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Feminism is only for middle-class, white women, apparently

(41 Posts)
legosaurus Tue 06-Nov-12 09:20:18

Long-time lurker here but have decided to finally post.

I have been belatedly following the twitterstorm surrounding Caitlin Moran's hasty and dismissive tweet about how she ''literally couldn't give a shit about it'' when a twitter follower asked her whether or not in a recent interview she had questioned Lena Dunham about about the absence of non-white characters in the TV series, 'Girls'.

So far, so ignorant for Moran's brand of pop-feminism. However, Vagenda editors, Rhiannon and Holly, recently wrote a defence of Caitlin Moran's position that sweepingly claims that ''feminism has always been a white, middle-class movement''.


And feminism that uses big words like 'intersectionality' is too confusing for women so better not to bother with it.

It is seemingly too-complicated to include other underrepresented groups into mainstream feminism. I see....Let's just carry on as usual, then...

comixminx Wed 14-Nov-12 08:43:54

Bah, stupid phone.

...though I don't think that bringing in comments of Xenia's from the Asda thread is helpful or illuminating really.

I watched a repeat of that BBC program about servants last night, with the historian whose background is of a working class family with a history of going into service. She was making the point that at the time of the women's suffrage movement, domestic servants were really very ignored, because the women employing them weren't prepared to allow them them rights the servants were starting to fight for... So although the domestic servants could come along to suffrage meetings if their female employer allowed or even helped then to attend, there was no question of their working life actually being improved in other ways, like a reduction in working hours or anything, heaven forfend! A massive intersectional / power problem there.

I think intersectionality is hugely important and as someone says above its heartening to see it being discussed more on MN. I was rather staggered that Caitlin M could even consider making the reply she did, to be honest. We can't fight all battles simultaneously, and I think it's reasonable enough to acknowledge which elements you're giving priority to (though then you have to be prepared to be challenged on that choice), but to simply say it's totally irrelevant? That's just rubbish.

comixminx Wed 14-Nov-12 08:33:55

Interesting useful thread (though I d

TeiTetua Sat 10-Nov-12 16:34:18

I think among the nobs and toffs it is the woman's (excuse me, lady's) job to hire the cleaners.

mignonette Sat 10-Nov-12 14:57:04

Yes, because the 'Upper classes' are beacons of enlightenment, eschewing traditional gender roles aren't they? (Where is a 'snorts in disbelief' emoticon when you need one?]

Xenia Fri 09-Nov-12 18:01:35

The ASDA thread was about sexism and class. I suggested unreconstructed working class men of the ASDA CEO's ilk who like sport and probably like their women in the kitchen lead from the top down and are just the job for ASDA with its working class demographic. I would love ASDA to be run by a working class women CEO whose husband does most of the cleaning. I don't see why my comments on that thread which simply recognise the class of people are regarded as different fro my views on here which are that we should not discriminateo n the grounds of sex. The ASDA advert does and it should not.

This can be a class issue actually. Less well educated working class men are heaps more likely to expect women to clean and clear up than men who marry women who are Oxbridge graduates and posh and earn a fortune.

Darkesteyes Fri 09-Nov-12 17:41:49

DarkesteyesWed 07-Nov-12 23:17:50

XeniaWed 07-Nov-12 18:38:49

This is not getting any better. I was hoping his hobbies might be philosophy or knitting or feminist politics or supporting human rights abroad or whatever but he is unreconstructed working class male made good with all the sexist baggage that brings. They should have recruited from Eton not at Grantham Fine Fare store hand...

I thought anyone was capable of advancement if they tried hard enough Xenia. Thats what you say in a lot of your posts.
The way you gaslight on these boards Xenia would put a lot of abusive partners to shame!

Darkesteyes Fri 09-Nov-12 17:35:46

Xenia you are on the Asda thread on AIBU saying exactly the opposite. Taking the piss out of Asdas CEO because of his working class accent and saying they should have employed someone who had a better education from the middle classes.
You contradict yourself and gaslight a hell of a lot on these boards.

summerflower Fri 09-Nov-12 11:01:39

Leithlurker, my point was to recognise the contribution that working class women, and ethnic minority women had made to the suffrage (and other) causes, not the views of certain middle and upper class women on this. Although I think that it was clear to the Pankhursts by the early 1900s that part of the opposition to women's suffrage was that critics said there was no demand for it, and they therefore needed working class women to support their cause. But the likes of the Women's Co-operative Guild were working class women's organisations and their contribution was certainly important, and it is all the more important given the poverty and lack of time that many of them experienced. The point I was responding to was that feminism has only ever been a white middle class movement, which is not true.

