Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2256

Women are refusing to allow the right to blame them for rape  (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Women are refusing to allow the right to blame them for rape (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Don’t let the right turn the clock back on sex

The moral right are on the rampage. They want to take us back to the 1950s—when housewives were tied to the sink and were an extension of their husbands, with little or no independence.

David Cameron has launched an attack on abortion rights by (almost laughingly) appointing the Life group to the Sexual Health Advisory forum. Life advocates abstinence and no sex education—like that’s going to work.

People have always had sex and women have always tried to control their fertility.

It was the horror and death caused by backstreet abortions that led to the Abortion Act of 1967. But the rights that we won are again under attack.

Alongside this, Reg Bailey, the chief executive of the Mothers’ Union, has produced a report criticising the sexualisation and commercialisation of children. Cameron is dancing along to Bailey’s tune on this.

Little girls have dressed up and imitated their role models for a long time. But, under advanced capitalism, sex is used as a commodity. This distorts and alienates everyone from real sexual freedom.

The women’s movement has always debated how to respond to this. Past discussions concentrated on porn. Today we consider what approach to take to raunch culture, reclaiming language and the slutwalks.

The more children are exposed to the reality of growing up, becoming sexual and negotiating safe sex, the better. Statistics show that where sex isn’t talked about openly in schools or in families, due to right wing or religious reasons, then teenage pregnancy soars.

The right have a fictionalised account of the past—that children were innocent and safe from harm. In fact, “childhood” is a modern invention and the idea has only become commonplace in the last 200 years. Before then rich children were privileged but poor ones worked as soon as they were able to.

Today we are aware of child abuse, but it took Maria Colwell to be murdered by her stepdad in 1973 to highlight the extent of physical abuse in the family. It took the feminist movement of the 1970s to expose the reality of sexual abuse.

Now we have new battles to fight. We must stop the right from turning the clock back.

Julie Waterson, East London

The Tories’ campaign against the early sexualisation of children is doomed to fail because it’s attacking the wrong target—the behaviour of young people themselves.

They are bombarded with “raunch culture” because companies want to sell their stuff, whether it’s music or push-up bras for pre-teen girls. Young people want this stuff because like every generation they want to grow up as quickly as possible. It is also perfectly natural to be interested in sex.

Children must have decent sex education to develop properly. They will also need access to free, safe contraception, decent jobs and homes.

Sarah Ensor, East London

A college that won’t question

The private university New College of Humanities (Socialist Worker, 11 June) plans to offer first year undergraduates compulsory philosophy.

The course seems to focus on participating, valuing and ivory tower reflection.

But what about criticising? The fact that there is no mention of radical philosophy on the course is no accident.

The college’s staff are firmly located within a liberal tradition that understands that humanity is at its best when we are being “rational”.

In other words, rationality is undiluted common sense.

This “common sense” has spurred philosopher AC Grayling and his lofty, lucrative cronies into opening a small private college to preserve humanities at the expense of state universities.

Ironically, the liberal rationality of Grayling hinges on the concept of autonomous free beings capable of rational enquiry. These beings do not wholly accept the dominating ideology of a given culture.

But there will be no critique of some oppressive ideologies at this college—particularly the odious profit-led incentive that is the midwife to the college’s own existence.

In order to preserve itself, the college will not engage in debates that critique the system that hold this abhorrent little place together.

Marx, Lacan, Deluze, Derrida, Zizek and many others will be discounted.

Rejected outright will be all philosophies that critique the assumption that we are rational beings, able to make decisions divorced from the economic conditions that shape us.

The New College of Humanities puts up the facade of an elite college that claims to be a bulwark against the assault on the humanities.

However, the college is peddling a stripped-down version of the humanities—one which panders to the gross economic forces destroying humanities in the state-funded sector.

Mark, South London

All rich students need a stable at school

What do you consider when choosing a school? Private school Queen Ethelburga’s (QE) has come up with a great solution to one difficult problem, as this parent found:

“Our daughter was horse mad but we also wanted her to do well academically—going to a good university.” (Well, some of us feel that way too!)

“QE was the answer. She kept her horse at school.”

This school recognises that “during a recession parents are looking for real value for money. Boarding school fees can take a big chunk of income...

