Selma James quoted in article: “What is killing marriage and the family?”

It’s not just the free market or big government – there’s Big Sister too
Belinda Brown | May 11 2019 | comment 1

The male breadwinner … now just a privilege of the upper middle class?

The birth of a new Royal baby here in Britain reminds us what privileged women have, and what their poorer sisters lack: a decently earning husband and therefore the prospect of a stable family life. Of course, when that decently earning husband is a prince, he doesn’t just bring home the bacon — he owns the whole farm.

This was one of the more controversial points which Tucker Carlson, the American conservative political commentator, called attention to when he delivered his monologue on the importance of the family earlier this year. If we want to have happy, functioning societies the wellbeing of the family should be a central concern of political life, Carlson said. Most of us could sign up to that.

What was difficult for some was his suggestion that where men do not earn decent wages women don’t want to marry them; and that the absence of marriage leads to the breakdown of the family ‑‑ to fatherlessness and single parenthood, and many other social ills besides.

The link between male employment and marriage is amply supported by the data (see herehereand here), but in pointing it out Carlson exposed a tension in conservative arguments: the free market can weaken the very families it relies upon to thrive.

Not only do processes of deindustrialization weaken male employment. As households split into independent units consumerism is fed by family breakdown and divorce.

Right wing commentators David French and Ben Shapiro were quick to defend the market from any ideas which might curtail its freedom . If people had disorganised families, they suggested, this was down to individual agency. They wanted the separation between our personal lives and the economy to remain intact.

Others were more interested in exploring the questions which Carlson provoked. JD Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, acknowledged that what was good for the market was not necessarily good for the nation but needed careful working out. Eli Finkel said the poor want to be married just as much as everyone else. Writing in the Federalist Willis L. Krumholz, explained that government measures had made marriage less attainable for the least well off. Suzanne Venkerdemonstrated with a barrage of evidence that women prefer to marry decently earning men. The result is, as academics Bradford Wilcox and Samuel Hammond have shown, marriage has become a privileged institution almost jealously guarded by the upper middle class.

Feminism and the war on the male breadwinner

In all this discussion about the free market and government interventions, hardly any mention was made of a third and more malignant factor in the decline of marriage: feminism, the almost universally accepted ideology whose central and explicit aim has been to dismantle the supportive role of the male in the family and the family with it.

State intervention and its destructive effects have been enormously amplified by accommodation to feminist policy, which has actively sought to undermine the male breadwinner role for nigh on 70 years.

Yet it is the male breadwinner role which middle class women, often feminists themselves, benefit from, both through marriage and when they get divorced. Working class women, on the other hand do not get married, as the forces ranged against their men mean they are unable to support a family.

Second-wave feminists have always made it clear that they regard women’s traditional financial dependence on men as the root of all evil. Quotations are easily harvested from feminist literature. Here, for example is Selma James, who set up the International Wages for Housework Campaign, speaking in 1983:

“The wage relation is not only a power relation between waged worker and employer but between those workers who do and those workers who do not have wages. This is the material basis of the social antagonism between the sexes. Whether or not we are in a relationship with men, let alone a dependent relationship, women’s dependence in society generally sets the terms of the relationship between all men and all women. Whether or not money passes hands between any particular individuals, the “cash nexus” binds the sexes to each other and into society. Women, the poorer sex, are the socially weaker sex; men, more powerful financially, can exercise social power against us in every area of life.” (1)

This financial inequality is the very essence of “patriarchy” – seen as the oppression and exploitation of women by men based on the economic “power” of the husband and father in the home.

And feminists have also been clear that they want to get rid of it. Here is Germaine Greer, in The Female Eunuch:

“Women’s Liberation, if it abolishes the patriarchal family, will abolish a necessary substructure of the authoritarian state; … so let’s get on with it”.

Or Kate Millet, who was also influential in her day:

“Why are we here today?” “To make revolution.” “What kind of revolution?” she replied. “The Cultural Revolution.” “And how do we make Cultural Revolution?” “By destroying the American family!” “How do we destroy the family?” “By destroying the American Patriarch.” “And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?” “By taking away his power!”

To the “patriarchal family,” as feminists like to call it, was attributed all manner of problems.

Male support for the family was described by a United Nations group in 1986 as the cause of violence against women, making the “economic independence of women … crucial.”

Sociologist Jessie Bernard regarded it as psychologically crippling:

“The wife of a more successful provider became for all intents and purposes a parasite, with little to do except indulge or pamper herself. The psychology of such dependence could become all but crippling.”

A highly influential British report of 1990 – ironically called The Family Way – said that (financial) inequality was the cause of marital breakdown:

“Inequality is not a recipe for wedded bliss. It is, on the contrary, one of the main causes of marital breakdown.”

Today we know that marriages are happier and stronger where the woman earns less than the man.

Dismantling the male wage

A central aim of feminist policy has therefore been to dismantle male support for the family. As Professor Carol Smart, CBE, explained in 1984 one way of killing off the patriarchy is to abolish marriage. Though this might sound unpopular or unrealistic, if tackled indirectly it could be done:

“It would be far more effective to undermine the social and legal need and support for the marriage contract. This could be achieved by withdrawing the privileges which are currently extended to the married heterosexual couple. Such a move would not entail any punitive sanctions but would simply extend legal recognition to different types of households and relationships, and would end such privileges as the unjustified married tax allowance. Illegitimacy would be abolished by realizing the right of all women, whether married or single, to give legitimacy to their children. Welfare benefits and tax allowances would also need to be assessed on the basis of individual need or contribution and not on the basis of the family unit”.

Another popular option was to get rid of the father. Prominent journalist Polly Toynbee suggested in 1989 that

“Women and children will suffer needlessly until the state faces up to the reality of its own inability to do anything about the revolution in national morals. What it can do is shape a society that makes a place for women and children as family units, self-sufficient and independent.” (2)

As Anna Coote, a government policy adviser, suggested in 1991, fatherhood was beyond salvaging:

“The father is no longer essential to the economic survival of the unit. Men haven’t kept up with the changes in society; to they don’t know how to be parents. Nobody has taught them: where are the cultural institutions tell them that being a parent is a good thing? They don’t exist. At the same time, women don’t have many expectations of what men might provide.” (30)

Yet another solution has been to increase the economic clout of women while eroding male earnings: by reducing the relative share of male employment (done) or reducing their hours (done), or by reducing the value of the male wage (done). Also important, of course, is increasing average female earnings.