Although for what it is worth, I am guessing that if one regards having the vote as a benefit, then this extends across class and ethnic background?

As regards my point about rape, it feels like silencing. Yes, dear, you can access the services and help you need because you are educated and middle class, don't worry (how do you know that I can? There are a lot of assumptions in there). Of course different groups have different experiences and perspectives which are often not incorporated into the dominant discourse, and it is necessary to address this, but if those groups do not have the means to speak or to activate, then those in a more privileged position surely are obligated to help and support them? I mean, if I say that working class women are more often victims of sexual violence and I want to get involved in setting up a crisis support centre and raising awareness, should I just piss off because I am middle class, and my experience of sexual violence is different? (really?)

I'm not getting this, I'm sorry. Of course we all have different experiences and different factors of oppression, but making that the issue detracts from what I would have thought were common goals.

Xenia Fri 09-Nov-12 10:02:28

It does not good at all to divide. Most of us are at one with women abroad who are fighting much worse discrimination. The heart of feminism is simple and unifying. People should not be discriminated on the grounds of their sex.

Feminism has hugely benefited working class British women. They can vote. They can own property. Many of them believe it or not actually pass exams and get good jobs and earn a fortune yes and were working class! Let us not be defeatist and saying working class women only can earn the minimum wage - that is not feminism at all.

Leithlurker Fri 09-Nov-12 00:23:54

No summer you do not silence her voice but her perception of rape and the after effects of rape are going to be very diffrent from that of a muslim woman, a woman from a small ethnic grouping, a woman who has not got through lack of education or impairment, the ability to rind the help and support she needs for herself. I am afraid also your idea of a united struggle that certainly saw women from all classes take part in the struggle for suffrage, falls down a bit when some of the leading suffragettes were only arguing for votes for some women not all women. This will have been responsible for some of the views that feminism only benefits white middle class women.

summerflower Thu 08-Nov-12 22:44:29

I think to say that feminism has always been a white, midlde class movement, as is quoted in the OP, is to miss the very real contribution of working class women who were of course the first group to campaign for childcare, to campaign for free and open access to contraception and to campaign for abortion. These were not middle class arguments (the middle classes could afford to get these things privately, so it was not a political issue). I'm talking late 19th/early 20th century. Non-white, non-middle class women were also involved in the fight for suffrage and other feminist causes. And so on.

The question is who it serves to portray feminism as a white, middle class movement and deny the fact that it is and has always been a broad church. Of course, there are different political and ideological approaches, there are differences of experience and identity, and so on, these must be recognised, but surely fighting for an end to women's oppression and inferior status is a common goal?

Or am I missing something? I mean, if you say to a white, middle class feminist campaigning on rape or domestic violence, for example, that she does not speak for women, because she is middle class, because she carries class privilege, you effectively silence her voice.

Darkesteyes Thu 08-Nov-12 22:04:31

Exactly mig!

mignonette Thu 08-Nov-12 21:53:06

What a load of horseshit.

Darkesteyes Thu 08-Nov-12 21:51:46

Speaking of women making choices heres Xenias take on it.

XeniaThu 08-Nov-12 21:27:50

As I said pick a holiday you enjoy. We love it. It's about being in fresh air and moving all day. It is also or was when they were younger about being a very snowy place where Father Christmas and the rein deer can get their sleigh. Very Christmasy

I am just saying that mothers, particularly those who did not make bad career choices which mean they have no money, can ensure a happy Christmas they enjoy which is not put upon martyr. As ever it is a feminist issue - housewife equals alwful life in relative poverty. Full time working mother in good job equals having the Christmas which can make the whole family happy

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 08-Nov-12 12:21:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mignonette Thu 08-Nov-12 09:57:48

Agreed Stewie. Ayaan Hirsi Ali refers to the luxury of their 'choices' when so many women are denied fundamental rights let alone a 'choice'....

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 08-Nov-12 09:51:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mignonette Wed 07-Nov-12 23:17:24

Plenty of criticism that third wave feminism is far too focussed on issues pertaining to developed world women and neglects the struggles of women in developing countries - You may not agree with her views but Ayaan Hirsi Ali has spoken at length about this.

Darkesteyes Wed 07-Nov-12 23:13:19

Copied and pasted from the thread about the Asda advert in AIBU.

Darkesteyes Wed 07-Nov-12 23:12:33

Feminism is only for middle class women?
Yep according to Xenia it certainly appears that way.