“We will provide you with use of a horse or pony FREE.”

The only problem is that fees are £10,000 a year. That reminds me of the amount they charge for universities these days.

Mind you, for that every bedroom is provided with a telephone and voicemail, TV, DVD, mini kitchen, fridge, hair drier, iron and board, air conditioning, wash hand basin, heated towel rail, fan and private en suite shower and toilet.

How many people have this at home? No wonder the Tories think university should be so expensive—it is par for the course for them and their mates.

The rest of us are saving like crazy from nursery onwards in case our kids want to compete in the “open market” for a university place in the future.

Kate Jelly, North London

Trusts are failing elderly people

There is a big problem with care funding for the elderly.

It is that Primary Care Trusts have not been honouring their legal obligation to make reasonable efforts to identify those eligible for NHS-funded care.

In my experience trusts are far from being proactive as the law requires.

They sometimes obstruct applications for NHS-funded care.

This situation is made worse by the Decision Support Tool for NHS funded care.

This gives the grossly misleading impression that eligibility is restricted to a level of need substantially in excess of that specified by the principle statute.

It says that where an applicant has a need for “nursing or other health services” that is more than “incidental” to their need for accommodation, then that person is eligible for a package of care.

This should be funded in full, including accommodation.

In that case, one wonders why care home residents who are not funded by the NHS are subject to charges significantly more than “incidental” to the cost of their accommodation.

Peter Couch, Plymouth

Documentary showed truth

I recently watched the BBC documentary Poor Kids.

I have worked as a mental health worker for many years and have visited families in similar situations.

It breaks my heart to see children having to suffer in this condition.

This is generational poverty and we need to break this pattern.

This is emotional neglect and abuse by the government.

What is the government doing about this situation?

Parents need to take some responsibility, but our welfare system is failing our children.

This programme needs to be shown at the right time to catch the attention of more viewers. Let’s fight for the future of our children—they are the next generation.

We can all work together to eradicate child poverty.

Christian Fleischer, Sunbury on Thames

Glasman is dangerous

Baron Maurice Glasman is a dangerous man (Socialist Worker, 28 May). He suggested we should embrace and involve the racist English Defence League (EDL) to build a party for the “common good”.

This is a vile statement. It panders to the idea that the fascist British National Party should be allowed to air its views, however reprehensible they are.

Charlie Dowthwaite, Barrow-in Furness

Archbishop is no leftie

Despite what the corporate media says, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent criticisms of government policy don’t make him “left wing”.

Christian beliefs are a central tenet of principally Tory economic and social ideology. Rowan Williams wants to

stop Tory policies reflecting badly on the church when they go wrong.

His opinions highlight a simple spat within the ruling establishment on how to present and package discredited right wing neoliberal policies.

Nick Vinehill, Norfolk

Private firms won’t help

One good thing about the NHS was that the primary care services, such as the GP, were able to treat and guide the patient. The core of this relationship was the continuity of care.

Unfortunately, Tony Blair started its ruin.

GPs were prompted to join forces in big practices. Generally speaking, the bigger the practice, the greater the income—for the senior partners.

Patients saw little of their usual GP and salaried GPs started to become more prevalent.

Now, private firms are coming in. GP consortia often have links to private companies. Does a private healthcare system work better than a public one?

There is plenty of proof against this idea, such as the US.

Edoardo Cervoni, by email

Women are not to blame

Sally Campbell’s excellent article (Socialist Worker, 21 May) raises a fascinating debate.

The objectification and commodification of women have long been one of the mainstays of capitalism—as has the manufacture of the woman as the ultimate consumer.

Rape is a hideous crime and, as Sally pointed out, the conviction rate is deplorably low, as is the case with domestic violence, of which I have been a victim.

Those in power might often claim that the victims are colluding in their own fate.

Ever since the Book of Genesis, there seems to have been a tendency to blame the woman. Original sin was, naturally, the fault of Eve, rather than Adam.

However controversial the topic is, I welcome this valuable debate.

The Slutwalkers are great and gutsy for wearing their hearts on their sleeves in public.

Frances Owen, by email

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Article information

Tue 14 Jun 2011, 18:17 BST
Issue No. 2256
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