Tagged: prolier than thou

On things that surely shouldn’t need saying.

There’s a lot being said and, I’m sure, a lot more that will be said on intersectionality within feminism (good); its misunderstanding and mispresentation (bad); and the fact that while intersectionality may be an off-putting term to use, it’s not that hard to understand because for many women (hell, and men) it constitutes lived experience. I write for Bad Reputation in part because we strive to “do” intersectionality all the time, although I don’t think we overuse the word. Intersectionality in part, for me, is about recognising that people have it tough even if they aren’t you. I’m just going to add this.

A frustrating number of arguments against ‘academic/middle-class feminism’ and for ‘populist, accessible feminism’ seem to hinge on a false dichotomy, presenting women outside academia and/or the middle classes as exclusively focused on material issues because that’s all their working-class, comprehensive-schooled brains can cope with, with middle-class women obliged to condescendingly lower their expectations when dealing with such exotic creatures. So, in this model, women are either empowered and oblivious high-theory feminists, or they’re Vicky Pollard. This erases any number of valid and complex identities.
As a comprehensive schoolgirl whose educational trajectory has gradually removed me from the context in which I grew up, but not eradicated my affinity with it, part of my attraction to feminism – as to other ideologies of emancipation – was the chance it offered to analyse and articulate my own experience. I wasn’t intellectually incapable of doing so, nor did I need any condescending interventions from above to explain things in short words. I’d just ask this: please stop using ‘working-class’ as a synonym for ‘uneducated’, ‘uneducatable’, and/or ‘unable to deal with complicated concepts’. Just stop it. It’s inaccurate, it’s condescending, and it’s really unhelpful both to feminism and to most everything else. We should all be thinking harder.
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A rushed response to ‘survival in the cracks’.

I had only one real beef with the excellent Paul Mason’s most recently printed reflection on ‘the graduate without a future’, but it’s the same beef I have with almost every recent lamentation on the state we’re in: lack of attention to class as key. Given Mason’s interesting and not especially privileged background, it seemed a particularly surprising omission. While of course I appreciated the article’s update on how there’s still no future, but there might be some putative entrepreneurial ‘survival in the cracks’, stringing beads together on a collective farm then selling them through The New Inquiry (I paraphrase) – it’s still the case that all graduates are not created equal, and some are still more equal than others. Correct me if I’m wrong (really, do correct me if I’m wrong), but while very, very obviously, it’s still shit to be a graduate right now, surely it’s marginally more shit to be a poor graduate?

Take the Coalition’s recent wheeze, the proposed cut in Housing Benefit for those under 25, which has been widely predicted to herald jobless or low-paid graduates being thrown back to live on the largesse of their parents, or failing that, on their settee. Is there really no discernable difference in the future that awaits a graduate returning to a post-industrial unemployment blackspot, and that awaiting one whose family are able and willing to subsidise their rent and support them while they work unpaid internships? Those graduating with wealth and connections are surely likely to retain their privileges? Take, too, the withdrawal of EMA and cutting of university funding, which is serving to entrench the idea of education as something undesirable because unaffordable, not something which can serve as a route out of poverty and a broadening of horizons.

Also, as several people stressed below the line on Mason’s article, this focus on the plight of the graduate – pitiable, emblematic, and potentially revolutionary as it may be – is part of a broader narrative whereby conditions which have always been likely for those at the socio-economic sharp end are becoming something to which the middle class, and their graduating sons and daughters, are increasingly exposed. The resulting shrieks of indignation are amplified in the media. While it’s true and valid to note that the current economic model is visibly failing, there are those for whom it has never really worked, and whose struggles with it scarcely ever receive broadsheet coverage. In the grand scheme of things, and especially right now, I’m not sure whether this is too insignificant a complaint to make, or whether it’s the only complaint worth making.