Global Women's Strike 2000-present Selma James

Selma James & Women of Colour GWS sign letter: We stand with Jeremy Corbyn – just as he always stood with us

Organisations and individuals including Kehinde AndrewsHanif KureishiAhdaf SoueifGillian SlovoRobert Del Naja and Anish Kapoor urge BAME and migrant communities to vote for Labour

December 10, 2019 · 8 min read

We stand with Jeremy Corbyn

As BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) representatives, organisations, anti-racist activists and individuals involved in local, national, and international campaigns, we urge BAME and migrant communities to vote for the Labour Party on 12 December, to elect Jeremy Corbyn, a long-standing friend and supporter of the anti-racist causes we campaign for.

Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party has transformed politics in the UK, bringing hope to millions from our communities, who had previously been ignored, silenced, and oppressed by over nine years of Conservative and Liberal Democrat governments. Labour’s membership has soared since 2015, with a significant influx of BAME and migrant members. Our communities joined Labour because of Jeremy’s positions and exemplary record, over many decades, of standing beside us in our struggles against injustice and structural racism, at home and abroad. In the 2017 General Election, we turned out in record numbers to vote for Corbyn’s inclusive Labour party.

No other British politician in recent memory has been so dedicated to working with us in our communities, in order to overturn racism and achieve justice for those of us facing oppression and injustices. Jeremy’s first speech as Labour leader in 2015 was to a  “refugees welcome” rally, reflecting his longstanding commitment to achieve basic rights for migrants. Since becoming an MP in 1983, he has personally intervened on countless occasions to prevent deportations. In 2012 and 2014, Jeremy was one of only six MPs (alongside shadow cabinet members John McDonnell and Diane Abbott) that voted against the racist ‘Hostile Environment’ legislation that created the Windrush scandal, and has hurt hundreds of thousands of people in our communities.

Jeremy’s position on migrant justice is based on a true internationalism with a commitment to anti-racist and anti-colonial principles. In 1984, he was arrested protesting outside the embassy of Apartheid South Africa. In 1998, the Chilean former dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London only after Corbyn supported a 25 year campaign against his fascist regime. In 2001, he publicly opposed the NATO invasion of Afghanistan. In 2003, he spoke at the demonstration against the illegal British and American invasion of Iraq. He has always stood in solidarity with the Tamils of Sri Lanka, calling for accountability and ending the arms trade. He has spoken out against the oppression of persecuted peoples across the world, including Palestinians and Kurds in the Middle East, as well as communities in Mexico, Haiti, West Papua – often when no one else would.

Jeremy Corbyn was a key organiser in the Haringey Labour anti-racist group in the 1970s which later became the Anti-Nazi League. In 1977, he organised with the Indian Workers’ Association to turn back a violent National Front demonstration in Wood Green, North London. In 1992, Jeremy attended the inquest into the death of Leon Patterson, a young black man who died in police custody. In these ways and many more, he continues to keep police brutality against communities of colour on the political agenda, constantly tabling questions on police violence, including on Mark Duggan’s fatal shooting in 2011.


These are some of the reasons we know that Jeremy Corbyn is no ordinary politician. Each one of us, as individuals and organisations, have memories of Jeremy attending our events and demonstrations, large and small, championing our causes, and being our voice in Parliament – standing with us when we were dismissed and ignored.

In government he pledges to close detention centres, oppose imperial wars that have killed millions, and dismantle the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment policies, which criminalise our communities, and have led to the deaths of so many.

The Conservative government’s negligence allowed our brothers and sisters to die in the fatal fire at Grenfell Tower and has deported British citizens for the crime of being black during the Windrush scandal. We cannot continue like this: we must have a Labour victory in the upcoming election. We urgently need it.

Jeremy Corbyn will be the United Kingdom’s first anti-racist Prime Minister. We call on all of you, BAME and migrant communities to mobilise everyone you know, and ensure we get Labour elected on December 12. At this critical moment of possibility, and the chance for change, we stand with Jeremy Corbyn – just as he has always stood with us.