This is why feminists are so unrelenting about the gender pay gap, even when it is acknowledged that women are paid the same for the same work. It is not about equality but about women and children being able to survive independently of men.

Finally, the system of taxes and benefits can be manipulated in such a way as to render female dependency on males extremely costly, make single motherhood a viable lifestyle, and get all mothers out to work.

This was the approach adopted in 1990 by the feminists who produced ‘The Family Way’ policy (Anna Coote, Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt). The Labour Party at the time wanted to remove the discriminatory nature of the Married Couples Tax Allowance, so that it could be used equally by both spouses. However, Coote et al argued against this because such a measure would still provide financial support for marriage that they regarded as “indiscriminate”. It would be far more “efficient – more targeted’’, they explained, to use public resources to support children and those who care for them [women] than discriminate according to the parent’s legal status.

They recognised that “A shift of resources away from the married couple’s allowance would, of course, affect married men’s take-home pay.” They acknowledged that this might be politically unpopular but discussed various strategies by which it might be done. After a continuous campaign to end the Marriage Tax Allowance and spend the money on needy mothers, the feminists had their way in 1999.

Under the new system even married parents with children were treated as individuals. A family of two working individuals (each earning £21,000) living with their children would benefit hugely from the personal tax allowance liability, which would allow them each their first £10 K tax free, compared with a single earner earning £42,000. Similarly, neither of the working couple would be liable for the 40% tax rate, whereas a single earner family would be liable for this rate although the family take home pay came to the same amount. On top of this, they manipulated the Child Benefit, the Tax Free Childcare Allowance, and the Child Benefit Tax Charge in ways which ensured that any family where the woman dared not to work outside the home would substantially miss out. It is detailed here.

Penalising the single-earner family

The result has been that a single earner married couple with two children, on 75% of the average wage ‑‑ a typical aspirational family ‑‑ face a Marginal Effective Tax Rate of nearly 73% ‑‑ higher than any other OECD country. Consequently, poverty has been heavily concentrated among single earner families and, of course, families with more children, where the mother is least likely to be able to work.

It also means that the main breadwinner is unable to increase his or her income because it would simply mean taxes would increase and benefits decline. This destroys the rewards of work and undermines the incentives to get on. It also means that employers have little incentive to raise wages because only the Treasury will benefit. The result is dependence on welfare and a mother who is forced out to work.

At the same time, processes that discourage marriage or even couple formation as a “tax trap” mean that some families are financially better off living apart. The Institute of Fiscal Studies said in 2010 that 95 percent of all single people would incur a couple penalty if they married or started to live together as a couple. Half of these would face a penalty of £101 per week. This is being tweaked by the Universal Credit but the situation is not about to change significantly.

Sociologist Patricia Morgan explains how the expansion of means tested or “targeted” welfare has meant that further and further up the income distribution, the state outbids husbands and fathers transforming them into liabilities. This may be why ‑‑ although the affluent are very much more likely to be married than the those with lower incomes ‑‑ the trend away from marriage is gradually working its way up the social scale.

The result of these policies has been that the UK has the highest rate of family instability in the developed world. Fatherlessness and resulting poverty are associated with poor social outcomes in education and employment, with increased mortality, crime, further family breakdown and drug abuse. This has been estimated to cost the UK£51 billion a year in lost tax revenue, benefits, housing, health, social care, civil and criminal justice and education.

Feminism is the quack doctor on hand to sell its poison as the cure. Rather than strengthening the position of the male so that marriage once again becomes viable for the less well off, his relative position is further weakened. For example, a Joseph Rowntree report noting that “male employment has fallen and earnings among low to mid skilled men have grown relatively weakly,” proposes women’s employment as the solution:

“for couple families having both partners in work offers strong protection against poverty even when wages are low. Given the uncertain prospects for future wage growth, women’s employment will continue to be vital for lifting families out of poverty.”

I don’t know how relevant the British experience I have outlined is to the situation in the United States. But I know that the paper on which Carlson based his data actually refers to a male’s relative earnings and says the decline in manufacturing has been part of the process. This seems an acknowledgement that there are other factors at work.

We need to stop pussyfooting around these issues. These changes are not a result of the culture of modernity or of some zeitgeist over which we have no control. They are the result of 70 years of an ideology which has been explicit in its aim to destroy the breadwinning role of the male, along with the family itself. The progressive ideologies which have helped to destroy marriage have been complicit in this process, as have the armies of social workers who feed off it.

Feminists have rent apart the fabric of society and we should, to borrow a feminist expression, “call them out” for it. By identifying and naming feminism, by understanding its workings we can begin to repair the deep wounds to society.

At the same time, we need to be careful to rescue any useful babies that might be swimming in the bathwater. For they are there. We also need to try to understand the psychology of feminism and the motivations that have propelled them. But that is another article.

If we can do these things we can move toward to a healthier society where family and community is at the centre. And feminism will become a fascinating period in history, an example of a hugely destructive movement but one from which a great deal can be learned.

Belinda Brown is author of The Private Revolution: Women in the Polish Underground Movement and a number of well-cited academic papers. British, she also writes for The Daily Mail and The Conservative Woman. She has a particular interest in men’s issues and the damage caused by feminism.

Notes

1. James Selma 1994, Marx and Feminism, Crossroads Centrepiece, Kings Cross Women’s Centre.

2. The worm-turned syndrome”, in The Observer, 17 October 1989.

3. “The Parent Trap”, The Guardian, 16 September 1991.

https://www.mercatornet.com/features/view/what-is-killing-marriage-and-the-family/22445 

Complain to Woman’s Hour about their sexist reporting on “parental alienation”

Selma James to Woman’s Hour

I am appalled by Woman’s Hour’s report on  ‘parental alienation’ (26 April 2016)  provoked by Families Need Fathers’s march the day  before.

