I’ve been disappointed by a couple of articles which have appeared in the Guardian in the last couple of days, both of which have sought to explain the ways in which feminism fails women.
The first, “Feminism “has failed working class women”” identified the very important problem that working class women are not making the same gains in pay parity as their upper and middle class sisters. Is the liberal feminist “glass ceiling approach” neglectful of class issues? Yes of course it is, but I’m struggling to think of any purely liberal feminists amongst my many feminist friends and allies. There are plenty of working class feminists (and for that matter black feminists, and disabled feminists) who are marginalised whenever “feminism” is discussed as a concept in the liberal press. I don’t know who Guardian journalists socialise with, but this idea that feminism is concerned with pay at the top primarily is bollocks. Yes feminist conferences are often dominated by middle class, well educated women, but not middle class well educated women who are obsessed with becoming executives and busting through board rooms. There are far too many arguments to have over sex-work/porn and inclusion of men in the movement for that… I jest, I jest. Seriously, if there was one issue which I think all feminists I know would put in their top three battles with the patriarchy, it is not executive pay, it is domestic and relationship violence. Most feminists are concerned with representation and power, but even the many I know who are not Marxists like me see the current capitalist system as highly problematic and do not agree with three figure salaries.
The second article, “Is telling your daughter to find a husband such a bad idea?” (I know, I should have been prepared for a massive trolling from the title) explains to the naive feminist that her desire to smash through the glass ceiling (AGAIN!) has caused huge problems for young women, and while it may not be absolutely necessary to tell your daughter to start looking for a husband at university, she should at least be aware that happiness is multiple, and there are many forms of fulfillment to balance in pursuit. ARGGH! Is there a version of “mansplaining” that involves a Guardian journalist with little/no contact or idea of feminism as it is lived by feminist activists “at the coal face” lecturing her readers?
The part which particularly sums up for me the dominant focus society seems to place on liberal feminist ideals reads as follows:
“Back in the 1960s, in the pre-dawn of modern feminism, women already had the home, the hearth and the children: what they needed was access to the world of fulfilling paid work. But in pursuing that legitimate goal, too many women forgot that work is not the whole of life…”
What kind of feminist believes the revisionist version of history that has women entering the workplace, en masse, some time in the mid 20th century (sometimes tied up with the “reward” of getting the vote – both down to us being good girls and supporting the war effort)? My Mamgu had been raising my mother, as a single mother, whilst working full time for 20 odd years by the mid 60s. Before having my mother, she was in service – LIKE THE VAST MAJORITY OF WORKING CLASS WOMEN OF HER GENERATION.
Working class women have always laboured outside of the home, as well as within. The clue is in the name. So excuse me if I don’t fall off my chair in enlightened astonishment at being explained to by a Guardian journalist that this glass ceiling that is apparently at the core of feminist beliefs will potentially limit my daughter’s happiness if I ram it down her throat.
I have just been moaning about Megan (my daughter) to friends. She’s discovering her independence in leaps and bounds, which has today meant she does not want to be lifted in and out of cars/beds/generally, she does not want me to brush her teeth for her, she will walk around with her trousers round her ankles because it suits her not to be assisted pulling them up, and she will sing her own good night song. I suspect that this is a trait rather than a phase which will mean advising her on life choices may be difficult, but then again, as a feminist mother I don’t see telling her what to do with her life as my job. My job is to give her self worth and to encourage her to ask questions, so that she recognises for herself what makes her happy and is able to challenge obstacles between her and it.
The main obstacle for her and her generation is the same one as for my generation, and my mother’s before, and my Mamgu and Grandma before her. It isn’t feminism, it’s capitalism. Feminism has to be anti-capitalist for us ever to move on from a point in time where some women are more equal than others.