Initiating and supporting groups:

Arab Labour Group

Black Labour Movement

Labour Against Racism and Fascism (LARAF)

Labour Friends of Kashmir

Lantinx for Corbyn

Kurds for Labour

Indians for Labour

Labour Friends of Yemen

Jewish Socialists’ Group

Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike

London Young Labour BAME Network

South Asia Solidarity Group

Individual Signatories:

Dr Adam Elliott-Cooper – King’s College London

Ahdaf Soueif – Novelist

Dr Ala’a Al Shehabi – University College London

Professor Amia Srinivasan – University of Oxford

Sir Anish Kapoor C.B.E.

Anjum Mouj – Trainer and consultant

Asad Rehman

Ash Sarkar – Novara Media

Ashok Kumar – Lecturer of Political Economy

Asmahan Nouman – Chair of Network of Eritrean Women UK

Atallah Said O.B.E. – Founder of Arab Labour

Bill MacKeith – Campaign to Close Campsfield

Bobby Chan – Veteran Chinese human rights activist

Crissie Richter – Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike

Dalia Gebrial – Novara Media

Professor David Graeber – London School of Economics

David Rosenberg – Convenor of Cable Street 80 commemoration

Don Flynn – Migrants rights campaigner

Elif Sarican – Kurdish Women’s Movement

Estella Schmid – Peace in Kurdistan

Farhana Yamin – Associate Fellow, Chatham House

Farzana Khan – Healing Justice London

Professor Felix Padel –  Associate of University of Oxford

Firoze Manji – Publisher and academic

Gillian Slovo – Novelist, playwright and memoirist

Grant Marshall – Massive Attack

Professor Gautam Appa – London School of Economics

Professor Gurminder Bhambra – University of Sussex

Professor Gus John

Amrit Wilson – South Asia Solidarity Group

Nisha Kapoor – University of Warwick

Richard Rieser – World of Inclusion

Zrinka Bralo – Migrants rights campaigner

Hanif Kureishi C.B.E

Harsev Bains – Indian Workers Association (GB)

Dr John Narayan – King’s College London

Dr Kalpana Wilson – Birkbeck University

Katrina Ffrench – Human Rights Advocate

Professor Karma Nabulsi – University of Oxford

Professor Kehinde Andrews – Birmingham City University

Khadija Mohammad-Nur – Co-founder of Network of Eritrean Women

Professor Laleh Khalili – School of Oriental and Afican Studies

Leena Dhingra – Actress

Dr Leon Sealey-Huggins – University of Warwick

Linton Kwesi Johnson – Poet and musician

Dr Mezna Qato – University of Cambridge

Mirza Saaib Beg – Lawyer, Kashmir Reading Room

Mukhtar Dar – Founding member of South Asian Alliance (Birmingham)

Dr Musab Younis – Queen Mary University

Dr Nivi Manchanda – Queen Mary University

Noorafshan Mirza – Independent Cultural Worker

Peter Herbert O.B.E – Society of Black Lawyers

Preethi Manuel

Rahila Gupta – Southall Black Sisters

Dr Rahul Rao – Senior Lecturer in Politics, SOAS

Remi Joseph-Salisbury – Racial Justice Network

Robert Del Naja – Massive Attack

Rossanna Leal – Organiser and migrant rights campaigner

Sara Callway – Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike

Sarli Nana – Migrant justice and anti-racist campaigner

Selma James – Global Women’s Strike

Shakila Taranum Maan – Artist and filmmaker

Dr Sita Balani – King’s College London

Dr Sivamohan Valluvan – University of Warwick

Professor Sundari Anitha – University of Lincoln

Suresh Grover – Anti-racist activist, Stephen Lawrence Inquiry

Dr  Tanzil Chowdhury – Queen Mary University

Professor Virinder Kalra – University of Warwick

Yemsrach Hailemariam – Free Andy Tsege Campaign

Zita Holbourne – National Chair BARAC UK


Red Pepper is prioritising voices from the grassroots during the election campaign season. Help us to support writers and causes by donating to our crowdfunder.

