Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sheridan: class, feminism and bourgeois morality

These are some initial thoughts on the Sheridan case and I am mindful that there has been much written about it therefore I don’t want to be accused of Sheridan overload. Also as a socialist feminist I have been rather disturbed at the treatment of women and wider implications this has on sexual politics.

It worries me that issues around women are being subordinated and dismissed. This became more apparent when Sheridan accused the SSP in his open letter, of being a “gender obsessed discussion group” and “our socialist principles and class identity define us first, not our gender or sexual orientation”. This exposes the incorrect accusation that there is a dichotomy between class and feminism. I think there is indeed a real problem of unequal power relationships between men and women in left politics .

In conducting his legal case, rubbishing women in a particularly sexist way, Sheridan “interrogated” women witnesses with utmost contempt. Words such as, “fantasist”, “gold digger”, “promiscuous”, “mentally ill” and “witches” come to mind. And these women came out badly from the court case.

Sheridan has moved from being someone who stands up against oppression to being an oppressor himself. And why feminism and the so-called “Puritanism” of the SSP are being blamed is beyond me.

Why did Sheridan feel the need to uphold the “family man” image? He could have told the Screws initially to go forth and multiply but chose not to; instead he has dragged the SSP to the brink. I thought as a socialist he would have the courage of his political convictions to argue against these ideals which exist in a capitalist society. Ideals were people are straight jacketed and pigeon holed. But in this society, you really can’t have it both ways as it will create tensions and contradictions with a backdrop of bourgeois morality. Swinger or monogamous family man?

I don’t care whether Sheridan screws for Scotland but what does concern me is twofold. One was his desperate need to uphold a bourgeois ideal (at what cost?) and secondly, the way feminism has been attacked. It really shows Sheridan’s own lumpen morality, hypocrisy and dishonesty. And what has been said in other places and I will reiterate it, he ultimately lied to the class.

This whole episode, yet to finally finish, raises a whole series of questions about radical politics and how people involved in struggles behave in their political lives. There are issues of machismo and misogynistic bullying. We need to decide if left wing politics is to revolve around alpha males who treat the movements that we spend precious time, money and energy into building as their own personal playthings.