This is our truth, tell us yours
As a child I was taught that when Captain Cook travelled the globe he carried a variety of shiny objects to win favour with the locals wherever he met some undiscovered tribe of Eden like natives. It was undoubtedly a racist presentation of his interactions, and quite unusual as we usually only learnt about the lives of great Catholics. Being northern must have given him a pass into acceptability. The nuns told us that a mirror, bangle or shiny bead was such an object of wonder that it would bedazzle the primitive folk who of course had never heard of such things as jewellery or body decorations.
Why this wander down memory lane, fun as it is to have a go at people who taught impressionable minds how to be racist neo- colonialists? Today we are being treated to a cabinet reshuffle and apparently it is a feminist reshuffle as there are now more women sitting around the table. As we have written before the ConDems have waged a war against women, and especially working class women, since they came to power. From the Bedroom Tax to zero hours contracts women have consistently bourne the brunt of the austerity policies of this government.
Why then does Cameron believe that promoting a few women to be the face of the these policies will make people believe that somehow magically he cares about women? I think we should rather be asking how could he not believe it given the state of mainstream feminism. Recently Dr Brooke Magnanti wrote about the issues with ethical consumerism, a huge issue that she was not the first to address. The complexities of supply lines, production techniques, pay and conditions for workers in the global South should be considered by anyone who wants to consider themselves an ethical shopper. However her nuanced piece pointing out the issues with “feminist knickers” was attacked by mainstream feminism, she is apparently not a nice person for thinking we need to dig more deeply than a good tagline.
This is a universal feature of mainstream feminism. No more page three doesn’t attack the misogyny of the Sun, it attacks a woman with bare breasts on page three. It seems common to attack other women rather than the patriarchal structures or those with power within them. As women suffered with low pay and rising prices what was the feminist story of 2013? Jane Austen on a banknote, not how many banknotes working class women have but a demand that a dead middle class woman be put on one of those banknotes. Then there is the marriage petition, the ultimate in token feminist gestures where nice middle class white Christian women from two parent heterosexual families campaign not to have their fathers name on the marriage certificate.
When the constant message from mainstream feminism is that making the lives of women better matters less token gestures I think we can call this a feminist cabinet, the problem is that isnt a compliment. Even as I write I am aware the usual suspects will attack this piece, so wedded are they to the idea that all feminism is about is tokenism. They will claim more women is the cabinet is a victory, regardless of the polices those women enforce. Then again those polices will not harm them, so perhaps they are simply being honest.