Selma James

Selma James writes an open letter to Chris Williamson


OpinionWe are in the midst of an anti-left witch-hunt

Dear Chris,

I read your statement in support of Jeremy Corbyn and your article in the Morning Star and was struck by your honesty, clarity and determination to win for Labour in this election.

Though I wish you were running as an official party candidate, I am well aware why you are running as an independent.

Many of us have to hold our tongues about the malicious fabricated attacks on the Labour leadership which have often gone unchallenged and have resulted, therefore, in wildly unjustified suspensions and expulsions like yours.

Otherwise we risk being suspended just when we are needed to fight for Labour in the election. (This of course is the intention of the attacks.)

I am delighted to hear that many party members in your constituency are backing your candidacy in order to get a Corbyn victory based on Labour’s terrific manifesto, which outlines a new start for Labour, for working-class people and for the country as a whole.

In fact it’s a new start for the planet when we consider Labour’s programme for immediately and massively funding measures to address the climate crisis.

We thank you for campaigning for a Corbyn-led government that we desperately need. We are terrified of what might happen to the NHS, the climate emergency and rights of all kinds if Johnson is elected.

He is pro-fossil fuels, pro-hostile environment, pro-austerity, pro-arming the Saudi and Israeli governments, pro-occupation of Palestine, and friends of the racist anti-semitic Islamophobic far right in Europe — the list is endless.

A deal with Donald Trump, the sexist, racist climate change denier, would destroy the NHS and our possibilities to stop climate change.

They are genocidally and suicidally greedy for money and power, and don’t care that over 50 million people in Africa (the equivalent of three-quarters of the UK population) are already going hungry because of previously unheard of climate catastrophes, or even that unprecedented numbers of people in Britain are being flooded or surviving on foodbanks.

Even Dominic Cummings has spelled this out, saying Tory MPs “don’t care about these poor people, they don’t care about the NHS.”

I want to tell you a few things about recent Jewish history which have been censored by apartheid Israel.

One big event that has been misrepresented is the Battle of Cable Street. The East End of London had Irish and Jewish immigrants.

The Irish Catholics were likely to be dockers and the European Jews sweatshop workers, for example in the garment industry.

They had a good understanding and supported each other. When the fascist Blackshirts attempted to march through the East End, the Irish and the Jews fought alongside each other and drove the fascists out.

Those who represented Jewish nationalism rather than traditional Jewish internationalism, told the Jewish community to stay home.

But the Jewish working class came out with their Irish comrades and won the day. On the 80th anniversary of that great victory, the Israeli ambassador who had been the spokesman for the bombing of Gaza that killed over 2,000 people, tried to claim the Battle of Cable Street as their victory.

I grew up in the US in the ’30s when the nazis came to power in Germany. Among the first to be put in concentration camps were Jewish people not only because they were Jewish but because they were trade unionists, socialists, communists, anti-war, anti-nazi, lesbian and gay.

There was a tradition among Jews, wherever we were in the world, that we stood with every underdog, every fighter for freedom, every struggler against racism and other discrimination.

To quote Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, “To be a Jew means always being with the oppressed and never the oppressors.”

Imperialist and militarist Israel has hidden that history and replaced it with political alliances with dictators and far-right regimes, beginning with Trump, Victor Orban, etc, and charges of anti-semitism against anyone left-wing.

The latest is their connection with the genocidal Myanmar regime, which they helped arm and train, which raped, tortured and even burned alive Rohingya people driving hundreds of thousands out of their homes and out of their country.

Israel’s ambassador to Myanmar tweeted “Good luck” to Aung San Suu Kyi who is testifying at the International Court of Human Rights on behalf of the military which committed these atrocities. The mainstream media has censored out any reference to this alliance.

How is it possible that we can even consider the views on anti-semitism or any other human rights issue from supporters of such a barbaric apartheid regime?

Haaretz, the most truthful Israeli daily newspaper, has published an article by one of its editors saying that there has been a “contract” on Corbyn since his election as leader of the Labour Party. Anyone who cares about Jewish people anywhere should take this very seriously.

There has also been a “contract” against you, Chris, as a vocal, effective and principled supporter of Corbyn and his policies.

