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Some thoughts on feminism and the left March 14, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Feminism, The Left.
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I thought this an interesting piece on aspects of feminism and the left by Yassamine Mather’s on the CPGB’s site which discusses gender quota’s amongst other things.

I’m not really that antagonistic to quotas, but I think the problems we face are so deep rooted that quotas don’t necessarily address the issue.

The points that capitalism itself was responsible for much of the social ferment of the 1960s and onwards rings true with me. Mather’s argues that:

It is true that the ‘nuclear family’ was confronted by many changes in the 1970s – I do not underestimate the influence of the women’s movement, the other liberation movements, 1968 and so on. But what was happening beneath all this was western capitalism’s financialisation – moving away from domestic production and the transfer of industries to where there was cheaper labour and an absence of workers’ rights: fewer obstacles to the maximum extraction of surplus value.

That’s a strong rebuttal of a certain conservative view that ‘liberalism’ unleashed social change when such social change was in part a symptom rather than a cause (though in fairness, and Mather’s makes this clear, it’s not that it lacked all agency of its own).

I like the sympathetic take on intersectionality in the piece, even if I’d have a question mark over the use of the word ‘leadership’ in the context of same, my sense was that the meaning of intersectionality goes a bit beyond ‘leadership’. Anyhow, well worth a read. More on all these topics in the future.

I also like the strong defence of feminism as intrinsic to the left, for example:

Women were told that they were free to work, that they were liberated from the shackles of the nuclear family – there was some truth in that – but at the same time they had no additional support as they took up full-time or part-time work: the double burden of oppression – production and reproduction [in the broadest sense - wbs] – remained.

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1. doctorfive - March 15, 2014

Some good points there and many others I wouldn’t quite agree with. A take down of liberal feminism in the Weekly Worker – with the now obligatory gratuitous swipe at intersectionalism – is a bit preaching to the choir though isn’t?

From my own experience at least, those who place an emphasis on glass ceilings, quotas, pay gap etc are by definition in an entirely different camp to those taking an intersectional approach and several miles away from communists. You are talking about people who would be comfortable in either Civil War party here.

The danger flagged in this article is seen at home, organisationally, in the likes of Women on air, Women for Election and more or less all the main political parties. Within all of those groups there are a hundred different motives. A big gang of old men on the ballot is likely to cost votes more than ever before, while more women will go some way towards neutralising feminist critique. All about the party, as always. There is a growing business side too and that is what it is. Obviously anyone, not least readers of the WW, are aiming for no boardroom rather than a better balanced one.

A sizeable amount, and probably those doing most of the work, are people who believe getting closer to a more accurate representation [of themselves don't forget] in media and politics is a necessity and who could blame them. Some see that as the goal while others see beyond it to varying distances. Who is to tell. The danger of absorbing dissent is there (The African American Achilles Heel is worth a read, and we have Hilary next…) but on the other side who can say Clare Daly’s entry to the Dáil hasn’t been good for Irish women, left politics… and their attitudes to each other?

It’s interesting to see so much space given over to intersectionalism in the article. It’s used to hang some points about individualisation which I don’t think is entirely correct but this claim routinely pops up in left commentary and you would wonder if it is just become the latest easy to hand excuse for the complete lack of numbers on the left and unity everywhere else.

I get her point about it becoming hegemonic but this is far from reality (feminism in the traditional sense isn’t even close) and even it was the case, this wouldn’t negate any of the legitimate questions it poses.

So, we have the CPGB, warn of any discourse or set of ideas becoming dominant. as their rationale for continuing with the same people running it who have always done so.

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2014

It’s interesting, your comment is almost the inverse of mine in the sense I was picking out the bits I liked and more or less ignoring the bits I didn’t (bar my problem with her read of intersectionality) and you’re doing the opposite! Would agree almost entirely with what you’re saying. I think your thoughts on just how many forms of feminism there are is crucial as is your point re lack of hegemony (which by the by is a terrifying thought in its own right and dhows how far yet to go). I do think intersectionality has a lot to add to the discussion and oddly enough I’m posting something up later today with a quote which engages with some of these issues.

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