Posts Tagged ‘School’

Anti-Feminist Pamphlets from Tory Free Market Thinktank

July 23, 2016

feminism pamphlets

The pamphlets in question. Picture courtesy CJ.

This will annoy nearly every woman and also a very large number of men. Looking round one of the charity bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday with a friend, I found a whole load of pamphlets from the Institute of Economic Affairs. They’re a right-wing, free market thinktank connected with the Tory party. I think they were also trying to promote themselves as non-party political when Tony Blair was in power, as I think he was also very sympathetic to their message. Put simply, their pro-privatisation, anti-welfare, anti-poor – one of the pamphlet’s was Alexis de Tocqueville’s Pauperism, anti-Socialist – another was Von Hayek’s Socialism and the Intellectuals. And anti-feminist. Two of the pamphlets were anti-feminist screeds, intended to encourage women to forget any notions of equality, independence and a career, and return to their traditional roles as wives and mothers.

The two pamphlets were entitled Liberating Modern Women…From Feminism and Equal Opportunities – A Feminist Fallacy. They were collections of essays on individual subjects within the overall theme of rebutting feminism. The contributors seemed to be an equal number of men and women. Among the policies they recommended were measures to preserve the family from break up and end ‘no fault’ divorces. They claimed that men and women pursue different goals because of innate biological differences. And rather than being a patriarchal institution, the family was actually a matriarchy. They also attacked women working, because it meant that the household economy was now based on two people having an income, whereas before it was only the husband’s wage that was important. And, almost inevitably, there was an attack on single mothers. Left-wing welfare policies were attacked for taking them out of the jobs market and placing them into ‘welfare dependency’.

My friend decided to buy them to see how extreme, shocking and bonkers they actually were. Though he insisted that I tell the woman on the desk when paying for them that we we’re buying them because we agreed with them, which raised a smile from her. While walking round town afterwards he said he would have felt less embarrassed holding these pamphlets if he’d had something less offensive to put them in, to disguise the fact that he had them. Like one of the porno mags. I didn’t recognise most of the contributors to the pamphlets, but one name stood out: Mary Kenny. She had been a journalist for the Guardian or Observer, but moved to the Torygraph. My friend was also shocked, as the Institute of Economic Affairs has been on Channel 4 News several times. It’s one of the organisations they’ve gone to for ‘balance’ discussing particular issues. My friend’s point is that they’re policies are so extreme, they really aren’t providing any kind of reasoned balance at all, just more far-right opinion.

There’s an attitude amongst some Republicans in America that feminism really is a terrible Marxist plot to destroy Western civilisation, despite the fact that it existed before Marxism, and its campaigns for votes for women and equal opportunities cross party-political boundaries. Despite the institute’s arguments, there really isn’t one of their views that isn’t vulnerable to disproof. For example, it’s true that men and women tend to perform different jobs, and have different personal goals and attitudes. But it’s very debatable how far this is due to biological differences. A few years ago, back in the 1990s there was a lot of interest and noise about supposed sex differences in the organisation of the brain. Men’s and women’s brains were made differently, and this was why men were better at maths and parking cars, and women were better at language and communication, but couldn’t read maps. Since then, the situation has reversed slightly. One female neuroscientist, Cordelia – , wrote a book a few years ago arguing that any psychological differences and intellectual aptitudes that differed between the sexes weren’t due to physical differences in the brain. With the exception of individuals at the extreme ends of the scale – very ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ brains, brains are just brains, and you can’t tell their former owner’s sex simply by looking at them.

As for feminism itself, it’s probably fair to say that many women do feel caught between their careers and their families, and would like more time to spend raising or attending to their children. But their entry into the workforce, and pursuing jobs, hobbies and interests previously reserved for men are the product of profound needs and desires on their behalf. It isn’t a case that they have been somehow brainwashed or indoctrinated by some kind of feminist ‘false consciousness’. For example, you can hear from older women how they felt when they were young, when they wanted to play with boy’s toys, like train or construction sets, like Meccano, but were forbidden by their parents. Or wanted to try their hand at ‘boy’s’ subjects at school, like woodwork. Or join in with boy’s games like footie or rugby. This doesn’t mean that all women wanted to do all of the above, only that a sizable number did want to do some of those, and felt frustrated at the social conventions that forbade them to. When the feminists in the 1960s argued that women had a right to do traditionally male jobs and pursuits, they were articulating the desires of very many women. They weren’t just abstract theorists speaking only for themselves.

