Sunday, 4 December 2016

A Mumsnetter’s response to Paul Mason

On the 7th of November Paul Mason, an author and former broadcaster on BBC’s Newsnight programme and on the Channel 4 news, wrote an article in the Guardian newspaper titled: “Bond traders, Trots and Mumsnetters must unite against Farage’s mob”.  The gist of the article was about the rise of right-wing populism and the danger it poses through its’ mass movement founded on hate, as seen in Donald Trump’s racist rallies. In the UK UKIP is threatening to gather 100,000 supporters outside the Supreme Court on 5 December when the appeal hearing starts on the Brexit judgement. 

The backdrop to the Supreme Court hearing is the judgement previously passed by the High Court stating that the Government must offer MPs a vote on the terms of Article 50. The Government has maintained all along that it does not have to consult with MPs because the result of the referendum in May is all that is needed for it to go ahead with Brexit. 

Paul Mason, in his article, states that left-wingers who are: “Anti-racists, globalists and believers in the virtues of science over mumbo-jumbo are still winning elections…” but progressive politics is being drained of its resilience. While the left is capable of fighting back Paul Mason makes clear that the “effort is going to exhaust us unless we become more radical”. The fight back, he claims, is the responsibility of the left to orchestrate through “an alliance of bond traders, Trots and Mumsnetters”.

As a left-wing feminist mother Mumsnetter this article, to me, was a ‘call to arms’ to stand up for the values and norms that protect our children’s rights and freedoms. Put simply, I don’t want my daughter growing up in a society where right-wing populism touting the language of racism and xenophobia coupled with knee-jerk reactions that command stupid headlines in right-wing newspapers is the staple everyday lingo and mind set.

I have blogged about this in a post which describes my experience of living in a country where the judiciary is not independent. There is no way that I would want my daughter growing up in similar circumstances.

Paul Mason writes about the momentum behind people like Trump and Farage that comes from populism that is “moving fast”. The left needs to catch up and the first priorities are to make a “rhetorical break with neoliberalism”.

The associated features of neoliberalism are: “the doctrine of austerity, inequality, privatisation, financial corruption, asset bubbles and technocratic hubris.”

Given the way austerity has been pursued it has become easy for the right to claim it as a necessary way of life so that, among other reasons, our children aren’t saddled with national debt when they are older. Paul Mason, however, states that “It is entirely possible to construct a humane pro-business version of capitalism without these things”.

Back in 2014 I authored a chapter in a book titled: ‘Mothering in the Age of Neoliberalism’. My chapter was called: ‘Austerity and Gender Neutrality: The Excluding of Women and Mothers from Public Policy in the UK’. I provided an analysis of the impact of austerity cuts in the UK on mothers. Much of women’s economic prosperity and ability to access services has been reshaped in accordance with a neoliberal framework that disregards women’s wellbeing and autonomy in society. 

Despite much evidence that points to how our lives have been made poorer materially by austerity the feminization of poverty has continued through benefit cuts, welfare caps and the withdrawal of various subsidies.

Neoliberalism is presented as a 'no other option' scenario when, in actual fact, it is a choice made by elected leaders. Austerity places more pressure on women, especially mothers who are struggling economically. 

I haven’t had a pay increase in my public sector job for 7 years now. A ‘no option’ austerity package plays into the hands of right-wing populism by allowing them to create and dominate a political space that crowds out respect for women’s rights and establishes a political culture in which it’s fair game to be sexist and racist.

Paul Mason ends his article by pointing out that the left needs to become populist and offer an alternative narrative and way forward. This is critical, he states, due to the collapse of the “extreme centre”.

A key part of this left populism should be about mother centric policies such as childcare and adequate social care because it is largely women, many of them mothers themselves, who look after children and older parents through unpaid labour. Mothers need an education system that is less about grades and more about education in a broad sense, a rational social based housing policy, better paid jobs and security of work. We want safe spaces for our children through an adequate provision of leisure and play areas.

There is much for mothers to collaborate around. Political capital does lie with us to reclaim political space and values.

Paul Mason concludes by stating that:  “If Nigel Farage leads 100,000 people to intimidate the Supreme Court, I intend to be on the other side of a police crash barrier opposing him. I don’t want to be flanked by only my anti-fascist mates from 30 years ago: I want to see an alliance of the left and the radical centre on the streets. That means bond traders from Canary Wharf, arm in arm with placard-carrying Trots. Masked-up Kurdish radicals alongside Mumsnet posters. Eighty years on from Cable Street, we don’t have many dockers and miners around, to help face down rightwing intimidation. Puny as we are, it’s up to us”.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Attacking the judiciary's independence is the hallmark of third world status-Brexit ruling

Has anyone found the collective common sense of the country yet because it feels as if it has abandoned Britain over the Brexit ruling? Sitting on the train the morning after the Brexit ruling on 3 November I took my newspaper out of my bag and opened it. A chill went through me. It was not because of some idiot passenger who had to sprint the last few yards to jump onto the train before the doors closed and then opened the window to cool off even though it was cold outside. Nothing as mundane as that. 

