Women and the Holocaust: A cyberspace of Their Own

(I meant to post this during Women’s History Month. Clearly, I’m a bit late. Anyway. )

I love the Woman and the Holocaust: A Cyberspace of Their Own site. This is what woman’s history is: academic scholarship, personal testimonies, poetry, literature and art. It is the multiplicity of representation that allow us to find the history of women which is elided, ignored and erased from mainstream history. The experience of women Holocaust survivors has demonstrated this over and over again; notably in the work of Lawrence Langer who claimed that women’s experiences weren’t substantially different to men. This fails to consider the very real biological differences between men and women which did result in their experiences being gendered. After all, although a few men were also victims, 
sexualised violence was predominantly an experience of women and children; as was caring for children, elderly and disabled family members. 

The dedication of Women and the Holocaust: A Cyberspace of Their Own reads:

Who were murdered while pregnant.  Holding little hands of children or carrying infants in their arms on the way to be gassed.  In hiding.  To the mothers who gave their children to be hidden, many never to find them again.  To the righteous gentile mothers and the nuns in convents, who were hiding and protecting the children in their care.

Or as fighters in the resistance:  in ghettos, forests, partisan units.

And to the lives of those few who survived and bravely carried on.

This site is an amazing resource and one which I highly recommend. 

Angela Bourkes’ The Burning of Bridget Cleary

Angela Bourke’s The Burning of Bridget Cleary is a social history of the use of fairies and other myths to control people’s behaviour in Ireland in the 19th century. She traces the history of these myths to contextualise the brutal torture and murder of Bridget Cleary by her husband and kinsmen. It is very powerful but equally horrifying. What impressed me the most is that Bourke places the murder of Bridget firmly within a narrative of domestic violence. There are no excuses for male violence so, whilst the murder is contextualised with a history of faeries, changelings, power struggles, and jealousy  Bourke holds the murderers accountable. Bourke then situates the trial of Bridget’s murderers within the political context of British Home Rule of Ireland and the British construction of Irish people as savages.

The Burning of Bridget Cleary is one of the most fascinating and well-researched books I have ever read. Bourke traces multiple layers of  history and myth to tell the story of the murder of Bridget Cleary. It’s rather like Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher* but from a feminist perspective rather than a comprehensive social history. 

I honestly can not recommend this book enough. It is brilliant, insightful, frightening and, above all, a true picture of the complicated processes required to tell the history of women. 

*The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is worth a read too as it contextualises the origins of detectives in British society within the literature of the day particularly in relation to the work of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens.

Rehtaeh Parsons. : In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. “

This statement by Martin Luther King Jr is one of the last messages Rehtaeh Parsons wrote on Facebook wall before taking her own life. Rehtaeh Parsons committed suicide after enduring 17 months of harassment and bullying .

Rehtaeh Parsons was gang-raped by 4 boys from her high school in Cole Harbour.

Her rapists distributed images of her rape to her classmates.

No charges were ever filed as there was deemed insufficient evidence of a crime.

No one has been held criminally liable for distributing the images of Rehtaeh’s rape.

I have to wonder if any of the teenagers who harassed and bullied Rehtaeh were ever held responsible for their behaviour.

This is rape culture.

It is also a reminder of the importance of sisterhood. Rehtaeh needed more women around her supporting her against those labelling her a slut and a liar. 

We need to make sure that women and children who experience sexual violence know that we will support them unconditionally.

And, it isn’t enough to say we will. We have to prove it. For Rehtaeh.

There is a petition here demanding an inquiry into the police investigation.

Mumsnet Woolly Hugs : Real Power of Sisterhood

The Mumsnet Woolly Hugs are incredible. Mumsnetters give up their time and their talent to knit blankets for children with terminal illnesses, families in grief and those just needing a hug. The talent and the kindness of Mumsnetters who are involved is so inspirational. They are incredibly generous. 

This is the mission statement from their website: 

The beautiful blankets shown through this website have been made by a community of Mumsnetters wanting to show their love and support to fellow Mumsnetters and their families facing heartbreaking and devastating loss. Some contribute by crafting, others by donating funds or wool, all playing a full part,  It is hoped that the blankets can offer some comfort to the families. If they get one ounce of love from their blanket then it’s all worth it. 

The blankets have come to be known as Woolly Hugs.

This is the real power of sisterhood. Not all the women involved would define themselves as feminists but this is what feminist sisterhood entails: caring for other women. 

I’ve included some images of the beautiful quilts knitted by Mumsnetters:

Another Day, Another Stupid Article About Feminism

It’s the blame game again: everything which is wrong with society is the fault of Feminism for Just Not Being Good Enough. This time it’s the Guardian reproducing some dire twaddle from the Associated Press. Now, I’m not going to pretend feminism is perfect because it isn’t. After all, feminists are only human. We make mistakes. We make compromises that we shouldn’t.  We don’t always hear what our sisters are telling us.

This is because we are human and humans make mistakes.

And, yes, it would appear that feminism is an exclusively middle class movement. If you don’t bother to actually look at the gains that feminism has achieved. Last time I checked, working women have the vote too. Rape in marriage is illegal, regardless of class. It was working class women who fought for the equal pay act; as feminists. We have maternity leave. And, until today, had a fairly decent welfare system designed to protect women. It wasn’t feminists who destroyed the welfare system which has disproportionately affected the lives of working class women.

Here’s the thing: the problem facing working class women isn’t feminism. It’s the Capitalist-Patriarchy which place women, especially working women, at the bottom of the pile.  It’s the Capitalist-Patriarchy, under the guise of the ConDems, which gave tax breaks for childcare to middle class women and not poor women. Feminists are the ones standing up and calling the ConDems out on this. Feminists are the ones agitating for universal 24-hour subsidised {or free} childcare.

It’s the Capitalist-Patriarchy which devalues women’s labour within the home and underpays all employment deemed as “women’s work” like childcare, nursing, teaching, and cleaning. Feminists believe in a universal living wage for everyone. Feminists fought for the welfare state and are heart-broken at its destruction. We know how much harm this will do to women.

The only way you could conclude that feminism focuses only on gender equality for middle class women is if you don’t understand that feminism is a political theory which fights for the liberation of women: all women.

The real problem for working class white women are middle class and wealthy white MEN who don’t want to give up their privilege and actively harm women by firing them whilst pregnant; an action which is supposed to be illegal but happens every day. It is men whining about women “stealing” their jobs. It is men, since most of parliament are male, who voted in the destruction of the British Welfare State and who destroyed our NHS. These are the things which harm working class women.

More importantly:


This is a fundamental tenet of feminism: not all women work in paid employment but we all work. This idea that women don’t: that would be misogyny.

FFS, all women are affected by the failure of the Equal Pay Act to be implemented properly.

And, yeah, we make mistakes. Who doesn’t? But, this idea that working class women are actively being harmed by feminism is misogynistic bullshit.