Archive

Women’s Work

IDENTITY VERSUS SOCIALIZATION

I want to explore what “woman” means when male-born persons can be “women” just the same as female-born persons.

Most significantly, the term “woman” must be disconnected from the socio-historic context that gives the term coherency in the first place. Without any material or experiential framework “woman’s” origin becomes irrelevant; she can be anything or nothing at all.

When male-born persons can be “women” just the same as female-born persons, the skin-deep veneer of social identity is being substituted for the complex, lifelong process of class-based socialization. This is neoliberal individualist choice-theory masquerading as the politics of liberation.

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Margaret Thatcher has died. The very famous Conservative British Prime Minister enacted a number of controversial policies from 1979 – 1990. She was rightly criticised for, amongst other things, destroying the British coal mining industry, weakening the trade unions through various legislation, and increasing unemployment to over 3 million people.

She is not a likeable woman. But this is not justification or excuse for those in the left to spew misogynistic insults. The word bitch is being frequently used to describe Thatcher. Memes and videos stating “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” are being shared over Facebook and insults used such as “ugly cow.” And it is not simply men reveling in sex-specific insults. Radical feminists are also using words like witch, reblogging misogynistic memes, or excusing others who choose to do so.

Women give men implicit permission to use misogynistic insults against Margaret Thatcher when we do this.

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Food as a passion, a gift, a means of revenge, even source of power –….Women weigh up the loss of a lover, or the loss of weight; they consider whether hunger and the thought of higher things are inextricably linked; they feast and crave and die for their appetites, or lack of appetite” – cover blurb -The Anger of Aubergines : Collected Stories of Women and Food – Bulbul Sharma, India, 1998

I was once surfing channels TV in boredom when I became aware of the high frequency of images of women and food – and remembered Bulbul Sharma’s book — the social and political connections between women and food is both obvious and obscure.  Food politics is bone-deeply symbolic for women in conflicting clashing paradoxes,  both love/hate combined, both bonding/bondage, both pleasure/pain for women.  More postcards, tourist snaps, 30-second news bites. Russian women standing in food queues. Chatting with a woman neighbour in the frozen food aisle of my local supermarket.  Refugee women in some warzone preparing international AID mash. Backyard barbecues with women around the food tables– helping to toss a salad perhaps, add a dash of mayo, or hand finger-foods to a toddler.

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Forty years ago, in 1971 – Juliet Mitchell wrote her thesis ‘Woman’s Estate’, starting with a summary of the history of where the *idea* of women’s liberation came from:

Every Socialist recognizes the dependence of the workman on the capitalist, and cannot understand that others, and especially the capitalists themselves, should fail to recognize it also; but the same Socialist often does not recognize the dependence of women on men because the question touches his own dear self more or less nearly. [August Bebel, Woman and Socialism, 1883]

Juliet Mitchell’s thesis is presented in two parts, the first part is a pencil-sketch summary of political context and history at the time of writing, tracking the launch of the 60s women’s liberation movement in England. Like north-america WLM arose from within a context of various leftist political movements, although UK women’s experiences diverged somewhat from US women’s experiences.
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