My chill was brought on by the realisation that nothing is sacred in this country anymore. One of the bastions of Britishness - the independence of the judiciary - is being seen as if it were more than an inconvenient institution. Frankly, from this point on it becomes a slippery slope to third world status unless people recognise that the attacks on the three judges in the Brexit ruling was an attack against fairness and impartiality.  

You see, I know what I am talking about, sadly. I grew up in a third world country (but live in the UK now) where the independence of the judiciary was slowly poisoned by government actions and hijacked for political benefit over a number of years before it became a full throttle assault without any pretence. The practical reality of having a NON independent judiciary can be summed up in one word - DANGEROUS. Voicing any dissent of the government of the day, no matter how reasonable, is likely to result in the person/people being arrested and charged without the comfort of knowing that the court will pay heed to their right to free speech. 

Supporting the opposition party can be a cat and mouse game because the opposition is constantly silenced by being thrown into jail by politically biased judges and its' supporters are marked and harassed with no recourse to the law. The notion of 'human rights' is seen as something that the Western world enjoys because of the judges' independence. There is so much envy in other countries that similar is not afforded to the citizens who live in third world countries. Notice that I haven't mentioned which country it is I am talking about? That is what fear and oppression does. 

One of my favourite books is the 'Rule of Law' written by a former judge, Lord Tom Bingham who died in 2010, for the way it sets out the simplicity of the meaning that 'no man is above the law' (not even Prime Ministers). That being so the judiciary who adjudicate have to be free and fair minded in pronouncing judgement without the dice being loaded against one party. Every political person and organ of state bears responsibility for upholding these traits. 

Lord Bingham wrote that: "The constitution of of a modern democracy governed by the rule of law must...guarantee the independence of judicial decision-makers...". The legitimacy of independence is enshrined in the Act of Settlement 1701 and codified in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 section 3(1) which states that: The Lord Chancellor, other Ministers of the Crown...must uphold the continued independence of the judiciary". 

When an attack is made on the judiciary it endangers all of us. Irresponsible newspapers who dish out provocative headlines to make money from stirring up negative emotions are affirming and legitimizing the growing sense of hatred of everything that is not right-wing. Hatred of immigrants is fodder for profit. Refugees are treated as swarms of insects who deserve to die watery deaths. Where will all this end and what comes next? 

The Brexiters have their ire stoked and stroked by narratives that are devoid of facts. That the judges were handing back power to Parliament was lost in the false anti-EU rubbish. In the days leading up to the EU Referendum, the phrase 'taking back control', rang hollow for remainers like me but, ironically, the Brexit ruling has actually lent some sense of intelligence to the phrase. 

It feels as if the country is standing at a forked road ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on 5 December on appeal over the Brexit decision. 

Go right for more vitriol or go left for some sense of rational thinking and debate. It sounds rather extreme and radical but that is the reality. For years I have watched the Republican Party in America descend into a deep sewer of right wing-ism and I have sighed a sense of relief that no such thing could ever happen in this country. I was wrong. The MP Jo Cox was murdered for her liberal views. Cue Donald Trump who attacks the press on a regular basis and then ponder on the criticism heaped at the three Brexit ruling judges. Suddenly the stakes have become high. 


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Is Donald Trump a 'father feminist'?

Years ago I worked with an extremely nice man who was in his 60s. He took an interest in my career and would advise me on related matters such as what I needed to do to get a promotion. What was even nicer about him was the interest he took in my daughter's political blogging and in her academics. He had a daughter who had scaled academic heights with extremely good results and he was always keen on to pass on any snippets of wisdom from his parenting. His generosity of spirit was rare and highly commendable.

Just as I began to class him as a 'feminist' he dropped a bombshell. After a telephone conversation with his wife over what they were going to do at the weekend he turned to me and told me that while men may be very happy for their daughters to be feminists, it was quite a different matter with their wives. His precise words were: "All men want their daughters to be equal to their husbands but not for their own wives to be equal to them".

Why had I not sussed that one out! In that split second I recognised that my own father had been a 'father feminist'. My realisation grew tentacles as the day went on and I started to put together a collection of other men I know who practised this type of split duality of feminism. My own uncles, my male cousins, male friends and, at this point, it was perfectly reasonable that I felt a veil of frustration shroud me.