You reported on ‘parental alienation’ which has  notoriously been used by fathers, including violent fathers, to discredit the mother who is most often the caring  parent, and to get power against her and over the children. Two women, a lawyer and a psychotherapist, on your programme reinforced FnF’s point of view; neither spoke for the mother’s situation or acknowledged that in a sexist society it is different from the father’s – economically, socially and in terms of how the courts deal with women as compared to men.

70-90% of court cases feature domestic abuse yet less than 1% of  child contact applications are refused – violent fathers nearly always get contact. Does Woman’s Hour really believe that women do not face sexism in the family  courts and in the courts generally?

FnF and similar organisations deny the prevalence of rape and domestic violence in order to gain access to children and continue their control over the women who have left them. There was no mention that mothers who have faced violence from fathers are often disbelieved because the courts are sexist and are more likely to take the word of violent and even rapist fathers. No mention of domestic violence as a major issue in parents separating. No mention of the children killed by violent fathers who were given custody or contact  by sexist courts,  disregarding mothers’ warnings and pleas and  children’s terror. No mention of the two women a week murdered by partners or ex-partners. No mention of the contribution mothers, the primary carers in most households, make to children’s lives compared to fathers. No mention of mothers who risk having their children taken from them by social services and the family courts if they report domestic violence. No mention that fathers who get custody or contact often depend on another woman for the actual care of the child/ren who’s been taken from the mother. No mention that single mothers are living in poverty and this is being used to imply they are ‘neglecting’ their  children.

Jenni  Murray carefully avoided asking any questions that women would normally raise on this issue so that Families Need Fathers, a notoriously sexist and many believe right wing organization, was unchallenged and their march against mothers (whatever they claim) supported by default. There was also no mention of the growing movement of mothers which has been opposing the unwarranted removal of children by local authorities and the courts, which often use false claims of ‘parental alienation’ against mothers  and children. The children are the first victims, their fears and wishes ignored, their lives endangered.

I’ll not be the only one who is outraged that Woman’s Hour should themselves treat women in this sexist way.

Selma James

Statement: End Discrimination: Respect Human Rights And Restore Shamina Begum’s UK Nationality

END DISCRIMINATION: RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS AND
RESTORE SHAMINA BEGUM’S UK NATIONALITY

For clarification and/or further information, kindly contact Charles Hector (+60192371100 easytocall@gmail.com), Selma James ( +44 20 7482 2496,  gws@globalwomenstrike.net ) and/or Nina Lopez ( +44 20 7482 2496, law@allwomencount.net )

Kindly report on this statement, OR alternatively cause it to be published in your Opinions, Letters or similar section in your publication. [On publication, it would be appreciated if you could send us a link or copy, which we will send to various groups]

Thank you,

In solidarity,

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of Selma James and Nina Lopez

on behalf of the listed organisations and individuals

 

Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters – HRDP in Myanmar

Disabled People Against Cuts

English Collective of Prostitutes

Global Women’s Strike

Haiti Action Committee, US

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, UK

Legal Action for Women

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

Marvi Rural Development Organization, MRDO

North South Initiative

Payday men’s network

Peter Tatchell Foundation

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

Women of Colour GWS

Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka

 

Individuals

Ahmed Aydeed, solicitor

Hannah Baynes, solicitor

Sara Callaway, Women of Colour GWS

Chris Callender, solicitor

Professor Tom Cheesman

Louise Christian (Human Rights lawyer)

Elizabeth Cross

Dr Jonathan Fluxman

Anthony Gifford QC

Teresa Hayter

Charles Hector, advocate and solicitor

Toufique Hossain, solicitor

Selma James, Global Women’s Strike

Lorry Leader

Nina Lopez, Legal Action for Women

Barbara Le Fevre

Daniel Machover, Hickman Rose solicitors

David Malone, barrister

Anna Mazzola, writer

Bhatt Murphy, solicitor

Jacqueline McKenzie, immigration and asylum lawyer

Sally Middleton, Birnberg Peirce & partners solicitors

Giorgio Riva

Akua Rugg

Jane Ryan

Rachel Zeng, human rights defender

Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, musician

 

****

 

Media Statement  9/4/2019

END DISCRIMINATION: RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS AND
RESTORE SHAMINA BEGUM’S UK NATIONALITY

We, the undersigned individuals, organizations and groups are appalled that the United Kingdom has revoked the citizenship of Shamina Begum, a 20-year-old mother who asked to come back to the UK after giving birth to a baby boy in a Syrian Refugee camp. While the UK government refused to allow her and her child in, the baby died.

It was reported that the Home Office sent Begum’s family in UK a letter informing her that Home Secretary Sajid Javid had made an ‘…order “removing her British citizenship” on Tuesday [19/2/2019]. The document, addressed to Begum’s mother, said the decision was taken “in light of the circumstances of your daughter…” (Independent, 20/2/2019)

 

Denial of Right To Be Heard & a Fair Trial

It is unconscionable and unjust that anyone is deprived of one’s citizenship and/or nationality. It is even more shocking when they have not been accorded the right to be heard and to a fair trial. In addition, any decision should be made by the courts – not merely an administrative order of some Minister, in this case the Home Secretary.

The fact that the UK government knows that Begum is in a Syrian Refugee camp, not in the United Kingdom, and that she had been asking the government to help her and her baby get home, made this act of citizenship cancellation even more outrageous. The tragic death of her child, who was born a British citizen and may have been saved had he been allowed into the UK with his mother, is unconscionable.

The Home Secretary allegedly made his decision “…in light of the circumstances…” but Begum has not been heard, therefore the ‘circumstances’ may not be true – they have certainly not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fifteen-year-old Begum, with a couple of friends, allegedly left the UK and travelled to Syria. She then allegedly got married to a man from Holland. They allegedly had children, and this is now her third child. Her other children apparently are also no longer alive. Her ‘husband’ was allegedly involved in ISIS and/or a terrorist group. There are allegations that Begum herself may have supported terrorist agendas, beliefs, ideology and may even have participated in their activities.

