British feminist sociologist Ann Oakley interviewed


This video, recorded in Scotland, says about itself:

Prof. Ann Oakley – The Invention of Gender: Social Facts and Imagined Worlds

Professor Ann Oakley, distinguished sociologist, feminist and writer, delivers the annual Chrystal Macmillan lecture.

Prof Oakley is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the Institute of Education, University of London. In 2011 the British Sociological Association gave her one of their first Lifetime Achievement Awards for her extraordinary contribution to the history of the development of sociology in Britain.

Recorded on Thursday 29 November 2012 at the University of Edinburgh’s George Square lecture theatre.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

The changing role of the ‘housewife’

Tuesday 5th August 2014

Forty years on from the publication of her landmark book Housewife, ANN OAKLEY talks to the Morning Star [about] modern feminism and gender roles today

THIS year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Ann Oakley’s Housewife.

Based on Oakley’s PhD research, the pioneering feminist book looks at the role of the housewife in modern industrialised society.

“The study of domestic labour was not taken seriously at all — it wasn’t understood to be a topic, in fact,” Oakley tells me as we sit in her office at the Institute for Education in London where she is professor of sociology and social policy.

During her research, Oakley, now 70, interviewed 40 women living in suburban London. She found they tended to be dissatisfied because of the monotony, fragmentation and social isolation inherent in the role of housewife.

Therefore, as “housework is directly opposed to the possibility of human self-actualisation,” she concluded with a call to abolish the housewife role.

“I was being deliberately provocative,” she explains about the book’s final chapter which also called for the abolition of the traditional family and the abolition of traditional gender roles.

Four decades later, what’s changed?

“I think the whole notion of women being housewives has changed,” she replies.

“If you asked women now to talk about themselves as housewives they wouldn’t know what you were talking about really.”

But while she concedes men do more housework today, she explains it’s still not equal.

“I don’t think there is any study in the world which shows it’s equal.”

Sure enough, in the newly published 2014 Global Trends survey, 70 per cent of British women said they are mostly responsible for cooking, food shopping and household cleaning.

These findings are supported by research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2013) and the Institute for Public Policy Research (2012), both of which show British women still do the lion’s share of domestic labour.

“Most of the change that has happened since the ’70s has been, in my view, fairly superficial,” Oakley says.

“The change in behaviour is probably less than the professed attitude — what people say is more egalitarian than what they do.”

In particular, Oakley’s 1970s research was interested in the inequality of responsibility.

“In so far as men did housework it was construed by the men and women as him helping her with the housework — not the other way round.

“In terms of the issue of responsibility, what happened in the 1970s is still happening now.”

When men do pitch in, studies show they generally end up doing the tasks that are arguably more enjoyable and leisurely — gardening and DIY, for example.

Oakley agrees. “In the area of childcare, it’s still the case that men are more likely to be doing the more enjoyable side of childcare, rather than changing the dirty nappies.”

So why does this grossly unfair status quo continue?

“Patriarchy is the simple explanation,” Oakley argues.

“Men are a privileged group and there is no reason they should give up their privilege unless they are forced to do so.” This is where feminism comes in. “Most of the change in men’s behaviour, I suspect, has come about because the women they are involved with have put pressure on them to change. Men haven’t, en masse, decided that housework is a good thing to do.”

Oakley sees increasing men’s involvement in housework and childcare as an important step in addressing the social problem of masculinity — a topic she explored in a 2011 Guardian article co-written with fellow feminist academic Cynthia Cockburn.

Quoting government statistics, they noted: “Men were perpetrators in 91 per cent of all violent incidents in England and Wales … 81 per cent for domestic violence, 86 per cent for assault, 94 per cent for wounding, 96 per cent for mugging, 98 per cent for robbery.”

In addition, Ministry of Justice figures show men to be responsible for 98 per cent of sexual offences, 92 per cent of drug offences and 89 per cent of criminal damage.

“The evidence is that being involved in basic care work, being involved in very close relationships with dependent people including children, is something that brings out qualities which are traditionally associated with being a woman — caring, altruism and all that,” Oakley says.

“That happens with men too, but they have to first of all be willing to put themselves in the position so those changes can occur.”

According to 2011 research by Churchill Home Insurers, one in seven of the population pay for outside hired help to do housework. Oakley doesn’t buy this as a solution to the problem.

“That’s not a solution because very often the people who are hired are women and they are underpaid, their job conditions and security are not good,” she says.

“And usually it is the woman in the household who is responsible for looking after the hired help. So you’ve simply passed the oppression on in some sense.”

Oakley’s politics and research interests were energised by the second-wave feminism of the early 1970s.

Forty years later, many commentators argue we are currently in the midst of fourth-wave feminism, with groups and campaigns such as UK Feminista, Everyday Sexism and No More Page 3 evidence of renewed feminist activism.

“I don’t know enough about it really,” Oakley admits when I ask her about the resurgent movement.

However, she feels that some of the media discussions around contemporary feminism she is aware of have little in common with the women’s liberation movement of the ’70s.