It is scandalous that you have been denied a platform as venues cancelled meetings where you were to speak following threats and false accusations of anti-semitism.

And when Greg Philo of Glasgow University Media Group and other academics showed how much the biased media has been allowed to influence public opinion on the basis of lies and misinformation, they also were denied a venue to issue the book with their findings by Waterstones bookshop (Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief). Professor Philo said: “The next step is book burning.”

We are in the midst of a witch-hunt where the witch-hunters attacking both the Labour leadership and the hundreds of thousands who elected them, are both inside and outside the party, supported by the corporate media, beginning with the Murdoch press and extending to the BBC and the Guardian.

Much like the ’50s in the US under Joe McCarthy attacks are launched against anyone who spoke up, lies are presented as truths, accusations equal evidence, and denial proves guilt.

I lost my job in a factory because they knew I was a socialist, and the man I came to England to marry, CLR James, had been deported for being an anti-Stalinist socialist.

There’s one letter that won’t make headlines. It is from Rabbi Mayer Weinberger on behalf of the Executive Board of the United European Jews.

He “totally rejects and condemns” comments that British Jews are “gripped by anxiety” at the thought of a Labour government, saying that “such assertions are due to propaganda with a political and ideological agenda.”

He thanks Corbyn for his “acts of solidarity for the Jewish community over many years.” Subsequently he and his family have been threatened with harm.

How much do people believe the lies of the Tory media? We won’t know until the election. But we do know that many people know the difference between what the media tells them and their own reality, and your campaign strengthens them and all of us to stick to our guns and work for a Corbyn victory.

Power to the people against the exploiters, the polluters and the warmongers.

Selma James

Selma James

Selma James speaking at Latin America Conference 2019, Saturday 23 November

Black lives Matter: Resisting Trump from Haiti & the Caribbean to the US In the era of Trump, racism is on the rise in the Americas, but countries such as Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela show that the cause of black liberation can be advanced with self-organisation and progressive policies. The history and current uprising in Haiti shows the power of protest and the strength of the people united against austerity. It reminds us of Haiti’s revolutionary history and its enormous contribution to the liberation of the Americas. Chair: Denis Fernando, Rainbow Coalition against Racism  Myriam Kane, Stand Up to Racism  Selma James, GWS working group in support of the grassroots Haitian movement  Luke Daniels, Caribbean Labour Solidarity

See the programme HERE.

Selma James

Selma James author page on new PM Press website!


I’m excited to share with you that my publisher PM Press has just redesigned my author page, my book’s page, and their entire website! If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet head over to

and start exploring!

Thanks for your support.

Selma James

Selma James

Selma James is a women’s rights and antiracist campaigner and author. From 1958 to 1962, she worked with C.L.R. James in the movement for Caribbean federation and independence. In 1972, she founded the International Wages for Housework Campaign, and in 2000 she helped launch the Global Women’s Strike whose strategy for change is Invest in Caring not Killing. She coined the word “unwaged” to describe the caring work women do, and it has since entered the English language to describe all who work without wages on the land, in the home, and in the community. In 1975, she became the first spokeswoman of the English Collective of Prostitutes. She is a founding member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (2008). She coauthored the classic The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community which launched the “domestic labour debate.” She has addressed the power relations within the working class movement, and how to organize across sectors despite divisions of sex, race, and class, South and North.

Her other publications include A Woman’s Place (1952), Women, the Unions and Work, or what is not to be done (1972), Sex, Race and Class (1974), Wageless of the World (1974), The Rapist Who Pays the Rent (1982 coauthor), The Ladies and the Mammies – Jane Austen and Jean Rhys (1983), Marx and Feminism (1983), Hookers in the House of the Lord (1983), Strangers & Sisters: Women, Race and Immigration (1985  Ed & Introduction), The Global Kitchen: The Case for Counting Unwaged work (1985 and 1995), The Milk of Human Kindness: Defending Breastfeeding from the AIDS Industry and the Global Market (coauthor, 2005).

