“You look me dead in my face, Then act like you don’t see me”

Paris Lees learnt how to be a woman the same place I did. A council estate. Her’s was a little whiter than mine, Clifton rather than Radford, but it was Notts, and it was working class and it was not easy.

My role models for womanhood wore colourful lipstick, and gold hoops. Went drinking with their mates, shouted obscenities when they saw fit, and struggled to get by. Some of them used the sex industry to support survival. Some of them the checkouts at kwiksave. I remember one woman driving a van, her earrings were the biggest of everyone’s. All the mothers needed some form of welfare too. I knew we were poor but so was everyone. Until secondary school I didn’t know we were to be hated for being poor. It never occurred to me that not everyone got free school meals and so the ones who did should be made visible with a plastic token to denote their class.

20 years later and we still hate poor children, we really hate poor mothers and we hold a special form of hate for working class women who defy middle class expectations of female empowerment. Never mind that our foremother’s were working to support the family out of necessity before the first wave of feminism started to find out how their buttons were made and by whom. Never mind that the power to organise has been known and utilised by working class women as long as we have existed. There is still a special kind of arrogance from a certain subset of feminism, that feels our culture defies their standards. That our way of being is not feminist enough. That our refusal to stab our brothers in the back denotes a lack of sisterhood that must be radicalised out of us. That our enjoyment of harmful cultural practices denotes a lack of understanding of what a harmful cultural practice is that must be patronised into us.

Self deprecation is the default setting for the “funny woman”. It’s seen as acceptable to laugh at your fat, to belittle your own intellect, to make yourself small to make everyone else in the room feel large. This is a result of female socialisation that garners a lot of sympathy. It isn’t threatening to men but nor is a threatening to individual women. Collectively it does us no favours.

Self objectification is another result of female socialisation. It too does nothing to threaten men, nor is it a threat to individual women. Collectively it does women no favours but when ones primary goal is to survive that is what one must do. Coming hard for the women who use patriarchal constraints to survive, who wear the femininity that is policed so heavily as a shield, who objectify themselves to get paid but know reality, that isn’t sisterhood.

We’ve told you before, I’ll tell you again: don’t hate the player hate the game. That’s class politics. When your sex as a class politics do not even include all of your sex class you are setting yourself up for a terrible fall.

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“Forgive but don’t forget, Girl keep ya head up”

They set up their “charities” in our communities. They cherry pick our brightest and our best.

They break up our families and they give our kids to “nice families” to give them a “chance”.

They step into our kids lives when against all odds we raised a fucking belter and offer to mentor, or to accommodate or to sponsor a scholarship.

They harvest our pain and make it into the all lives matter of feminism.

They consume our accounts of poverty and abuse and sexual violence and sell books about it.

They send their artists into our estates to film us and paint us and caricature us.

They invite us to the races and then make a sport of mocking our heels and our tits and our skin tones and our hair.

They take all our good jokes and sour them with their hate.

They criminalise us. Imprison us. Fine us. Lock us into the cycle. Then ask us why we won’t break free.

You’re not clever. You’re not funny. You’re not artistic. You’re not compassionate. You’re not kind. You’re not special. You’re a monster that needs to stop feeding on us. All of you.