XeniaWed 07-Nov-12 18:30:00

Oh yes, we can see his class as soon as we hear him speak. He has not changed classes even if he likes rubgy. It is as plain as anything. He's one of those men who has done rather well for themselves but certainly not changed class or left his working class behind. It is there in how he looks and what he says. I am not criticising him for it and of course to get to where he has on £4m a year or whatever from where he came from is great although let him make his board more female than male and then we might like him more. However he is not middle class. Also it is a good thing he is working class as he leads a brand which is very down market. He fits in well. Laughing as I type.

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SauvignonBlancheWed 07-Nov-12 18:30:56

Rugby League is seen as a working class sport up north, Amber.

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XeniaWed 07-Nov-12 18:33:41

Yeah we announced a ... " says yeah, not yes. The type of words he uses too are working class.

Here he is again

He even has an index the mumdex so is sexist to the core.

He says "boodgets"

He uses the word "you know" a lot.

He was brought up to think women do domestic stuff. I bet his wife is a housewife. If his wife earns more than he does I will donate £10 to charity and eat my hat.

I am not saying he isn't a nice man although it slal coming over as if the asda board is chocabloc with sexist men but he certainly has stayed true to his class.

Leithlurker Wed 07-Nov-12 20:01:38

I accept your general point Fritiq as it would be silly to claim all disabled people are not racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. On an individual level we are just as bigoted as other groups. I do though think that as a result of all the differences that are presented by and about us, disabled activists and organisations are less likely to tolerate and turn a blind eye to any form of discrimination. One simple commonality is enough to reduce us all to the same level, and that commonality is the limitations placed on our daily lives by a non impaired world. Simple example, the most racist anti homophobic white supremacist in a wheelchair stuck at the bottom of a flight of steps at least will share the frustration of a black, lesbian woman also in a wheelchair. This in it's self will not give them anything like a shared world view, but it is a site of common struggle.

What might be more profitable is to ask how good individuals and groups are at recognising not just difference but multiple diffrence and that each person may need the support and help of many different people. I would definatly say that disabled advocacy groups are not good at knowing how to react to that.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 07-Nov-12 15:51:52

I don't agree at all that splitting a group into bits has to mean losing power.

I think that the patriarchy is successful precisely because it lumps all oppressed groups into one. That's what othering is, isn't it? It's defining all of us who're not straight, white, Western [etc. etc.] men as 'the other' and therefore not worth space.

You can see the effects in really small things - if you look at a standard panel show, for example, there often seem to be 3 spaces unquestioningly taken by white men, and the fourth reserved for the 'minority of the day' - whether that's a woman, or a non-white person, or whoever.

In reality there should be immensely more spaces for the 'other' group as there are masses of different groups and, together, we make up a far larger proportion of the population that straight white men. But that will never happen while people insist on shouting down smaller voices within the marginalized group, or insisting our differences are not important or valid in the face of shared prejudice.

Xenia Wed 07-Nov-12 14:16:54

Yes, but as soon as you break any lobby group down into too many bits you lose all your power. The basic measure whether you are black woman or white who wants to be prime minster or working class or posh is that you may face sexual discrimination just as a man might face that when he says to his new wife you work for 10 years and I will stay at home and mind the babies.

The basic message is really simple and that's all people have to get across.

I agree that different groups then in addition have other difficulties.

And of course it is not a genetic race thing which damages women. I certainly did not mean to imply that. It is culture. It is not because they are blonde that Norway and Sweden do better for women than much of Africa. It is not a feature of blonde hair which means men and women operate more evenly it's just culture in the countries concerned. It is just that those cultures are well behind us.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 07-Nov-12 14:10:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

legosaurus Wed 07-Nov-12 13:52:40

Xenia, I think you may have missed a point here. You are looking at feminism with the view of women as a homogeneous group but: If you are a woman AND you are poor then life is even harder. If you are a woman AND you are gay, then you might have to fight discrimination on both fronts. A woman who is black will be unlikely to experience discrimination in the same way a white woman would.

Feminism and race are linked IMO and for me it is impossible to separate the two.

I am not sure about your view on race, either. It is not ''races'' which damage women. It is opressive regimes, patriarchal systems and cultural practices that do. I am no expert on sex-selection and infanticide but it is not the ''Indian race'' that kills baby girls. That occurs because of cultural value placed on males and the pressure put upon couples by society to have a boy. In the case of China, it is not the Chinese ''race'' that damages women, it is the Chinese policy of only allowing one child per family in order to place demographic control on the country's population, combined with the additional value placed on males that contributes to selective abortion. It is not possible to see things as simplistically as ''races damaging women therefore feminist intervention is required''

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