnerable. Continue reading “Join the Global Amnesty Protest!”
I wrote these notes about The Creation of Feminist Consciousness from the Middle Ages to Eighteen Seventy by Gerda Lerner some years ago and thought I’d publish them here because her message is still relevant. This book is a follow up to her earlier book, The Creation of Patriarchy.
Through a meticulous and inspiring look at the writings of women from the middle ages, Gerda Lerner traces the emergence of feminist consciousness. She apologises for looking mainly at Western Europe but explains that is a reflection of her expertise and wish to make the project manageable more than anything else.
These are the main general themes that I noticed:
1. From the beginning of patriarchy, every philosophical system has defined women as inferior and marginal. For thousands of years women’s subhuman-ness was taken as a given without question or any need for explanation.
She illustrates this powerfully with her account of the development of the American Constitution, which included much debate about the issue of Indian men, male indentured servants, etc. but maintained utter and total silence on the issue of women (p8-9). Aristotle used the marriage relationship to justify slavery and she says “more remarkable than Aristotle’s misogynistic construction is the fact that his assumptions remained virtually unchallenged and endlessly repeated for nearly two thousand years.”
Continue reading “The Creation of Feminist Consciousness by Gerda Lerner”
Systems of oppression
“Karl Marx was one of the first theorists to explain that ideology is not a free-floating set of ideas, but rather a coherent system of beliefs that are purposely and carefully created by the elite class to promote their interests. Using their ownership of key cultural institutions, the elite then set about distributing these ideas until they become the dominant ways of thinking.” (Huffington Post 2014)
Feminism is not about demonising men – it is about understanding systems of oppression so that we can change them. So what do we mean by a “system of oppression”? A system of oppression is a set of interrelated forces that press down on people who belong to one group (such as women or people of colour) and effect their subordination to another group (such as men or white people).
One of the key characteristics of life as oppressed people experience it is the double bind. This limits the options that are available to a person in such a way that each option exposes the person to penalty, censure, or deprivation. For example, if a young woman is sexually active, she risks being called a “slut” and is considered unworthy of respect. But if she is not sexually active, she is likely to be called “frigid” or “uptight” and to be harassed by men to “loosen up”. If an older woman dyes her hair and wears makeup, she is ridiculed for “trying too hard”, but if she doesn’t, she “has let herself go”. If a woman goes back to work after giving birth, she is plagued by judgement that she is an inadequate, unnatural mother. If she gives up work, she is plagued by suggestions that she “sits around all day doing nothing”, is a gold-digger sponging off her husband (if she has one) or a scrounger on the state (if she doesn’t). And if anything goes wrong, it’s always her fault, no matter who was actually responsible. And so on. On and on.
Continue reading “Feminist Primer”