Guest post: We have achievements we can show you youngsters

Originally a comment by Maureen Brian on Great respect but it’s time to step aside.

I’m afraid my first reaction to some of these spoutings is to ask, “Which man told you to say that?”

That isn’t always justified. In fact I don’t often say it but the thought recurs and sometimes it is needed. There are too many people about who can be catapulted straight into apoplexy by my saying, “Yes, I remember that. In the early ‘80s I was spearheading the campaign at work to get an evidence-based job evaluation scheme introduced which looked only at what work you did, what knowledge you had had to gain and left out entirely matters of sex, race, class.” The previous model, such as it was, had paid far too much attention to where you were seen to be in some social hierarchy. We got there in the end, not solely down to me, as once we had the agreement in principle I stepped back and a new team took over to slog through the technicalities and the resistance of a few fairly useless managers who were going to lose their place at the top table.

Feminism has always been about race and class, as well as gender equality. Some of the great classics come out of the USA and they acknowledge that. An entirely different angle comes out of France, though I’ve read less of that because so little of it was published in English and my French is a bit dodgy.

In contrast, much of what we are now hassled with seems to pop out of the spiel of political illiterates, float across the Atlantic on a raft of discarded plastic and pop straight out of the mouths of those who have not yet engaged their brains.

It’s the old, old story – whether it was Marx who first said it or not – if you don’t learn your history you are doomed to repeat it. A far better idea would be to learn first, speak later.

A modest suggestion – try Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex. You won’t like it. You certainly won’t agree with it: I don’t now either but I’m bloody glad I read it before I allowed my brain to be set in a couple of concrete cliches. An easier read is Norris and Liddington, One Hand Tied Behind us (the copy I have is Virago) but you need to know that too. Jill Liddington lives a couple of miles up the hill from me, technically retired but still at it. She’ll probably go on doing feminism her way, as will all us second wavers, until she drops.

Why should we not? We have achievements we can show you youngsters. We have proof that it works.

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