Malala Yousafzai with her father who has supported her 
Do feminists applaud this split duality or spit on it? When men class women as 'keepers' or 'fun women',  i.e partner material or as bedroom conveniences,  feminists rightly challenge this demeaning behaviour. The accusation that these men are 'guilty' of chauvinistic behaviour is cut and dried.

With 'father feminists' the urge to use the word 'guilty', as in 'these men are guilty of only being father feminists', was and remains strong but might this not be a case of cutting one's own nose to spite one's face? Looked at in a glass half-full type of way these men are raising a generation of feminists but the scent of 'half-way feminism' still prevails.

Donald and Ivanka Trump

All this brings me neatly to the topical discussion about Donald Trump's relationship with and reliance on his elder daughter, Ivanka Trump. Given Donald Trump's history of being a misogynist, sexual predator coupled with his rants over various women one can hardly call him 'feminist friendly' or even 'feminist lite' despite the fact that he calls himself a feminist. His wife, Melania, has not been a constant figure at his side. In fact she will not even be moving into the White House with him.

The landscape changes when it comes to his relationship with Ivanka. She was constantly at his side during his campaign rallies to become the President of America and has caused controversy by attending a high-level political meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister while being a non-appointed political person. Ivanka supposedly will be running her father's business interests. It remains to be seen whether Ivanka will be a regular visitor to the White House but all indications so far is that she will play some substantive part in his political career.

Kate Chase

Coincidentally enough, there are parallels with another republican candidate, Salmon Chase, a 'feminist father' who stood for the Presidential nomination against Abraham Lincoln. Salmon Chase was grooming his daughter Kate to be his political partner/First Lady but this never came to pass because he lost out to Lincoln. A fate that has not befallen Trump.

While men are capable of splitting the atom of feminism into 'father feminism' I don't think it is the progress that feminism seeks nor would want to lay claim to if it is done at the exclusion of other women. Consider this destructive paradox, while a girl's mother is not encouraged to be a feminist the same said mother is expected to be helping to raise a feminist daughter because that is what the father wishes. Patriarchy does find ways to ensure its' own survival.

This blog post was featured by the Mumsnet Bloggers Network on 2 December 2016

Monday, 21 November 2016

A plea from a benefit claimant - "I’ve reached the point that I need help from the #foodbank. Something inside me has died"

I came across this blog post and am reblogging it here in the hope that people will be able to help this person out. 

For nearly 3 years now I’ve been tweeting about food banks and the efforts made by local communities to support them. For almost 3 years I have shown examples of families who have needed them, some with dramatic stories that normally involve the DWP or another Government department not doing their job or being overly officious. For all that time I have tried not to become one of their statistics but now it has reached a point where I feel I have no choice.

Mine is not a headline grabbing story. Rather it is one of slowly getting into more debt, by a few pounds here and there each week. Since I went off JSA I have struggled to have enough income to pay all my bills, with any small issues, like the washing machine needing replacing last month, becoming a real problem. Bit by bit, week by week I have slid more into debt until this week I reached a crisis point and I knew I had to get help.

I contacted my housing association and this morning someone came to see me and issued a voucher to the food bank. The food bank does not open until Tuesday afternoon so I have a few days to wait. This afternoon the electric ran out so I am sat here without food and in the dark, feeling very alone. It reminds me very much of when I was sanctioned. The memories of that experience keep appearing in my mind and it’s not very nice.

The last few weeks have been especially difficult. A delayed payment meant the bank charged me for direct debits I could not honour. That landed me with an unauthorised overdraft and even more charges. To add to that the credit card company and BT have added late fees. I’ve spoken to the bank explaining my situation, but they will not remove the fees. They have, however, stopped any more charges. But those charges and overdraft have meant I cannot buy electric or food.

 Being anonymous on social media I am faceless to most of those who read what I share, but behind that mask I am just a person like everyone else. I put on a front that tells people I am okay, when in fact quite the opposite is true. I don’t like to bother people with these troubles as I know all too well that they have their own challenges to cope with. But in not sharing how things really are all I am doing is making it harder for myself.

Am I alone in thinking how odd it is that we have all this technology, all these forms of communication, but at the same time loneliness is increasing and more people are feeling isolated. In our homes we routinely have technology to entertain and communicate, yet millions do not have enough money for food, heating or energy.

Having to use a food bank – having to admit that things are not well and I need help – is really something I don’t want to do. It feels like something in me has died today and I feel very low. I don’t want to be in this place but I am struggling. My pride has taken a really hammering.