As for the statement that the entry of women into the workforce has made family finances more difficult, because mortgages are now based on a double income, that’s also very open to query. It might be that the change to women working has had an effect, but I’ve also seen the argument that women had to go out to work, because the income from the husband’s wages alone wasn’t enough to pay the bills.

As for the family being a ‘matriarchal’ institution, the status of women has changed over time. But in the Middle Ages, women were basically their husband’s chattels. And in the West, women didn’t automatically have a right to hold their property independently of their husbands until the Married Women’s Property Act in the late 19th century. One of the early feminist tracts from 19th century Germany was a polemic attacking the way women’s property automatically became their husband’s on marriage.

I’m alarmed by the break down of the traditional family, rising divorces and absent fathers. I always have been, ever since we did ‘relationships’ as part of the RE course at school, when the news was full of it. But part of the problem isn’t the ease of divorce, although it became more difficult and expensive when Blair was in power. It’s the fact that many people do find themselves trapped in unhappy relationships. Some idea how much of a problem this was can be seen in some of the jokes about how awful marriage was and quarrelling spouses. At a far more serious level, you can also see it in accounts of men, who walked out on their families, and took up bigamous marriages elsewhere in the days when divorce was difficult and all but impossible unless you were very wealthy.

The two pamphlets were published a little time ago. One dated from 1992 – twenty-four years ago -, and the other from 2005, about eleven. But they represent an attitude that’s still very present in the Conservatives, and especially in right-wing newspapers like the Daily Heil. A week ago the Tories elected Theresa May as their leader, and will no doubt be presenting themselves as the ‘pro-woman’ party. This shows the other side to them, the one that’s beyond and underneath Cameron’s rhetoric of flexible-working hours, and the Tories’ embrace of female leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

The Young Turks: Black American Student Volunteer Talks Racism on Trump Campaign

February 7, 2016

In this piece from The Young Turks, James Patterson, a Black American high school student, talks about his experience of the covert racism he experienced as a volunteer working for Trump’s campaign in Iowa. Patterson volunteered as part of a civics class. They had the option of working for Trump, Marco Rubio or Hillary Clinton. Patterson states that he was only the Black American working on Trump’s campaign, and acknowledges that the people he worked with were extremely friendly. This he found the most frightening. The racism he encountered wasn’t overt. No-one openly sneered at him or ethnic minorities, or used racist language. But instead it was all through micro-aggressions, odd looks and comments about ethnic minorities when the others thought he wasn’t listening. He states that there seems to be a disconnect between the way they treated him – with friendliness – and their hostility to minorities in America, such as the plan to deport 11 million migrants and their children. He states that Trump’s supporters appear to be Christian fundamentalist, White, middle class people, who fear that they’re losing power to ethnic minorities. He states it isn’t true that they are, but nevertheless, this is what these people fear. Despite their friendly demeanour towards him, Trump’s campaign is racist because it is based on this fear and the proposal to limit and deport Mexicans, Muslims and other minorities.

Girl Whose Leg Was Amputated Not Disabled Enough for Motability Car

November 5, 2015

This is another story from Vox Political, based on a report in the online edition of the Mirror. And its shows just how brutally indifferent the DWP is to the needs of the disabled in their determination to slash benefits. Olivia Cork, an ‘A’ Level student, whose right leg was amputated five years ago due to cancer, has been told she’s not sufficiently disabled to keep the Motability car she’s been using for the past two years to get to school. She can keep the car, however, if she buys it outright at a cost of nearly £5,000. Her friends have set up a crowdfunding website to help her.

Mike’s article begins

It seems the DWP is getting devious with its ploys to take away people’s benefits – or at least the extras derived from them.

In this story, Olivia gets to keep PIP – but must lose her Motability car. The DWP then cleverly offered to let her keep the vehicle until next April in an agreement that officials knew they could change at any time – so they did.

Now she has until tomorrow (Friday, November 6) to raise the £4,900 needed to buy the car. That’s a huge task for a teenager at sixth form, as the DWP’s staff know perfectly well.

