From today’s Guardian:  Police should be harassing badly behaved youths by openly filming them and hounding them at home to make their lives as uncomfortable as possible, the home secretary will say today.

Smith will apparently say:  ” I want police and local agencies to focus on them by giving them a taste of their own medicine.”

Now, on one level, this solution is certainly satisfying.  A friend of mine is currently dealing with a gang of local teenagers shouting homophobic epithets at him and throwing things at his dogs – all of whom were rescued from abusive homes and are easily upset by such behaviour as a result.

But, then after about 5 seconds, I do what any sensible adult does:  realise that two wrongs do not make a right.  And that emotionally disturbed teenagers should not be the role model for people running the country.

All this approach proves is that bullying is a good idea – providing you are the biggest kid (or government minister) on the block.  While teenagers may be temporarily bullied into better behaviour, will they really decide to turn their lives around and become well-adjusted, friendly, adults?  Or will they just wait until they are a bit older, and then take out their emotional issues on people who can’t fight back.

There’s also some very unpleasant class and race implications to all this.  Do you think rich young men trashing hotel rooms out of boredom are going to be affected by this?  Me neither.  I bet all of the “thugs” the police decide to “harass” are on council estates.

In addition, the decision to allow cops to harass thugs comes at a time when there’s been a marked upswing in policing of Muslim communities – Gareth Peirce in the London Review of Books discusses the civil liberty violations one can now be subject to for being Muslim. Plus, lawmakers are now discussing the need to resume intense policing of Black communities – for their own good, of course.    Smith relaxed the laws on stop and search this year, and David Cameron has promised “to increase police powers by empowering sergeants to authorise stop and search of any pedestrian and vehicle in a specified area for up to six hours, if they reasonably believe a serious crime has occurred or is about to occur.”

There’s a serious problem with some – some – young people in the UK today.  When teenagers are getting drunk every day and beating people to death – to me, that suggests despair and nihilism.  No one is born bad, and if drugs and violence become a way of life for people as young as 13, I think it’s fair to say there are underlying psychological, emotional and social issues.

Rather than having police harassing thugs – and thereby proving that bullying is a completely valid tactic for dealing with something unpleasant – maybe we should be offering these kids an intensive course of therapy.  It will be a lot more successful and less expensive in the long run.

There will be a May Day March in Machester, on 5 May, assemble 11:30 at All Saints Park on Oxford Road (MMU Campus)

Health Care for All:  No withdrawal of healthcare to refugees                                                                  

Keep The NHS Public.  Defend Public Services.  No Privatisation

Solidarity with Karen Reissman

For A Decent Living Wage: No Pay Freeze

Fight for Trade Union Rights.

 

The march will be followed by at the Friends Meeting House, food provided.  Paul Mason, a BBC Journalist, will discuss his new book “Live Working or Die Fighting, how the Working Class went Global”; discussion of the Flying Pickets with authors Dave Ayre, Reuben Barker, Jim French, Jimmy Graham & Dave Harker; and Will Kaufman sings Woody Guthrie.

Organised by the Manchester Trades Union Council, Trades Unions for Refugees, RAPAR, human rights organisations working with displaced people, Manchester Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers.

 

An article in yesterday’s Guardian here reveals that 78% of students from the wealthiest homes want to go to university, while only 55% of students from the poorest homes feel the same way.

In Comment is Free, Lynsey Hanley discusses this statistic in light of her own experience coming from an impoverished background.

Now obviously, some people just don’t want to go to university, and that’s fine – more than fine, in fact.  As a society, we need to have a lot more respect for manual labour; I mean, I can’t fix a car.  Furthermore, we really shouldn’t mistake “well-educated” for “went to university” – some of the most intelligent and well-read people I know accomplished this with a library card and an open mind.

However, there’s clearly an issue of internalised classism here – people from more impoverished backgrounds simply believing that university is “not for them”.  These internalised low expectations are a key way in which classism works in a modern “meritocratic” society.  Growing up, my family went through periods where money was a bit tight (my parents ran their own business during the worst economic slowdown since The Great Depression).  As a student, I once spent three days living on mayonnaise sandwiches because I’d run out of money before payday.  While I have a decent job at the moment, my partner gets paid a pittance for a few days university teaching, meaning that we are, essentially, a single-income family.

