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Discussion point 2. June 1, 2006

Posted by Winter in activism.

It’s that time of the week again (although knowing Mind the Gap the next one will arrive on a Tuesday)

I’ll keep this one short and sweet:

Is feminism engaging effectively enough with the impact of poverty upon women? Are we really grasping the extent to which poverty influences women’s decisions across all areas of life? How can we really get to grips with these issues when so many prominent feminists seem to come from wealthy middle-class backgrounds?

Responses welcome from all feminist perspectives.



1. IrrationalPoint - June 3, 2006

No, I think mainstream feminism so far has not engaged with the issues faced by poor women to the extent that I would hope. There are token gestures — NOW’s press releases on raising minimum wage in the US, for example. But not nearly enough.

Just my 2p.


2. Maia - June 3, 2006

That’s an interesting question. Although I find it hard to talk about what ‘feminism’ is doing, because we don’t have an organised feminist movement (at least in New Zealand).

For me, feminism and socialism go together for so many reasons (although I don’t consider myself a socialist feminist because that implies that the socialism is modifying the feminism). An analysis of poverty and capitalism is part of my entire analysis of society and women’s lives.

I come from a middle-class background, but I do think the problems with capitalism are a large part of my feminist analysis. Partly of this is because of my job. I’m a union organiser and I spend huge amounts of time

But I don’t actually think it’s hard to link issues. When I talk about abortion I also talk about ensuring people can make the choice to have a child, and that means not making having children an individual repsonsibility. Although I’m not sure I’ve ever actually written that in my blog. I should go and do that now.

3. IrrationalPoint - June 4, 2006

Maia makes a good point: certainly class plays into women’s issues, and the intersection of sexism and class problems is important, and feminism certianly *ought* to be inclusive by addressing the issues that face *women* not just the ones that happen to be middle class (or white or straight or cisgendered or whatever).

But I don’t think Western mainstream feminism does address all those issues. Somehow, poor women (and other marginalised women) tend to get passed over.


4. Winter - June 8, 2006

Naiades are you casting aspersions on the organisational abilities of Mind the Gap? tsk tsk.

Generally, my answer to the question is no. I agree with IP that mainstream western feminism seems has developed into very much a middle-class phenomenon. A lot of the debates within this kind of feminism seem to be based on an assumption that everyone involved is relatively wealthy. For example, the ongoing one about whether or not to stay at home with the kids. The debate only works within the context of the very few women on the planet who are wealthy and privileged enough to have such a choice. Most women have to work whether they like it or not.

I’m generalising, but that’s my impression.

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