Sex, Race, and Class—The Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952-2011

Sex, Race, and Class—The Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952-2011

SKU: 9781604864540
Author: Selma James • Foreword by Marcus Rediker • Introduction by Nina López
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 9781604864540
Published: 3/2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 6 x 9
Page count: 320
Subjects: Feminism, Literary Collection, Politics


“It’s time to acknowledge James’s path-breaking analysis: from 1972 she reinterpreted the capitalist economy to show that it rests on the usually invisible unwaged caring work of women.”  —Dr. Peggy Antrobus, feminist, author of The Global Women’s Movement: Origins, Issues and Strategies

“For clarity and commitment to Haiti’s revolutionary legacy…Selma is a sister after my own heart.”  —Danny Glover, actor and activist

“The publication of these essays reflects in concentrated form the history of the new society struggling to be born. Their appearance today could not be timelier. As the fruit of the collective experience of the last half-century, they will help to acquaint a whole new generation with not only what it means to think theoretically, but, more importantly, the requirement of organization as the means of testing those ideas. In this respect, Selma James embodies in these essays the spirit of the revolutionary tradition at its most relevant.”  —Dr. Robert A. Hill, Literary Executor of the estate of C.L.R. James, University of California, Los Angeles, Director, Marcus Garvey Papers Project

“In this incisive and necessary collection of essays and talks spanning over five decades, Selma James reminds us that liberation cannot be handed down from above. This is a feminism that truly matters.”  —Dr. Alissa Trotz, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Director of Caribbean Studies, University of Toronto

“With her latest book, Selma James reaffirms what has been evident for some time:  she is—quite simply—not only one of the most outstanding feminist thinkers of her generation but, as well, an insightful and exceedingly intelligent political analyst.”  —Dr. Gerald Horne, historian and author, John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston

“Selma James’s, Sex, Race and Class: The Perspective of Winning, a collection of her works over the decades. James was a founder of the Wages for Housework movement, and probably the one person whose thoughts on work, care, and power has influenced my work the most.  She’ll change your life.” —Sarah Jaffe

Book Events


No Events





Selma James

Selma James

Actress Jodhi May cast as Selma James in Steve McQueen’s new BBC series, Small Axe

Actor defends film’s depiction of teacher’s affair with schoolboy

Jodhi May says Scarborough, in which her character has a romance with a 16-year-old boy, is supposed to be uncomfortable to watch
Jodhi May and Jordan Bolger in Scarborough, directed by Barnaby Southcombe.
 Jodhi May and Jordan Bolger in Scarborough, directed by Barnaby Southcombe.

Actress Jodhi May, who stars in an uncompromising new film about a relationship between a teacher and a pupil, has defended it against critics who question its moral standpoint.

In British film Scarborough, out this weekend, May plays Liz, a teacher who is in a secret relationship with a 16-year-old schoolboy. She argues that her job as an actor was to “try to get into the head of someone in an indefensible position”.

Talking of the film’s contentious screenplay and several sex scenes, she told the Observer: “The minute you try to give a clear sense of the morality of a behaviour, you can’t inhabit the character. You know the audience is going to be intelligent enough to make up its own mind.”

Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, it is illegal for an adult who is in a position of trust to have a sexual relationship with someone under 18 years of age. Prosecutions always make national headlines. In Merseyside this month, a married 43-year-old, Lydia Beattie-Milligan, who had worked in education for 25 years, was found guilty of arranging to meet a male pupil in a hotel room. Before she was jailed for two years, the jury at Liverpool crown court heard how she had sent text messages to the boy joking about him not going home that night. And six years ago 30-year-old teacher Jeremy Forrest was jailed for five-and-a-half years after embarking on a relationship with a 15-year-old pupil.

For May, who came to fame aged 12 in the award-winning 1988 film A World Apart, the role of Liz appealed precisely because of the challenges it posed.

“It is interesting to play a lead character who is really a victim of her unconscious,” said May, 44. “Liz is deluded and not aware what is really driving her. Thinking about it in that kind of depth helps if you are trying to get into the head of someone in an indefensible position.”

