Wednesday, November 25, 2020
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Working-class women are still ignored, reviled and discarded

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WHILE channel-surfing the other day I came across a documentary,  The Yorkshire Ripper Files, https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0003m05/the-yorkshire-ripper-files-a-very-british-crime-story-series-1-episode-1 on the serial killer who terrorised the North of England in the 1970s and early 80s, murdering at least 13 women and attacking another seven in just five years. Many but by no means all were prostitutes. Peter Sutcliffe was finally arrested in 1981 while on the verge of another attack, a few hundred yards from where I lived in Sheffield.

Growing up during that time, I remember the case well and the fear it brought to the region, so I convinced my somewhat reluctant wife to watch the programme with me. Made last year, it centred on the incompetence of the investigation and the bizarre trial that followed the arrest. Its central thesis was that the incompetence of the police was due to the prevailing attitudes of the time to prostitution, working-class women in general and – you guessed it – the lack of ‘diversity’ in the senior ranks of the police team.

Certainly the investigation was incompetent, as a later inquiry proved, but I found some of the arguments hard to follow and not particularly convincing. That said, I do recall some genuinely nasty social attitudes being commonplace back then. Kids at school, obviously parroting adult talk, opined that the killer was doing a good job because he was targeting prostitutes. The context was even worse considering that the specifics of how he was killing his victims were not known to us, but it was widely assumed that as his sobriquet included ‘Ripper’ it was in the grisly style of the original. 

What struck me, though, was the documentary’s assertion that at the root of it all were the attitudes towards working-class women at that time.

You mean things are supposed to have improved? The blindness of the assertion, its complete lack of self-knowledge or understanding of the times we ourselves live in, is astonishing. Yes, there was a great deal more overt sexism towards women generally in the 1970s, but class prejudice is, if anything, considerably worse now. It is rarely stated so openly, of course, apart from in the aftermath of Brexit where we saw the true ugliness of the elite’s hatred towards what it regarded as its ‘low information’ social inferiors, but it is there. Note that this documentary was made five years after the Rotherham report lifted the lid on the horrors of mass grooming and sometimes murder of vulnerable working class-girls by overwhelmingly Muslim men, a fact the documentary somehow forgot to mention. A full inquiry that exposed the terrible failures of the Sutcliffe investigation was carried out only one year after his capture, whereas we are still waiting to hear the conclusions of Sajid David’s report into the grooming gangs, commissioned only in 2018 and completed earlier this year.

The refusal to look too deeply into these horrors is just the most glaring illustration of how the needs and aspirations of working-class women are generally ignored. Part of the failure can be ascribed to the demographic decline of the working class generally and certainly its representation in politics, particularly in the Labour Party:

However, that decline should have been more than offset by the huge rise in female politicians, again particularly in the Labour Party, almost half of whose MPs are women. What went wrong? The answer is that feminism has always to an extent been a class-based movement and is certainly very much so today. Women MPs seem far more exercised by middle-class issues such as gender pay gaps, glass ceilings, child care and the like to bother with the major problems working-class women now face – sexual grooming by men from hostile cultures, lack of marriageable men, the sacrifice of their communities on the altar of diversity, family breakdown, lack of support for the stay-at-home mother and so on.

The failures of feminism to champion the needs of working-class women is merely part of elite liberalism’s lack of understanding of its own shortcomings, as the lopsided conclusion of this documentary showed. While loftily pointing a finger at those prehistoric 1970s social attitudes, it unwittingly held up a mirror to society’s failings today – a refusal to acknowledge that diversity and multi-culturalism is not a strength but a weakness, that all cultures are not equal, that marriage and the social bonds between the sexes matter and that people are more than autonomous agents of economic consumption, that the views and lives of working-class people matter. I could not help remember while watching  all that grainy old footage the terrible story of Victoria Agoglia, killed by her Muslim pimp in 2003, and wonder just how far we have actually come.

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Andrew Cadman
IT Consultant who works and lives in the UK. He is @Andrewccadmanon Parler.

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