The Guardian and the ‘Femsplaining’ of Corbyn

On Sunday Mike posted up a piece critiquing an article in the Guardian by Catherine Bennett attacking Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn, she opined, was purely interested in expanding his power base at the expense of winning elections. She also claimed that he was a nasty male chauvinist, who passed over women for important cabinet and political posts, like Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown.

Mike described the attack as ‘femsplaining’, a word he coined as the female equivalent to ‘mansplaining’, which is when a man gives a bloking, and usually spurious explanation of an issue. Mike pointed out that the article really wasn’t so much a feminist critique of Corbyn so much as a hit piece by his Blairite rivals in the Labour party.

See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/05/corbyn-femsplained-as-a-blairite-tries-to-put-women-off-the-labour-leader/

The article wasn’t the most bizarre attack on Corbyn from a feminist/ gender politics slant the Groan has published recently. A few weeks ago, it printed a letter from a reader, Val Walsh, who accused Corbyn and Bernie Sanders in America of having suspect and reactionary attitudes to gender and the politics of sexual identity based purely on the fact that they dressed in a style reminiscent of mid-20th century men’s fashions. The letter was so bizarre, it got into the ‘Pseud’s Corner’ section of Private Eye.

Marsh wrote:

Hadley Freeman [29 March] overlooks a key feature of the outfits sported by leftwing male politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. These represent 1950s ‘manly’ dressing: loose, shapeless and generally dull; designed to make sure men were not mistaken for women or seen as feminine, and at the same time meant to function as both camouflage (of the body) and as sufficiently ‘bloke’. the style pre-dates the impact of young gay men and gay-influenced heterosexual men who started (a long time ago) wearing clothes that fit (not necessarily tightly). Bernie and Jeremy’s outfits are surely a size of two bigger than necessary, and not so much retro, but simply the habit of older white heterosexual men of carrying on a before, as if 1950s western manliness was an exemplar, and pretending their embodiment is not party to their politics.

This tells us they have given little thought to their own sexual identity ande its part in the new ‘old’ politics in 2016. They lack awareness of the problematic part played by hetero-patriarchal masculinities in the politics of left or right, and in this continuity they identify themselves with that old hegemonic masculinity…. [continues] (Private Eye 15-28 April 2016, p. 35).

It’s clearly a bonkers piece, and is an example of someone projecting their own prejudices onto the person they’re writing about, rather than a genuinely reasoned analysis. Bernie Sanders is a case in point. I don’t know whether Sanders has given much thought to his sexuality. It’s immaterial. Sanders is probably the most left-wing of the Democrats, and he was supporting gay rights long before many other people, as far back as the 1970s. That’s just about forty years before Hillary finally decided she was in favour of gay marriage. As for Jeremy Corbyn, I honestly don’t know what he stance on sexuality and gender is, but I think I can guess. If he’s left-wing, ‘Old Labour’, then it’s almost certain that he also supported feminism and gay rights. This was, after all, the stance of the GLC in London as a whole, not just ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone. Also, a few weeks ago Private Eye joked about an article in one of the papers which described Corbyn’s hobbies. One of these was baking bread. Not exactly the most macho of pastimes.

Bennett’s and the other faux-feminist critiques of Sanders and Corbyn constitute attempts to appeal to female voters by smearing their left-wing male rivals as misogynists and sexists in order to try to cover up their preferred candidates’ right-wing, corporate stance as ‘establishment’ candidates. Hillary Clinton’s supporters’ denunciations of Sanders are evidence of that. They decided that Bernie and his supporters must be sexist, because they were standing against Hillary, who was a woman. Clinton is also very much a part of the corporate establishment, a very rich woman, whose policies reflect the interest of the corporate donors financing her against the interests of ordinary, regular blue-collar America. Clinton’s response, when this is pointed out, is to claim that as she’s a woman, she can’t be a member of the establishment. This is complete twaddle, as she manifestly is.

The same with the Blairites and Corbyn. The Blairites represented the ‘aspirational’ working class, and attempted to appeal to them and middle class swing voters. They stood for Thatcherite privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state. They began the privatisation of the NHS, which has accelerated under Lansley, Cameron and the Tories. They have absolutely nothing to offer the working class except misery and poverty.

But they’re determined to hang on to power, and the Guardian’s giving them space because while it’s liberal, it supports the Lib Dems, not Labour. And it’s not a working class paper. I posted up a piece yesterday quoting Mark Hollingworth’s The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship on the Groan’s extremely affluent readership back in 1979 and ’81, and its need to appeal to these affluent readers and potential advertisers. That was over thirty years ago, but I don’t think anything has changed since. If anything, it’s going to get worse because of the massive losses the Guardian is suffering.

As for Bennett and Hillary Clinton, their spurious feminist attacks on their rivals disguise the fact that they really don’t support or have anything to offer working class women. It’s been pointed out that female workers are those, who have suffered the most from the government’s austerity programmes. They predominately work in the sectors of the economy that have seen the most cuts and lay-offs. They also suffer disproportionately from some of the welfare cuts introduced by the Thatcherites, such as to child benefit.

Ultimately, Hillary and Bennett don’t represent the aspirations of all women. They represent the desires and ambitions of elite, affluent women to succeed, while making sure that working class women, along with the rest of their class, are kept firmly in their place and don’t rock the corporate, establishment boat.

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One Response to “The Guardian and the ‘Femsplaining’ of Corbyn”

  1. Florence Says:

    Indeed 80% of the “austerity” cuts, supported by the Blairites, have affected women. But I just wanted to note that Jeremy Corbyns other kitchen skill is in his jam-making, of which I hear he is planning to do again this autumn.

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