There can be many allegations, but allegations are irrelevant when it comes to the administration of justice, especially when the end result is the possible deprivation of liberty, or worse, the loss of nationality. Allegations need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt especially when it comes to cancelling one’s birth right. Begum was a citizen at birth. She was not granted her nationality by any subsequent act of government.

What we have heard and seen in the media may have influenced the government of the day. There is always the possibility of bias, selective ‘quotes’ and/or selective reporting that may invite wrong conclusions.

The government, on the other hand, must be more thorough and just, especially if the end result is the expulsion of a person from the UK, the only country that Begum belongs to, the separation from her family there, and now the death of a new born.

At present, there is no crime in UK law that prescribes that the penalty is the revocation of citizenship. Even the worst of criminals, such as convicted mass murderers like the Yorkshire Ripper keep their nationality.

A mother, wife, child or relative of a person convicted of a crime should never be considered guilty simply because of family ties or association. If Shamina Begum did break UK law, then she should be brought back to the UK and accorded a fair trial. If convicted, then she should be sentenced as a citizen in accordance with the law.

 

DISCRIMINATION – Different treatment based on parentage

Discrimination is also a major concern if different treatment is being accorded to a class of citizens who are assumed to be or maybe entitled to dual nationalities through parentage, or even marriage. Would other citizens of the UK, with no migrant heritage, be treated in the same way ending up with the revocation of their UK citizenship?

‘…Speaking after he revoked her British citizenship, [Home Secretary,] Sajid Javid said he would not take a decision that would leave an individual with nowhere to go… Although he has not commented directly on the case, Mr Javid appeared to confirm earlier in the week the government felt able to take such action – which would prevent her from returning to the UK – because she is a dual national or has the right to citizenship elsewhere. Under international law, revoking someone’s citizenship is only permissible if it does not leave that person stateless…’ (Sky News, 21/2/2019).

It must be noted that Begum does not hold dual citizenship, which is permitted in the UK, but is a UK citizen from birth. The Home Secretary’s order would thus now make her stateless. Bangladesh has already stated that Begum does not have any right to Bangladeshi citizenship.

The position adopted by the UK is clearly discriminatory. It sets a frightening precedent for millions of people born in the UK to immigrant parents. They can now lose their citizenship whilst those born to British-born parents cannot.

It is most disturbing to find out that there has been a significant escalation of removal of citizenship. This was highlighted by the Windrush scandal where Commonwealth citizens who had lived in the UK for decades were deported if they could not show documentation proving their citizenship.

Removal of Citizenship has increased by 600% in a year. Over the past 10 years, 150 people have been deprived of UK nationality. Fourteen people were deprived of citizenship in 2016, and 104 in 2017. (Independent, 21/2/2019).

This is another result of the ‘racist policy’ to create a ‘hostile environment’ against anyone assumed to be an immigrant from the ‘New Commonwealth’ (i.e. people from countries with mainly non-white populations) put in place by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was then Home Secretary.

 

Child Rights Convention – Removing A Mother’s Nationality Is Not In The Best Interest Of A UK Child Citizen

Begum’s son was born days before her citizenship was revoked and was therefore a UK citizen.  The government’s action was against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), amongst others, as it deprived him of his mother and of his right to be breastfed by her.  It was certainly not in the best interest of the child. His subsequent death is a tragedy that may have been avoided had his rights been prioritized. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott questioned whether stripping Begum of her nationality “made it impossible for her to fulfil her duties as a mother and bring her baby home to a safe place.”

 

Therefore we

Call on the UK government to forthwith revoke the Home Secretary’s order removing Begum’s UK citizenship/nationality, and immediately bring her back to the UK as per her request;

Call on the UK Government to respect human rights, including the rights of the child as contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); and

Call on the UK to abolish laws and/or policies that can result in discriminatory treatment against citizens based on factors including parentage.

 

Charles Hector

Selma James

Nina Lopez

 

For and on behalf of the 16 organisations and 27 individuals listed below

 

Endorsers

Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters – HRDP in Myanmar

Disabled People Against Cuts

English Collective of Prostitutes

Global Women’s Strike

Haiti Action Committee, US

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, UK

Legal Action for Women

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

Marvi Rural Development Organization, MRDO

North South Initiative

Payday men’s network

Peter Tatchell Foundation

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

Women of Colour GWS

Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka

 

Individuals

Ahmed Aydeed, solicitor

Hannah Baynes, solicitor

Sara Callaway, Women of Colour GWS

Chris Callender, solicitor

Professor Tom Cheesman

Louise Christian (Human Rights lawyer)

Elizabeth Cross

Dr Jonathan Fluxman

Anthony Gifford QC

Teresa Hayter

Charles Hector, advocate and solicitor

Toufique Hossain, solicitor

Selma James, Global Women’s Strike

Lorry Leader

Nina Lopez, Legal Action for Women

Barbara Le Fevre

Daniel Machover, Hickman Rose solicitors

David Malone, barrister

Anna Mazzola, writer

Bhatt Murphy, solicitor

Jacqueline McKenzie, immigration and asylum lawyer

Sally Middleton, Birnberg Peirce & partners solicitors

Giorgio Riva

Akua Rugg

Jane Ryan

Rachel Zeng, human rights defender

Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, musician

 

Selma James in Stylist Magazine

What the rise of the ‘cleanfluencer’ tells us about women’s lives in 2019

‘Cleanfluencers’ are the latest social media stars to sweep our feeds, but is this newfound passion for housework a step backwards?

I’ve just spent 20 minutes watching Mrs Hinch, aka @mrshinchhome, clean a bathroom floor on Instagram. She kept calling her mop “Trace”. I believe she names all of her cleaning utensils. She taught me to pour “a neat capful of Zoflora” in the bottom of my toilet brush holders to “keep them smelling fresh”. Mrs Hinch – Sophie Hinchliffe to her friends – loves Zoflora disinfectant. She pours it on her “babies” (her dishcloths), before she puts them “to bed” (to soak overnight).