They’re just turning the screws, basically.

But they won’t get their way if people of good conscience help out. Olivia’s friends have set up a crowdfunding website called Keep Olivia’s Wheels – feel free to visit and donate, while there’s still time.

The article’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/05/girl-who-had-leg-amputated-told-shes-not-disabled-enough-for-motability-car/. Go there for more information, and for links to Olivia’s crowdfunding website.

In the past, Atos have been so determined to find people fit for work, that they have even passed as such the severely disabled and terminally ill. As the article states, they assume you’re fit for work if you can walk a certain distance. This isn’t the first time someone with mobility problems, who needs assistance walking, has been declared by the authorities not to need their support.

I’ve no doubt that modern artificial limbs are superb pieces of technology. There have been science programmes and features on television, such as on the BBCs science documentary series, Horizon, that have shown how far science has advanced in making artificial limbs that can give their wearers a very impressive degree of mobility. No matter how impressive it is, an artificial limb is not as good as the real, flesh and blood thing. People with artificial legs use more energy and put in greater efforts in walking than the rest of us with natural limbs. This even affects otherwise extremely fit people, like the group of former squaddies, who had lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, who went on an expedition to climb one of the mountains in Africa or South America.

This young woman is in exactly the same position. The article shows that she is an active sportswoman, who wishes to become a paralympian swimmer. Nevertheless, it’s obvious to the meanest intelligence that, despite her success in overcoming her handicap, she still needs a Motability car.

Except to the DWP.

It should also be obvious that society also benefits from her use to the vehicle. It’s enabling her to get to school, and if she gets good grades at her ‘A’ levels, then she’ll stand a better chance of getting a job, or going to university. Which, hopefully, should also allow her to get a decent job. A better paid job means that she won’t necessarily have to rely on benefits for support, or at least, not so much. It also means that her own talents won’t be wasted, and will benefit the community and her employers, when she eventually gets a job. So the grant of the Motability car is ultimately a good investment. But the DWP doesn’t see it like that.

And so disabled people lose out on opportunities for education and jobs, and society loses out by not allowing them to develop their skills, which ultimately benefit the rest of us.

RoarMag on the Resistible Rise of the Islamophobic Right in the Netherlands

February 14, 2015

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders: the face of Islamophobia

George Berger in his comment to my post about a Swedish Christian church that was sent threats for holding a service of solidarity with Muslims after a Pegida demonstration sent me this link to an article in RoarMag detailing the rise of the anti-Islam Far Right in the Netherlands: http://roarmag.org/2015/02/wilders-fortuyn-nationalism-netherlands/. George is Dutch but lives in Sweden. In his comment he said

I live in Sweden and am a Dutch citizen. It was a pleasure to read about the first Swedish Pegida demonstration, in Malmö last week. Eight Pegidistas versus more than one thousand anti. Contrast that with the current rise of neo-fascism in the Netherlands. Here is the best short article on that reactionary trend that I have seen. It should dispel a few myths.

It’s great to see that Sweden is still living up to its reputation as a place for sanity and tolerance, despite the attempts of Pegida to wreck it.

What is much more surprising to many foreigners is the rise of a large, anti-Islamic extreme Right in the Netherlands. The Netherlands after all has a reputation for being one of the most tolerant societies in Europe. In the 17th century it was one of the very few countries that did not have an established church. This was not because the Dutch were any less religious than the surrounding nations. Indeed, Alexander Graham-Dixon in one of his programmes on the Art of the Baroque, when covering the Dutch art of the period gave a contemporary saying as an example of the deeply religious divisions in the Netherlands in that period. The saying said that if there were three Dutchmen, two of them would immediately form their own churches, and accuse the third of being a heretic. They did not set up an official, established church, because they did not feel that force should be use to enforce religious belief. If a particular religious denomination or sect was to survive, it should do so through peacefully winning over and retaining believers.

Moreover, the Netherlands itself suffered brutally from the Nazi occupation. During the War, the Nazis attempted to break the Dutch people through withholding food supplies to create a terrible famine. When I was at school in the 1980s our school had an exchange scheme with another school in the Netherlands. Despite the intervening decades, memories of the Nazi atrocities were still strong with some of the older generation, and there were people, who bitterly hated the Germans. With this history of persecution by Fascism, it’s amazing how anything like an organised Fascist movement could ever be popular in the Netherlands.

