Natasha Walter

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Natasha Walter (born 20 January 1967) is a British feminist writer and human rights activist. She is the author of a novel, A Quiet Life (2016), two works of feminist non-fiction: The New Feminism (Virago, 1998) and Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism (Virago, 2010). She is also the founder of the charity Women for Refugee Women.

Quotes[edit]

  • This fierce, impatient feminism needs to be recognised. I call it the new feminism because it looks very different from the feminism of previous generations. For a start, it can no longer be confined to any kind of ghetto. It is everywhere. In the Seventies, feminism could be identified with a clearly defined women’s liberation movement. It has since fragmented and splintered; but splinters of it are lodged in the hearts and minds of almost every woman in Britain. We should not be diverted by the fact that few women call themselves feminists into believing that feminist beliefs appeal only to a minority of women. In survey after survey the vast majority of women, especially young women, say that they would like to see more equality between the sexes at home and at work.
    I would also argue that feminism today is not just a middle-class movement. It is often taken for granted that modern feminism appeals only to middle-class professional women. As I researched my book and set up interviews with women from all kinds of backgrounds and in all kinds of occupations, I was struck by the fact that real anger at inequality, real desire for change, and a real sense of women’s growing potential, were being articulated by all the women I spoke to. I heard those ideas just as strongly, if not more strongly, from women who worked as cleaners in south London or as members of community groups in Glasgow as from lawyers or journalists or MPs.
    My sense that feminism cannot be seen as appealing only to middle-class women is backed up by survey information. For instance, one recent MORI poll showed that women in social groups D and E are more likely than AB women to say that feminism has been good for women.
  • [In an article on Germaine Greer's The Whole Woman (1999).] Greer's fundamental conclusion is that the pursuit of equality is now doomed. Instead, women must pursue liberation. "Equality must be seen to be a poor substitute for liberation," she says. Is this a valid distinction? I believe that the pursuit of liberation - the peculiar, individual, often contradictory journey to find freedom from the lies and conventions around us - is something that each individual woman can take on for herself. And yet I believe that it is only possible to pursue that liberation if you are not ground down by an economic and political system that systematically discriminates against you.
    Inequality in Britain is not a side issue. Inequality locks women out of power, and condemns women to poverty. Inequality prevents women from being fairly rewarded for their work, from being able to speak out and be heard, from being able to bring up their children in dignity, from bringing those who rape and beat them to justice. The struggle for equality is not the struggle to reshape women in the pattern of men, since men's lives too must be revolutionised if equality is to be grasped. Feminism must transform society so that women feel that they can have an equal stake in it, at work and at home. Then indeed we will see the rise of the liberated woman.
  • [On the promise of prominent women in the New Labour government elected in 1997.] I really felt that we were on an irresistible journey. There was still this big gap to close, but I felt that we wanted to close it, and it was possible to close it, and therefore we would. We were in a virtuous ­circle. And what I feel now is that policy changes are not enough, ­because the culture is still very resistant to change. The book's subtitle is The Return of Sexism, and while I don't really think sexism ever went away, it's stronger than it was. It's as though something crept in by the backdoor – and we turned around and it's everywhere, and you just think, 'OK, we've got to deal with this again.
  • I was sitting on the floor of my study, with pieces of paper stacked up around me. I felt listless and overwhelmed by the history that I did not want to see. I went to talk to Clara [Walter's daughter]. She was lying on her bed, multitasking in teenage style – listening to music, messaging her friends, studying her homework.
    "Those forms," I said, wanting her to see what I saw when I looked into the files, the threat as well as the opportunity. "I can’t find my grandmother’s last address. It’s confusing..." I held out one of the many pages I had about the past. "I guess it would be this address, where my great-grandparents were living at the start of the war. I know they were sent to Theresienstadt but not until later. Then to Treblinka. They arrived in Treblinka on 28 September 1942.""
    My daughter looked at me, and I at her, as the significance of the date penetrated our minds. The previous day’s date. Exactly 75 years after my great-grandparents’ death in Treblinka, we are seeking to regain our German nationality. I left the page I was carrying on her bed and went downstairs to make dinner. The forms got put aside again.
  • I fear that we are being set a trap and falling into it, by playing this role in a farce that we didn’t script. As many have said, there is a spiralling craziness about this government’s approach, where the actual aim is not to achieve any of the stated objectives but to ratchet up the sense of crisis. We know, and they know, and they know that we know, that one key aim of the Rwanda policy is not to solve any potential challenges caused by arrivals on small boats but to create a distraction from the government’s real challenges. The more polarised and furious the debate gets, the more successful is the distraction. And yet many of us continue to play our role.
    But we cannot do otherwise. Because, while this performative cruelty may be in part a game to the politicians who put it into practice, for the people who are actually affected by the policy, it is far from a game. The narrative that the Rwanda policy is just a dead cat, thrown on to the table to distract from Partygate and the cost of living crisis, ignores the real harm that the policy is doing and the worse harm that it would do if people stopped opposing it. Let’s not forget that the deportations last week were halted only because people continued to dig in their heels. Dogged individuals at charities supported refugees threatened with deportation day and night and lawyers worked tirelessly on their legal challenges. They all knew that this is no time to give up, because what may look like a farce to some is in fact a tragedy in the making.
    Nobody who has heard or read any of the interviews with the refugees threatened by removal to Rwanda can be left in any doubt that the cruelty is real.

About Walter[edit]

  • [Review of Walter's book The New Feminism.] In its bid for sophisticated political adulthood, the new feminism also risks throwing out the most important legacy of women’s politics: the inquiry into personal life. Walter argues that these questions are now 'sorted', that women no longer need to justify themselves in terms of their private behaviour. And it may well be that what to wear and who to sleep with are, as Walter points out, rather passé as political issues, but that's not the end of the story. In my view, the matter of domestic democracy will become the site of renewed private/public struggles, partly because the question of who does what in the home is crucial to the question of who does what outside the home. Another factor to be considered is the growing number of women now employed by the professional classes to do their cleaning, childcare and ironing, often at wages well below any generally agreed national minimum. The old servant problem could come back to haunt the new middle class, itself caught in an ever-intensifying time crisis. Walter is optimistic about men in general – there is none of the male-baiting exhibited by the pop culture girls like Suzanne Moore or Julie Burchill – and particularly about their place in the home. Men, she believes, are ready and willing to take part in the 'unique poignancy' of domestic life.
    I would say that Walter was right to outlaw prescription in personal politics – there was something truly depressing about diktat feminism at its height – but description will surely remain the foundation of the most intelligent feminist writing.
  • The trend in feminism over the past few years - spearheaded by Natasha Walter's New Feminism - has been to say that equal pay, equal opportunities and good childcare are all that matter; relationships, sexuality and appearance are no longer feminist issues. The result of this re-definition of feminism is that many more people can call themselves feminists - you'd have to be a pretty hoary old misogynist to believe that women don't deserve equal pay. And so, the eighties refrain of 'I'm not a feminist, but...' has been replaced with 'I'm a feminist if feminism means equal pay, but...' To be followed with something like '...not if it means I can't shave my legs.'

External links[edit]

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