She points to the current focus on the representation of women in positions of power. “We were not arguing for women’s share of the top jobs. We were talking about basic issues, we were arguing on the level of basic reproductive rights and access to childcare — state-provided childcare. It was all about doing something about the domestic oppression and not about undoing the privilege at the top.”

Rather than getting a bigger portion of the pie, she argues, “it was about changing the pie. We wanted a different kind of pie.”

She is philosophical when I suggest that her work, and the work of many other feminists from her generation, is rarely cited in the popular feminist polemics being published today.

“Time moves on — it’s one of the sad things that so much has to be rediscovered time and again,” she says.

In fact she says she found one book that referred to her as dead — “The late Ann Oakley.”

“I’m not late in the sense I’m dead and also I’m quite a punctual person,” she quips.

Having read Housewife and Oakley’s stupendously good Gender and Planet Earth — a book that moves from men and meat-eating to critiquing post-modernism — I can safely say contemporary feminism is missing a lot by ignoring Oakley’s groundbreaking work.

As the recent surveys mentioned above show, housework continues to be a source of inequality between men and women.

Housewife could therefore be the key text in the revival of feminist concern over housework that must take place if women are to gain any semblance of equality in the future.

British suffragette movement history discovery


This video from Britain is called Women’s Suffrage (stock footage / archival footage).

By Peter Lazenby in Brtain:

Opening the page on Rochdale’s Suffragettes

Monday 28th July 2014

Minutes from 100 years ago shed light on the movement at its heyday, writes PETER LAZENBY

Researchers in north-west England are seeking the descendants of local pioneers of the “votes for women” Suffragette movement following the discovery of historic minutes dating back more than a century.

The minutes, dating from May 1907 to November 1915, record details of the Rochdale branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, the organisation founded in 1903 in Manchester by the Pankhursts and other campaigners for women to get the vote.

The minutes have been handed to Salford’s Working Class Movement Library.

They include a list of almost 50 members and friends who attended a “monster demonstration” on June 21 1908, when between 200,000 and 300,000 women gathered in Hyde Park supporting their campaign for votes for women.

The minutes of June 12 1913, record that a special meeting was held to “consider the matter of sending delegates to represent Rochdale at the funeral of Miss Emily Wilding Davison who laid down her life in the cause of women.”

Ms Davison, who was 40 and was a teacher before devoting herself to full-time activism for the women’s movement, was trampled to death by the “King’s horse” after stepping in front of it at the Epsom Derby on June 4 1913.

She died of her injuries four days later.

As a campaigner she had been sent to jail nine times, and was brutally force-fed 49 times while on hunger strike in prison.

Her final sacrifice drew attention to the women’s cause in Britain and around the world, and Ms Davison’s name lives on as a martyr in the struggle for votes for women.

The Rochdale group decided to send three delegates and flowers to the funeral. It took place in London on June 14 1913. Thousands of Suffragettes walked with the coffin and tens of thousands more lined the streets as the cortege passed.

After a service in Bloomsbury her coffin was taken by train to the family grave in Morpeth in Northumberland.

The Rochdale minutes have been donated to the Working Class Movement Library by two supporters of its work in collecting, cataloguing and making accessible materials recording working-class history.

Library manager Lynette Cawthra said: “I don’t know where the donors originally got them from but I think they had had them for a long time.

“But there is no direct link between them and the movement. They have been friends of the library for a long time and knew that this was a place where these treasures would be looked after, and also be accessible which is, of course, a very important part of our work.”

Ms Cawthra said the minutes showed that the meetings were not all serious business.

“Members also had picnics, tea parties, dances and socials to raise much-needed funds,” she said.

“At one tea party, attended by about 50 people, the women were presented with a tea urn by a ‘gentleman sympathiser.’

“The library is extremely grateful to the donors of this minute book, which will be added to its collection of Suffragette material which includes photos, books, the journal Votes for Women and a badge which was presented to a woman who had been imprisoned for her Suffragette activities. Everyone is welcome to come and browse what’s here.”

The library is making public the list of names of Rochdale campaigners who attended the London rally in the hope that descendants will come forward.

Ms Cawthra said: “If you spot the name of your great-gran or another family member in the list, please do contact the Library on enquiries@wcml.org.uk or (0161) 736-3601 and tell us more about them.”

The Working Class Movement Library is based at Jubilee House, 61, The Crescent, Salford M5 4WX.

British politician’s domestic abuse


This video from Kenya says about itself:

Activists demonstrate in support of law against domestic abuse

24 July 2014

Civil society workers sent a petition to parliament seeking to protect the Protection against domestic violence bill which they did not want amended.

They wanted appropriate mechanisms for stopping or preventing domestic violence as well as providing effective sanctions and enforcement.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Domestic abuse MP David Ruffley should face sanction

Friday 25th July 2014

A TORY MP who assaulted his partner should “face strong disciplinary sanction,” women’s rights campaigners said yesterday.

David Ruffley announced last week that his now former partner had accepted an apology for the assault in March.