RoarMag’s article explains just how this has arisen. It’s entitled Pro-gay and anti-Islam: rise of the Dutch far-Right. It begins

In the Netherlands, the right-wing PVV (Freedom Party) has steadily garnered power using a hate-filled discourse directed at Muslims and elites alike.

The Dutch far-right has evolved into one of the most successful national movements in Europe. Its leader Geert Wilders is a major political figure with international support. In many ways Wilders is the heir of Pim Fortuyn, a politician who played a crucial role in shaping a new right-wing current, ‘national-populism’, in Dutch politics, and who was murdered in 2002.

Populism here means the idea that society is separated in two camps; the ‘good people’ versus a ‘corrupt elite’. The ‘people’ are not the whole of society, but the part of the society that is considered pure and whose political will is considered legitimate: it is a partial object that stands in for the whole. Who is part of the ‘people’ is not given, the borders of this category are contested. The selection of those considered part of it and who are not is a political act.

Different kinds of populism use different criteria to select and shape ‘the people’ into political actors. In national-populism, the ‘people’ and the nation tend to overlap: the nation is not equal to the citizenry but to the ‘people’, a term with an historical, ethnic connotation. The national-populism of Fortuyn and Wilders calls for the disappearance of an ‘alien’ minority culture to preserve a mythical, homogeneous ‘Dutchness’.

The article traces the rise of extreme-rightwing, ‘gay-friendly’, anti-Islamic populist movements from Frits Bolkestein of the right-wing Liberal party, the VVD, through Pim Fortuyn and to the Partij Voor Vrijheid (Party For Freedom) of the notorious Islamophobe, Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Bolkestein set the pattern for the development of Islamophobic right in the Netherlands in a speech he made in 1991. In a speech to the Liberal International, Bolkestein contrasted European and Christian civilisation with that of the Islamic world, arguing that democracy and human rights were a product of a single, European culture, rather than emerging from a clash within different cultures.

Pim Fortuyn

Not a Bond Villain: Pim Fortuyn, Pro-Gay, anti-Muslim, anti-Welfare

This was taken up by Pim Fortuyn. A right-wing cultural pessimist lamenting the decline of community cohesion, traditional values and patriarchal authority figures, Fortuyn combined nationalism with neo-Liberal programme of severe cuts to the welfare services. In his 1997 book, Tegen de Islamisering van Onze Cultuur, ‘Against the Islamisation of the Our Culture’, Fortuyn presented Dutch culture as under threat from a homogenous, a-historical Islam. In his view, Islam was not just a religion, but also a worldview and political system. By constructing his attack on Islam as one of culture, not race, he avoided being linked to the racist, neo-Nazi far right. Nevertheless, the article makes clear that Fortuyn also made deeply racist comments, such as his statement to the Dutch paper De Volkskraant that Moroccans never stole from each other.

Fortuyn’s party, the List Pim Fortuyn, disintegrated amidst internal feuding after his assassination in 2002 by the environmental activist Volkert van de Graaf. Fortuyn’s anti-Islam stance was then taken up by Geert Wilders, then a member of the right-liberal VVD. Along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wilders promoted the idea that the conduct of Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands were determined by their religion, and that it was the cause of the sexism and racism in Dutch Muslim culture. The religion was also the root cause of socio-economic poverty and dictatorships and absolute monarchies in the Islamic world. Wilders left the VVD to form his own party in 2004.

The new party received a massive boost with the murder of the bitterly anti-Islamic Theo van Gogh. In the aftermath, dozens of mosques and hundreds of Muslim immigrants were attacked. In 2010 Wilder’s party attempted to capitalise on fears generated by the recession by throwing out their previous, Neo-Liberal policies. The party had previously stood for a flat tax rate, attacks on trade unions, abolition of the minimum wage and making it easier for firms to dismiss workers. Wilders’ party then pledged to defend the welfare state and workers’ rights, while claiming that they were under attack through immigration. The party then attempted to prevent these same civil rights from being applied to immigrants through linking social security to length of citizenship, language skills, and the adoption of secular dress. Those wearing burqas or niqabs were to be ineligible for benefits.