Around 1.9 million other followers – the self-dubbed ‘Hinchers’ – watched it too. And they loved it. So much so that she’s got a book, Hinch Yourself Happy: All The Best Cleaning Tips To Shine Your Sink And Soothe Your Soul, coming out in April.

Hinch is not an anomaly. Lynsey Crombie (@lynsey_queenofclean) also has 110,000 followers eager to hear how to make an eco-friendly lavender mattress cleaner – her book, How To Clean Your House… And Tidy Up Your Life, is out later this month, as is Nicola Lewis’s Mind Over Clutter.

Not far behind her, The Home Edit (an American duo who organise people’s homes into rainbow-coloured perfection) have one million followers on Instagram and count Mandy Moore and Reese Witherspoon as clients. Somehow, and without irony, 2019 has become the year we’re obsessed with watching other people clean their toilets.

But it’s not simply watching – we’re also doing it. After Mrs Hinch praised her Minky M cloth, the Minky website crashed from demand. Customers are apparently bulk buying Zoflora, with a shop assistant tweeting: “Sold out 65 bottles of Zoflora in the first 15 minutes the shop opened because [Mrs Hinch] posted about it on Instagram.” In fact, the household cleaners market is predicted to grow from £21.4 billion to £30.7 billion by 2024. This January, after Kondo’s Netflix show was released, charity shops reported a record amount of donations, spurred by people decluttering.

This all begs the question, why? Why, 60 years after labour-saving electrical appliances like washing machines became common, giving us hard-won freedom from domestic drudgery, are we suddenly elbow deep in Marigolds? Why did I spend my lunchbreak watching Kondo roll up clothes – and why did I weirdly quite enjoy it?

It’s a fascinating trend. It’s also a slightly disconcerting one. After all, there are no male cleaning influencers to be found and Mrs Hinch has admitted that 90% of her followers are women. When we already know that the majority of the domestic load falls to us – a sorry 60% more – the rise of cleaning influencers feels rather regressive.

Still, there’s no doubt that the rise of the cleaning influencer is a pretty surprising turn of events. We asked four experts why they think the cleanfluencer has taken the zeitgeist and run with it.

The historian

Virginia Nicholson, historian and author of Perfect Wives In Ideal Homes, on the similarities between Fifties housewives and cleaning influencers today 

“I think the trend for cleaning influencers is symptomatic of macro trends happening around the world right now. If we look at austerity, the Brexit crisis, climate change, the Trump phenomenon – there is a huge amount of uncertainty in society, which is similar to the post-war period of the Fifties when housework and housewives were similarly glamorised.

It makes sense. Whenever we’re dealing with traumatic upheaval and uncertainty in our lives, we retreat to our four safe walls. After the Second World War, women’s identity had been smashed to smithereens – quite literally in many cases when homes had been bombed – so when the war ended there was a national feeling of wanting to get back to the home and rebuild who they were before. There’s an atmosphere of uncertainty today and we’re retreating to our homes once again.

There was a similar glossiness to the housewives of the Fifties as there is with cleanfluencers – perish the thought that anyone doing housework would feel discontent at their task. Back then, there was a huge pressure on women to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, to be perfect in the bedroom and keep perfect homes. In 1951, the average woman spent 15 hours a day on housework. Books from that era reveal incredibly prescriptive instructions on how to keep the perfect home. Mrs Beeton’s Book Of Household Management talks about dusting the passageway before breakfast and ensuring household order so that your husband returns from work promptly at the end of the day, rather than lingering in ‘taverns and dining houses’.

This was also when women’s magazines became popular. Good Housekeeping sold the ideal woman as smiley, blonde, and white; a woman who did everything perfectly without any fuss. There was high pressure for women to tick all these boxes, which is something that we women today are feeling – the pressure to be thin, to be beautiful, to have an amazing home and to look like the latest Instagram sensation.”

The futurologist

Will Higham is a behavioural futurist and the founder of next-big-thing.net. He believes this trend will force a closer look at the toxicity of many cleaning products

“The cleanfluencer taps into a lot of trends we’re seeing right now. Firstly, young people today are the most educated they’ve ever been but lack many basic ‘adulting’ skills, which they’re very aware of. So they go to the place they learn everything today: their smartphone, specifically YouTube, podcasts and Instagram. There is a shift away from celebrity influencers to advice influencers who can genuinely teach us something. They feel more authentic. Cleaning is a basic life skill and people – men too, I believe – are eager to learn it.

But perhaps the biggest motivation is that the world is the most volatile it’s been for decades – socially, politically and technologically, things are changing rapidly and people don’t know where they fit. They want to take control of their lives again. We can’t fix the big things, we can’t clean up the whole world or undo all of the plastic pollution. But we can bring more order to our lives by cleaning our living rooms.

This trend won’t disappear any time soon. There are a couple of things which will get in the way, though. While the minimalism trend is strong, it clashes with the fact that we have an increasing love of emotionally resonant objects. So while we own less – we rent and stream – at the same time we want things that are emotionally important around us.

The other thing that is likely to happen is a revolt against these potentially toxic cleaning products. We’re becoming increasingly concerned about what they do to our bodies; we’re already worried about the increase in allergies and asthma.”

The psychiatrist

Dr Lopa Winters is a consultant psychiatrist and executive coach. She says that there are clear links between cleaning and our mental health

“There’s so much confusion surrounding gender and identity and I wonder if part of this is to do with the loss of traditional gender roles and our wish to return to something binary and easy to understand. There is so much challenging of boundaries right now – whether that’s race, age, our careers – that we’re craving simplicity and tradition to tether ourselves to.

There is a clear link between cleaning and mental health. Our relationship to others, including objects in our homes, is called object relations so every single relationship we have to a person or a thing is a manifestation of how we see the world and how we relate to others. So, if we have an ordered and clean home and take care of our possessions, it communicates something about the state of our mind. That’s why some people get anxious if they lose something, it’s like they’ve lost part of themselves. By tidying your home, you’re effectively tidying your mind – it’s a good representation of what’s going on in your head.

On the flipside, I’ve been into the homes of very mentally unwell people and seen their houses have become incredibly chaotic, with 20 bottles of milk in the lounge, for example. Caring for your home is a type of self-care, although it’s worth noting that it can segue into something else if we become too obsessive and controlling around it.

It’s not surprising that we’re returning to very traditional family values. Home represents ‘base’. Our earliest childhood attachments form in relation to a base parent who we leave and come back to, so it makes sense that we want a sense of home that’s safe and secure to return to as adults, especially when the outside world seems so chaotic and scary right now.

It also makes sense for women who have very busy career lives to find a sense of achievement and mastery in completing a task – even if that task is defrosting your freezer. This is fine if the drive comes from you, but it’s dangerous if it’s pushed on you as something you should do and if you don’t do it you feel a sense of failure.”

The cleanfluencer

Melissa Maker, the founder of cleanmyspace.com, on how she went from being the owner of a boutique cleaning service to a full-blown online influencer

“I started a cleaning business in Toronto in 2006 because there was a perpetual need for a good cleaning service. Then in 2011, my husband suggested filming some YouTube videos of cleaning tips as a marketing tool. We had no equipment, terrible lighting and no real experience with a camera, but more and more people began asking for specific videos on particular cleaning issues. Fast-forward to today, and our YouTube channel has more than one million subscribers, we have an Instagram following of more than 100,000, a book published, our own microfibre cleaning cloth range and we’re also about to launch an e-course for people who want to start their own cleaning business.

Unlike many people who want Instagram fame, I look at cleaning as a problem that people want a solution for. I’m completely honest – I hate cleaning. I wasn’t born with the cleaning gene and I absolutely do not want to spend more time cleaning than I absolutely have to. I think that honesty has really resonated with people.

I also think that Marie Kondo has touched people in a big way and helped to usher in a desire for cleaner, simpler spaces. I also think there is a growing trend for people staying in their homes more, bringing friends and family over for dinner rather than going out and working from home, which all makes us want to make our homes as nice as they can be.

I’ve been taken aback by some of the heartfelt comments I receive. People who tell me they have ADHD and can’t usually stay on a task for too long but that watching a video of me completing a task really helps them. People who are grieving or who are depressed and have lost all motivation have said that the videos empower them so that life doesn’t feel so daunting anymore. There have been so many positive and unintended consequences of the content we have created.

I rarely get accusations that my work is reinforcing gender stereotypes because all of my content is gender neutral and more than 20% of my audience is male. It’s not effeminate to learn how to clean, it’s just a life skill – and an important one at that.”

The feminist

Selma James is a writer, feminist and activist who founded the International Wages For Housework Campaign in 1972

“It may be that this cleaning trend is a fad, or it may be that – as with me from time to time – women want their house to be in perfect order because other parts of their life feel like they’re in chaos. When I have lots of time to clean my kitchen at home and do it properly, I feel very satisfied that a piece of my life is orderly. This new style may be a response to a world in chaos.

The question of housework, however, is on one hand a personal issue, but on the other it is highly political, because whether or not there’s a choice depends on money. Most women aren’t free to make that choice. I think women should be financially supported by the state whatever decision they make, whether that’s working full-time or staying home with children; given a living wage for the work they do at home that affects our social survival.

If this happened, men would stop being averse to doing it. As things stand, men don’t want to be impoverished like women. They’re not stupid. We’ve all seen when a job that used to be largely women, such as nursing, achieves pay equity, all of a sudden there are more men in that role.

My partner is a younger woman – I’m ancient: 88 years old. My energy runs out, so she does more work than I do but it wasn’t always that way. We shared jobs when I was younger. Before her, I was married to a man who was doing intellectual work and I took the burden of cleaning the house.

In my home I like to be surrounded by lots of memories, and that means I am entirely out of fashion. I see younger women’s homes and there’s nothing on show; everything’s clean and they only have two pictures on the wall. But I think they are creating order to deal with uncertainty.”

How Was It For You: Women, Sex, Love And Power In The 1960s by Virginia Nicholson (£20, Random House) is out 28 March

Images: Getty Images 

Selma James in Il Manifesto: «Per affermare il valore della cura, sciopero globale»

INTERNAZIONALE

Intervista. La cura è un’attività umanizzante, si diventa un essere umano completo quando si rende l’altro centrale nel proprio operato, oggi gli uomini stanno imparando

 Selma James

Insieme a Nina Lopez (portavoce del Collettivo Inglese delle Prostitute) siete state a Gottinga, in Germania, per parlare di sciopero delle donne. Che impressioni hai avuto dal dibattito e dagli incontri a latere?

Prima di andare a Gottinga abbiamo avuto una serie di incontri a Berlino, un’esperienza molto ricca per noi. Abbiamo imparato molto. A Gottinga è stato diverso, un incontro più accademico. Si è discusso molto della definizione, cioè se chiamarlo «sciopero femminista» o «sciopero delle donne». Tra le ragioni di chi voleva chiamarlo «sciopero femminista», a parte quella dell’inclusione di persone trans o di altri generi, c’era quella dell’inclusione degli uomini, alcuni di loro sono femministi e in questo modo sarebbero stati inclusi. Il secondo motivo, era quello di volersi differenziare dalle donne che non sono femministe. Provo a dire la mia su questi punti. Penso sia importante per gli uomini avere un rapporto con lo sciopero e vederlo come un potenziamento per loro. Gli uomini sono stati sempre esortati a dire sciocchezze sulle donne, ma mai a parlare del proprio sfruttamento, di come soffrono, della loro posizione all’interno della famiglia, di cosa significhi essere uomini,di cosa significa vivere con la silouette maschile, di uomo macho che ti viene imposta. Penso sia tempo che gli uomini riconoscano che il rapporto tra loro e le donne è un rapporto di potere. Quindi non vogliamo che gli uomini siano tagliati fuori dallo sciopero, ma che lo appoggino perchè il potere che le donne costruiscono serva è anche per la loro liberazione. Lo sciopero globale delle donne è ovviamente inclusivo verso le persone transgender. Ognuno deve potersi identificare nel genere che desidera e aderire allo sciopero. Allo stesso tempo, rispetto alle esitazioni nel chiamarlo «sciopero delle donne», non credo che le donne debbano essere invisibili per far sì che lo sciopero abbia successo. Perché allora tanto varrebbe chiamarlo sciopero generale. Rendere le donne invisibili apre il varco all’agenda maschile. Altra cosa che non condivido è che la donna che si definisce femminista sia diversa dalle altre donne. Difficilmente le donne che vivono le situazioni più difficili, le donne deportate, si autodefiniscono femministe e al contrario molte donne in Parlamento si definiscono femministe, e poi votano le misure di austerity. Io mi dichiaro femminista, ne ho il diritto, ma in un movimento di massa non comincerei con ciò che esclude la base.

La cura prima era appannaggio delle donne, oggi forse questo è meno scontato, ma la cura è spesso delegata alle persone più povere. Come vedi il futuro della cura libera dallo sfruttamento?

Penso sia una parte cruciale della lotta di classe in questo momento. È una battaglia delle donne quella per avere il lavoro di cura riconosciuto, affinché la cura non ci impoverisca, affinché non sia la nostra unica mansione, affinché ognuna abbia altre opzioni. Il partito conservatore ha una soluzione per questo: i robot, un robot che controlla se la persona è ancora viva. Ma la verità è che la cura non può essere un lavoro come gli altri e che non può essere robotizzata. La cura è una relazione con persone a cui teniamo e non solo di cui ci prendiamo cura. La società deve dare la priorità a questa attività, questa è la mia soluzione. La società deve ricostruire se stessa a partire dalle relazioni, che sono relazioni di cura data ma anche ricevuta. Se costruiamo un movimento di massa, e non credo che oggi si possa fare a meno di questo, dovremmo elaborare come prima cosa come organizzare la cura. Ad esempio quanto le persone che ricevono cure possono autodeterminare ciò di cui hanno bisogno. Oggi molte persone anziane sono escluse dalla società, perché ci si possa occupare di loro in maniera più efficace, sono messi negli istituti. Questo accade anche con molti bambini, non possiamo decidere come e quando stanno negli asili perché siamo costretti a lavorare per il profitto di qualcun altro. Noi donne, e anche gli uomini, stiamo lavorando troppo, e non è necessario, temono che se non andiamo a lavorare possiamo fare qualcosa di terribile, come organizzarci contro il sistema. Dobbiamo ridurre la quantità di lavoro nei paese industrializzati, e collaborare con i paesi più poveri per trovare le tecnologie che consentano anche a loro una liberazione dall’incredibile quantità di lavoro che sono costrette a fare. Faccio un esempio legato alla Germania, c’è stato uno sciopero di 900mila lavoratori del settore metalmeccanico, e come risultato si è ottenuta la possibilità di lavorare per due anni 28 ore settimanali per avere più tempo per la cura. La cosa interessante è che l’82% di questi lavoratori sono maschi. Questo è un passo avanti, significa che gli uomini vogliono più tempo per la cura, anche se può comportare un calo del reddito. La cura è un’attività umanizzante, si diventa un essere umano completo quando si rende l’altro centrale nel proprio operato, oggi anche gli uomini stanno imparando. Ma ci deve essere tempo e spazio per questo, e ci deve essere denaro che consente di fare questo. Il mio punto è che la questione della cura si affronta rendendola una priorità collettiva.

Il movimento delle donne curde porta avanti una battaglia importante in un contesto difficile come quello mediorientale. Come pensi che si possano connettere le lotte che spesso si danno in contesti e in forme diverse?

La questione cruciale è l’indipendenza finanziaria in tutto il mondo, chiedere denaro o la terra, a volte per le donne la terra può essere una fonte di indipendenza finanziaria, per come sono strutturate alcune società. Penso che la prima cosa da fare è riconoscere indipendenza economica per chi svolge attività di cura. Le donne in primis, ma non solo. Un salario che ci permetta di evitare la violenza, disertare la guerra, proteggere l’ambiente, nutrire i bambini e chiunque abbia fame. È un potere sociale del tutto nuovo quello che deriverebbe dal salario per chi si prende cura.

Cardiff People’s Assembly hosting an event with Selma James, “Women Race and Class: Uniting Our Struggles”.

Selma James – on struggles of women

On 30th November, Cardiff People’s Assembly is hosting an event with Selma James, “Women Race and Class: Uniting Our Struggles”.

“Universal Credit – a hostile environment for women”. Article in Morning Star.

SELMA JAMES AND SOLVEIG FRANCIS | TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2018

Women are more likely to be single parents and carers, which is why the attacks on welfare under the universal credit policy have been an act of political misogyny, writes SELMA JAMES and SOLVEIG FRANCIS

morning star sel and sol 2.png

THE FURY against universal credit (UC), imposing destitution and even death, is growing, even among Tory MPs.

While all claimants will be affected, women and children are its first targets and all on low incomes are undermined. As welfare is eroded, we cannot turn down even starvation wages. Bear in mind that UC rates are frozen until 2020, regardless of inflation.

UC combines income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, working tax credit, child tax credit and housing benefit, most often claimed by women who, especially when we have children and other dependents, have the lowest incomes and are the ones who do without to meet the survival needs of those we care for.

The £37 billion siphoned out of the welfare budget since 2010 was mainly stolen from women. Women, especially single mothers and disabled women, are austerity’s biggest losers.

UC cuts children’s benefit — money for the second child is £11 lower than for the first and there is no money for subsequent children, which is a loss of £232 a month per child, for no reason except state control of fertility for low income women. This especially hits communities with larger families, for example Asian and Irish.

There is one degrading exception to the third or subsequent children being deprived of subsistence. Mothers can try to convince jobcentre strangers that this child was conceived by rape.

After the first two children, twins must share the benefit of a single child. The money for some disabled children is halved from £61 to £32 and 25,000 disabled single mothers will lose about £250 a month because severe disability premium is abolished.