However, my expectations have always been very middle-class.  Not only did I want to go to university, I never doubted that I would.  No matter how bleak things have gotten financially, I’ve always had this conviction that, eventually, everything would be OK.   In short, I have a wicked case of middle-class entitlement.

How do we give everyone that sense of entitlement?  How do we make sure that a university education (or any other dream for that matter) seems within reach for anyone with the requisite potential? 

Getting rid of tuition fees would be a good start.  More than that, though, a cultural change is required – and to be honest, I don’t even know how to begin.

 

I’m really, really excited about this, and will be reporting back via this blog as soon as I can afterwards.

Feminist Fightback presents…a Teach-In for Reproductive FreedomsDiscussing ideas and planning action for a woman’s right to choose
12 April, 12-5pm, Clement House Building, London School of 
Economics, Holborn (Holborn tube)

 

www.feministfightback.org.uk
rebecca.galbraith@yahoo.co.uk

12.00pm
Registration

12.30pm
Opening speech by Sofie Buckland (NUS National Executive)

1-2.15pm
a) Imperialism and Motherhood
Speaker: Anna Davin (founding editor of History Workshop Journal)
Facilitator: Gwyneth Lonergan
b) From Abortion Rights to Reproductive Freedoms
A panel discussion with Charlotte Gage (Abortion Rights), Cathy Nugent 
(Workers’ Liberty), Rosie Woods (NHS worker)
Facilitator: Anna Longman

2.20-3.35pm
a) Getting your message across
Jill Mountford (former organiser of the Welfare State Network) and 
James House (TV documentaries producer)
Workshop facilitator: Rachael Ferguson
b) How to campaign
Workshop Facilitator: Anne-Marie O’Reilly (trade union organiser)

3.45-5pm
Planning for a National Day of Action
Facilitators: Laura Schwartz and Rebecca Galbraith

* Food: cheap vegetarian food will be served from 12 noon
* Free creche: Please register with rebecca.galbraith@yahoo.co.uk for 
a free creche place
* Social with X-talk: 7pm @ The Ivy House, Southampton Row, Holborn
* The teach-in is free to attend but a suggested donation of £1.50 
unwaged and £3+ waged is encouraged.

Hello out there!!

A bit about me: I’m a 27-year-old Canadian who has been living in the UK for the past 3 years. I originally came to do an MA in Gender Studies, met The Composer, got married and stayed. I’m a feminist activist who firmly believes that all forms of oppression are intersecting, and I do my best to ensure my activism reflects that.

That last sentence also serves as a statement of purpose for this blog. I’m a very privileged woman – white, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied. This privilege is sometimes – maybe often – invisible to me. Yet, I’ve been convinced by the books and articles I’ve read, and my own experience of activism, that it is absolutely crucial that I decentre whiteness and privilege from my feminist politics.

It is impossible to sort out sexist oppression from racism, capitalism, homophobia, transphobia, abelism, or any other form of oppression. Modern ideas about gender roles, for example, the idea that women should stay at home while men go out and work, are racialised and classed. Working-class women and women of colour were expected to work, not only because the capitalist system demanded their labour (wouldn’t want to have to pay a man enough to support a family), but because the ideal of “domestic motherhood” for middle-class white women could only exist in opposition to a constructed “other”. If every woman stayed at home, then domestic motherhood would not longer be a marker of class and race privilege , and as such, would no longer be so highly valued.

Therefore, sexism cannot be fought effectively if we are not simultaneously fighting racism, capitalism and other forms of oppression. There is no such thing as a “women’s issue” separate from “race issues” and “class issues”.

Furthermore, it should be obvious to any who is paying attention that in the UK, at least, our basic liberties are increasingly under threat. Women (and men) who experience multiple oppressions are at particular risk – look at the way in which it’s become completely acceptable to lock up asylum seekers. But, once it has been decided that, for example, someone’s national origin can deprive them of their basic human rights, what other groups may find themselves in a similar situation? Feminism must fight against all forms of oppression today, because if privileged women such as myself remain silent while asylum-seekers are persecuted, we may one day find ourselves arbitrarily deprived of our liberties.

I hope that my blog will reflect this statement. I’m sure I won’t always get it right (privilege works by being invisible), but I pledge to do my best.