Wilders’ party entered government as the coalition partner of Mark Rutte’s VVD government. In doing so it gave up many of its left-wing demands and committed itself to Rutte’s austerity programme. The Coalition collapsed in 2012 when the PVV withdrew from negotiations about the implementation of further austerity. The following year Wilders’ began to establish links with other, European Far Right parties, like the French Front National, the Vlaams Belang in Belgium, and the Freiheitliche Partei Osterreichs in Austria. Wilders also went on tour of Holland collecting anti-austerity signatures, and set up a website offering legal advice for blocking the construction of mosques.

The article points out that Wilders’ success is remarkable, considering that his party doesn’t have members or much of an organisation beyond a website. This has given him absolute freedom to choose which candidate to support. It also points out that the success of Fortuyn and Wilders is partly due to appearances on TV and the net. Fortuyn in particular benefited from the support of the mainstream Conservative media. Wilders so far has eschewed appearing on TV and being interviewed by the papers because he distrusts their supposed ‘left-wing’ bias.

The Dutch anti-Islamic far right has also benefited from selectively including parts of the radicalism of 1968. They have taken on board verbal support for feminism, gay liberation and opposition to anti-Semitism, while rejecting the Green movement and anti-racism. Women’s and gay rights, and acceptance of Jews, are seen as intrinsically Dutch characteristics and their origins in the left-wing and progressive movements is ignored.

The article also considers that Bolkestein, Fortuyn and Wilders have also gained through the Netherlands’ self-image as an open and tolerant society, and the taboo on looking too closely at the endemic racism within it. This is particularly acute because the Dutch Left has largely abandoned anti-racism, and even taken over some aspects of the nationalistic Islamophobia of Wilders et al.

It’s a fascinating, provocative article that needs to be read, not just for the light it shines on this ominous aspect of Dutch politics, but also on the links and similarities to the growth in other anti-Islam groups and organisations throughout Europe, such as Pegida in Germany, and the EDL over here.

Despite the PVV’s massive growth, I’ve met many Dutch people, who were bitterly and outspokenly against Wilders and his bigotry. One young woman I knew at Uni said that she intended to leave the Netherlands if he won an election. I hope she didn’t, as no-one should feel forced out of their homeland by bigots.

ayaan-hirsi-ali-005

Ayaan Hirsi Ali considering the size of her next speaking fee.

As for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she is a highly controversial figure. Her family have denied that any of the maltreatment she describes as being inflicted on her by her family has ever actually occurred. A non-Muslim friend of mine, who has taught university classes in Islam, is spectacularly unimpressed with her. He sees her less as a principled politician, than as a venal opportunist, who has exploited her supposed escape from Islamic oppression to gain money, influence and political power. She’s made money very cynically from telling the Islamophobic Right exactly what they want to hear. All the while using and discarding former allies than when they are of no use to her.

What has come across from this article is the similarity of approach of the anti-Islam activists across the West, from America to this side of the Atlantic. There is the same denial of racism. They don’t object to Muslims because of their ethnic origin, but because of the social, economic and political aspects of their religion. There is the same view that Islam is uniformly anti-feminist and bitterly hostile to gays. The anti-Islam sites over here and in America carried stories about Muslims beating up gays in Amsterdam, for example.

There is also the same claim that, in order to protect the welfare state, measures must be put in place to limit immigration. In the interview I put up this morning between Nigel Farage, the Fuhrer of UKIP, and Evan Davies, Farage stated that in a decade or so’s time, we may have to introduce an insurance system to fund the NHS due to the expansion of the country’s population to 80, 90. or 100 million. Farage was very careful not to single out any particular religion or ethnic group, but his party does contain any number of swivel-eyed loons with a venomous hatred of Muslims and non-Whites. The message, and that of the anti-immigrant Conservatives, is the same: the welfare state is under threat from immigrants, who are placing far too much strain on the available services. This conveniently ignores the fact that the welfare state has been decimated by decades of Conservative rule, and is likely to be destroyed completely if Cameron’s horde of robber barons are returned to power.

And Wilders has more than his fair share of supporters in this country. About ten years ago there was controversy in Britain, when Wilders was invited to speak at the House of Lords. He, and groups like him, aren’t a problem confined to the Netherlands. They’re all over Europe, and threaten all of our societies.