Truth be known I don’t want to have to visit the food bank at all, but waiting for them to open is worse. I don’t want to sit without food until Tuesday afternoon. I’ve done this before when I was sanctioned and my mental health collapsed. So to stop that happening again I would ask for your help.

Somewhere on the page is a donate button for Paypal. It was put there for another purpose but it can equally be used to help me out of this problem. If you’re able to help I’d really appreciate it – it will help in ways that are difficult to express. I don’t need a lot, just enough to buy electric and some food. Any small amount will help. Thanks.

IF MOTHERS COUNTED-Status symbols for the Invisible Art of Mothering

I had the pleasure of meeting Shira Richter, who was one of the visual presenters at the MIRCI conference. Shira uses the power of images to tell feminist/mother-nest stories. She is a pioneer feminist multidisciplinary artist, award winning film maker, loud mouth activist, curator writer and independent scholar who lives in Israel. She has been ARTiculating the maternal for 15 years. I asked her if I could feature her amazing photography which captures the way women are silenced in the economic structures of society. I am grateful to Shira for allowing me to republish her work. 

Shira's artistic photography is featured on the cover of Demeter's book  Counting on Marilyn Waring-New Advances in Feminist Economic'. The photo is called 'Iron Maiden' and is an actual a photo (not manipulated) of baby bottle nipples. This photo forms part of a large scale solo photography installation titled INVISIBLE INVALUABLES which features photographs of every day mother/parent equipment; pacifiers, bath floors and baby bottles as expensive and valuable gems, communicating the way this work SHOULD be valued.  Inspired by M.Waring's work, The project premiered on International Women's month  2011, at the large gallery of Tel Aviv artist's house. Shira also co-wrote a chapter in this book titled: 'If mothers counted - status symbols for the invisible art of mothering' in Israeli culture and society with Dr Hadara Scheflan Katzav, The paper offers a multidisciplinary perspective on mother's status in Israel and is published below. 

The foundation of this reading is Marilyn Waring's position regarding the value system of western capitalism in which every merchandise and activity becomes visible via their monetary value. We illustrate how the concept of "value" is loaded with a double meaning and inner contradiction. Israel, a democratic, western, capitalistic, family oriented and militaristic society, puts a high value on motherhood because of public secular and religious ideology, but zero economic value. 

The National Insurance Institute defines the job of mothering as “not working” and a woman who has worked and paid national insurance all her life loses her rights if she works "only" as a mother four years or more. The "gap" between the official "family values" vs. the economic reality is usually against women. 

This chapter is the fruit of an ongoing collaboration between multidisciplinary artist, speaker and activist Shira Richter and Dr. Hadara Scheflan KatzavHead of Art Department at Hakibbuzim College 
'INVISIBLE INVALUABLES' is one of our major projects resulting from Warings' influence and inspiration: An exhibition of illuminated photographs extracted from domestic unpaid labor which highlights the irony of the low status of mothering by transforming mundane objects of child rearing and household work into sleek status symbols. The exhibit about maternal invisibility in the economic sphere is both personal and political. It exposes extremely sensitive nerves in Israeli society, and has contributed to a public discourse among both individual women and socio- political organizations.

More information on Shira Richter: 

Shira was one of the first artists to Lecture about UN Resolution 1325 calling for inclusion of women's/mothers voices in conflict areas, together with screenings of her award winning film TWO STATES OF MIND

Her acclaimed photography project The Mother Daughter and Holy Spirit humorously tells the truth about the physical price of the body transition of a woman into a mother. The project became central in the effort to expose the reasons behind post partum depression. 

Her activist work includes raising awareness about women's erased voices in wartime/area, creating the first facebook page and manifest for inclusion of gender studies in the formal educational system (in Hebrew), and being the catalyst for several mainstream newspaper articles about post partum depression, gender education and - the 'useless practice of homework'. 

Recently Richter participated as first international guest of The Motherload Project in Dallas, and The Women and Money project in Minnesota. She has given visual lectures about Mothers, war and art. 

Born in the USA to a secular Jewish family, they moved to Israel when she was a child. Shira is not religious, but adores the religious feminists, combatants for peaceWasatia and Women wage peace.  She is Inspired by the positive aspects in many religions and bothered by any kind of extremism. She works at a national youth film festival, an adjunct college lecturer, a coach to mother artists. Shira is also a feminist mother of two boys and a feminist co-parent with a loving man ("we also argue!"). 

For more information on Shira's fabulous work please go to:

Get 40% off Marilyn Waring's book until December 15 using coupon code MOTHERS at: