FiLiA has long recognised, and been pained by, the barriers that hosting a feminist conference in London can cause. We have taken the decision to move future FiLiA conferences outside of London and are inviting women to support us in centring the voices of working class women, and in providing a space that is accessible to as many women as possible. Please email us if this is of interest to you firstname.lastname@example.org
With deep thanks to Cath Bore for contacting us about the book 'Know Your Place' which can be bought HERE
'Know Your Place is a book that is a political howl from those who know that it is easier, that we are easier, to go unacknowledged and that our experiences, our lives, our humour are difficult for others to take.' Lisa McKenzie
KNOW YOUR PLACE: ESSAYS ON THE WORKING CLASS (Dead Ink Books)
My essay 'The Housework Issue' (The Other One), from the book Know Your Place, is dedicated to women workers considered low skilled, specifically those employed as cleaners. I concentrate on the lack of value placed on the work carried out by working class women in such roles, their disposability in the workplace, and the low social status afforded to them. My argument is that working class women of all ages are not respected and as they get older become even more undervalued, and rendered invisible.
Society at large is guilty of side lining working class women, and the feminist movement must take its share of the blame. The lack of consideration over working class women and their concerns is not intentional, but feminism will continue to fail so many as vast numbers continue to be left out of feminist conversations and debates. Specifically, I’m referring to conservations springing from the ethics and moralities constructed and valued by a privileged mind set with little thought given to those who, due to poverty or circumstance, cannot meet such exacting standards.
Here are some examples.
- The debate around disposable vs reusable sanitary products. We all agree the environment is worth our worry time, but using Mooncups and the like is a big ask for those working irregular hours and in physically demanding jobs with busy communal washing facilities.
- Buying clothing. Ethically sourced clothes are the ideal, of course, but expensive with it. The charity shop cheap alternative cheered on by the finger wagging righteous is a beautiful theory, but not always practical.
- Breastfeeding poses difficulties if one’s partner is a shift worker and so unable to prepare a nursing mother something as simple as a drink or a snack to keep her going.
- In my essay I refer to cleaners in private homes, ones who work for the same family for years, dusting sideboards, scrubbing toilets and keeping secrets (they vacuum under your beds, people. They know EVERYTHING about you, don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise), rarely offered maternity pay, sick pay, or holiday pay. Indeed, when families go off on holiday themselves it’s often a case of ‘we won’t need you next week’ with no compensation given.
Issues like these and more chip away, bit by bit, at the confidence of those not able to join in and embrace feminism, but who would love to and, importantly, might benefit from it.
Is it any wonder, then, that so many working class women believe feminism is not for them?
Know Your Place reviews:
- Listen to Cath Bore and fellow Know Your Place essayist Sian Norris talking to presenter Jenni Murray on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about how class and feminism intersect. It was broadcast on 24th November 2017
- by Julie Burchill for the New Statesman
- by Lisa McKenzie for the London School of Economics