Would-be claimants face multiple deterrents. You claim on line and within seven days must arrange an interview with a work coach.

Women with literacy problems, no smart phone or internet access, who need the library but find it closed or must stay with a sick child and miss a deadline, have been cut off. Job Centres are closing — yet another obstacle.

Those transferring to UC from tax credits have been told they won’t lose out, but “change of circumstance,” such as moving home, demands a fresh claim and this is always at the lower rate.

Domestic violence victims fleeing to a refuge — a “change of circumstance” — will be further assaulted with a lower rate.
The waiting time for the first payment is five weeks. Claimants can survive this yawning gap by applying for a DWP loan at 40 per cent interest!

In areas where UC has been introduced, evictions have soared, food bank use doubled and women forced into prostitution. DWP refuses to release reports on UC-related deaths. Dickensian class society never died.

UC is structured to prevent women having the independent income established by campaigning MP Eleanor Rathbone in 1945 with Child Benefit, paid to mothers, and later Child Tax Credit, but UC, including its child element, is paid monthly to the main wage earner, usually the man.

It reinforces the power of men, including violent ones. This was intentional. UC architect, Iain Duncan Smith, told the 2010 Tory Party conference: “There is no better shield from child poverty than strong and stable families.”

The Child Support Act (1993), abolition of one parent benefit (1997), and from 1999 ever tougher compulsory ‘work-related’ requirements for mothers (even those with infants), were the beginning of the end of single mothers’ financial independence. Our campaigning with breastfeeding mothers in 2009 eventually won an exemption for mothers of children under one, which we have kept under UC.

These cuts made way for the Welfare Reform Act 2012 which introduced UC and phased out Income Support. It also set a cap on how much benefit claimants without a waged job could get from all sources regardless of rent or number of children.

A legal challenge by single mothers failed in 2015. Judges deemed the cap to “breach the UK obligation … to treat the best interests of children as a primary consideration” but accepted it as “legitimate.”

Baroness Hale, dissenting in the Supreme Court, said the cap “breaks the link between benefit and need.”

Under UC, those accused of “not trying hard enough” to get a job are sanctioned more harshly. A work coach decides whether a woman escaping domestic violence can be exempted from job-seeking for 13 weeks.

The latest budget changes little. People can keep £381 — it was £298 — a month of their earnings before 68p is clawed back from every £1 earned above this. This ensures work does not pay, but we are still forced to do it.

£1 billion over five years is the new allocation for such changes, compared to the £1 billion a year added to defence.

UC drives austerity forward, reinforcing the attack on women who suffer 86 per cent of its cuts. Rather than simplifying, it complicates and mystifies, imposing a hostile environment on all of us, especially women, the carers.

A disproportionate number of those targeted are people of colour and/or immigrants. UC reinforces the power of men within the family even while it cuts men’s benefits too.

Our struggle to defeat it is one with the struggle for a living wage.

Employers benefit from a desperate workforce deprived of the benefits we’re entitled to. Among the hardest hit are the mothers and other unwaged family carers who, like all workers, are entitled to a living wage.

Instead they are forced into the lowest paid work while squeezing caring work into a double day.

The McStrikers and the anti-UC protests are central to the movement to finally end poverty.

  • Solveig Francis, benefits adviser at the Crossroads Women’s Centre
  • Selma James, Wages for Housework Campaign

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https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/universal-credit-hostile-environment-women

£1 trillion worth of unpaid housework, figures show

The article by Lindsey German of Counterfire with its juicy quote about “unpaid work” was passed on to me, and I was delighted to receive it.

[It said:]

“The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has estimated that the amount of unpaid household work carried out in the UK is worth £1.24 trillion a year. The value has grown by 80% since 2005.

“The unpaid work includes childcare, laundry, cooking, but also driving to work and those lengthy periods on computers when you are sorting insurance, or banking, or paying your bills having read your own meter. The majority of this work is carried out by women, already at a disadvantage in the labour market, and under increasing pressure over their unpaid work in the home as well.

“These are the figures which underline the reality that the vast majority of us experience in our daily lives. And it is a miserable, unhappy picture for many, often leading to stress and illness . . .”

It seems that Ms German has “discovered” that most unwaged work is done by women. That’s good. But it is late, since women have been doing this for centuries and some of us made it central to our politics from 1972.  After all, this work cares for people and helps them to make society, and increasingly we are dependent on this work for survival.  May we suggest how this injustice and overwork can be overcome?  The work she describes and a great deal more, which she has no room to mention, includes the important job that mothers do to protect our children and the whole community from all kinds of discrimination and even physical assault.  A Black mother has her hands full to protect her children from the racism including of police, social workers, even teachers etc. This  life-saving work of caring, and protecting and defending should not impoverish us, as it does now,  by not being socially recognized with a payment. We want a living wage for all carers, so that our burden can be lightened and we will not be punished with poverty, and invisible in the movement for change.   Did you know about the Fracking Grannies, who campaigned for years against this destruction of the environment?  Women are doing this life-enhancing work in so many ways, and in so many countries.  Demanding payment for such social caring supports it and therefore supports protecting our society not destroying it as governments, industry and the military have been doing.  It’s a demand to support and protect Life on Earth in all its forms.

Perhaps Ms German will want to support this.

The cuts in benefits such as UC would have killed many more people had not women spent the whole 24 hour day helping and fighting for our survival.

Selma James

Selma James in Hunger Magazine

Selma James in Hunger Magazine
“READ THE MOST INSPIRING QUOTES FROM THE WOMEN OF HUNGER 14”

“In the recent months what has happened is that women in prominent positions have complained about what they suffer, and that has been very useful. It can be even more useful when they include the rest of us in their complaint. You can move high up in society but you still suffer from injustices because the rest of us do. You can’t escape your identification with those down below you – you get it because we get it. It’s systemic. The entire system has to change before everybody will be free.”

http://www.hungertv.com/feature/read-the-most-inspiring-quotes-from-the-women-of-hunger-14/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#link_time=1520506623