The Bury St Edmunds MP was let off with a police caution and a Conservative Party spokesman said he believed the case was closed after having been “dealt with at the time by the police.”

But feminist organisation Women’s Aid expressed concern over the whole procedure.

The charity’s chief executive Polly Neate argued that “physical violence in relationships is almost always accompanied by ongoing psychological control and abuse.”

Ms Neate added that she was surprised with the sluggishness of the Conservative Party to address the issue.

“We would expect that a parliamentarian who admitted committing a violent crime would face strong disciplinary sanction,” she said.

Mr Ruffley said he hoped the episode would “remain private” as a sign of respect for his ex-partner.

However Ms Neate pointed out that “domestic violence is a criminal, not a private matter” and that authorities should “take action accordingly.”

In Mr Ruffley’s constituency many have also come out with complaints about the MPs actions arguing his position is now “untenable.”

St Edmundsbury cathedral dean the Reverend Dr Frances Ward sent a letter to Mr Ruffley urging him to step down and arguing that he had “lost the confidence” of his constituents.

She sent copies of the letter dated July 18 to several several Tory frontbenchers — including new Chief Whip Michael Gove.

“It is my belief that you have lost the confidence of a significant proportion of your former supporters,” she wrote.

Dr Ward added that she “received sufficient comment and concern from a wide circle of people, both within the cathedral and through the town and county, to have arrived at the opinion that [Mr Ruffley’s] position is untenable.”

When contacted by the Star, the Conservative Women’s Organisation declined to make an extensive comment, but national chairwoman Niki Molnar labeled the case an “unfortunate incident.”

Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association has brought its annual meeting forward from September to next week given Mr Ruffley’s behaviour.

David Ruffley to stand down at the next election after assault on ex-girlfriend. MP has been under pressure to resign and will face constituents at local party meeting on Thursday to discuss his future: here.

British suffragettes and World War I


This video from Britain is called Mark Steel on Sylvia Pankhurst.

By Claire Eustance in Britain:

WWI didn’t end fight for women’s equality

Saturday 19th July 2014

Not all Suffragettes gave up the struggle for votes in 1914, says CLAIRE EUSTANCE

It is still all too easy to dismiss the scope and radicalism of the early 20th century British women’s movement. A case in point is the standard response to the question — what happened to the movement after outbreak of war in August 1914?

You are likely to hear comments along the lines of “Didn’t it all just stop?” or “The Suffragettes stopped attacking buildings and pillar boxes and instead started handing out white feathers to men who didn’t rush to join the military.”

If you are lucky you might find someone who knows something of the women suffragists who embraced the peace movement. Perhaps they might mention the International Congress of Women meeting at The Hague in the Netherlands in April 1915.

Surely the history of the women’s movement has more to it than this? What about the thousands of other women who had joined the myriad of women’s suffrage societies to campaign for an end to the exclusively — albeit partial — male parliamentary franchise?

My talk at the Tolpuddle festival, Keeping the Suffrage Flag Flying, focuses on one of these societies, The Women’s Freedom League (WFL), and considers the ways some of its 5,000-plus members responded to the outbreak of war and the impact the conflict had on them.

“Patriotism before politics” was the position adopted by the British Establishment in August 1914. The message to the suffrage societies was clear — it was selfish for women to continue to demand political rights when the country was at war.

And yet, while Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and other suffrage campaigners were won over by such sentiments, others were less convinced.

Among them was Charlotte Despard, the revered president of the Women’s Freedom League, who declared that war “was the decisive damnation of a corrupt society.”

Although many of her comrades found it impossible to follow her into the peace movement, a significant number agreed that it was vital to keep attention focused on women’s demands for an equal voice in the politics of the nation.

The Women’s Freedom League’s long-standing commitment to the principle of resistance to government without representation remained broadly intact through the years of war.

An example was the decision of one member, Florence Underwood, to continue to refuse to pay income tax on her earnings. The league also moved swiftly to accommodate the wishes of their members who wanted to offer service to their country by channelling some of their considerable organisational skills into supporting working women, mothers and children who had been affected by the war.

The Women’s Freedom League’s commitment to the principles of equality produced what might seem a rather incongruous stance on alcohol — viewed by many as a national scourge in wartime.

However, in Hartlepool in 1917, the entire branch membership rose en masse to protest at the exclusion of women from licenced premises at certain times of the day. It was they claimed “not only an injustice but an insult to women!”

The Hartlepool campaign was just one of many forays taken by the league into debates around civil liberties.

Other campaigns highlighted equal pay, prostitution, sexual abuse and the treatment of women by law courts — topics that are largely still relevant to feminists and radicals today.

Yes, war meant that the women’s movement in Britain was probably organisationally weaker. There was less accord, less publicity and less wealth.

And yet over the same period some important principles relating to women’s rights to work, equality with men, rights of mothers as well as meanings of national identity and citizenship, were tested by women and found wanting.

It was feminism as much, if not more, than suffrage that flourished after 1914. There are some lessons for us there today, surely.

Claire Eustance is senior lecturer in history at the University of Greenwich. She will be giving a talk at the Tolpuddle radical history school.