Jodhi May has just directed a short film for the portmanteau Everything I Ever Wanted to Tell My Daughter About Men
Jodhi May has just directed a short film for the portmanteau Everything I Ever Wanted to Tell My Daughter About Men. Photograph: Jamie Harvey

Scarborough, directed by Barnaby Southcombe, the son of Charlotte Rampling, follows the story of two teachers who take pupils on covert trips to the North Yorkshire seaside resort. The parallel relationships start on identical tracks, but the stories then diverge dramatically.

“It needs to be uncomfortable for the viewer,” said May, of the apparently sympathetic treatment of the four characters. “It is a very dark subject but it would be an error to simplify these characters. The balance of ambiguity is necessary. It is important to distinguish between the way a child would perceive a relationship like this and how it is seen by others.”

May is aware that audiences find the subject upsetting. In 2006 she appeared on a West End stage opposite Roger Allam in Blackbird, a highly praised play with similarly disturbing themes. “Every evening, Roger and I could hear the seats in the auditorium going up with a thud as people left, realising it was not the kind of show they had imagined,” she said.

Scarborough provides the perfect backdrop for relationships that “cannot exist in the real world”: She says: “The place became a sort of metaphor for a grand escape from the normality. There is a kind of crumbling, desolate grandeur, a promise of a dream that is broken and an underlying seediness.”

The film was inspired by a 2008 play of the same name by Fiona Evans, and by Southcombe’s memories of a schoolgirl contemporary who had an affair with a teacher. He has argued his film does not condone, but merely reflects reality. “In a culture of shaming, there is no place for teachers to safely voice their mixed emotions without fear of criticism and instant dismissal,” he told the Observer. “They are most likely wrong, they are certainly misguided and confused, but what they are mostly is human.”

May took the role, she said, because challenging leading roles for women seldom crop up. Yet she is soon to appear in several equally surprising parts. She plays the armour-clad warrior grandmother Calanthe in upcoming Netflix drama The Witcher, heralded as the new Game of Thrones, and will play Queen Victoria in the film Warrior Queen of Jhansi, about the 1857 Indian uprising against the British. May is also cast as Selma James, the American activist, in Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen’s much-anticipated new BBC series, Small Axe, about the British black activists of the early 1970s, who were known as the Mangrove Nine.

And in a busy year the actor has also just finished directing a short film which is part of a portmanteau feature created by 18 female directors and called Everything I Ever Wanted to Tell My Daughter About Men. “It’s an initiative to create more women directors,” explains May. “My film stars James Purefoy and Issy Knopfler, it’s set in the theatre and tells the story of a young actress who has an affair with an older actor and of its aftermath.”

Selma James

Selma James in Monthly Review

Beyond Boundaries

Selma James in July 2012

Selma James in July 2012. Photo credit: Crossroads AV Collective.

Ron Augustin is a freelance journalist and editor based in Brussels. In collaboration with the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, he has been involved in editorial and digitization projects documenting anti-imperialist movements of the 1960s.

Selma James was born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, in 1930. She worked in factories as a young woman and, at the age of 15, joined the Johnson-Forest Tendency (sometimes called the Johnsonites), a group within and eventually a split from the U.S. Workers Party, founded by C. L. R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Grace Chin Lee (later Boggs) under the respective pseudonyms J. R. Johnson, Freddie Forest, and Ria Stone. In 1952, Selma wrote the classic pamphlet A Woman’s Place. Four years later, she married C. L. R. (short for Cyril Lionel Robert) in England, where he had been deported. The two were together for more than twenty-five years, each with their own political activities but also sharing important struggles.

Selma James went on to become a founding member and organizing secretary of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination, a British organization established in 1965. In 1972, the publication of her and Mariarosa Dalla Costa’s groundbreaking The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community, which discussed how women’s unpaid housework and care work is crucial to the production of the working class and, thus, the economy as a whole, launched the domestic labor debate inside the women’s movement. That same year, the International Wages for Housework Campaign was formed. James was also the first spokeswoman of the English Collective of Prostitutes, started in 1975 to advocate for the decriminalization of sex work and sex workers’ right to recognition and safety. In 1975, James helped found what became the Crossroads Women’s Centre, home to more than fifteen different groups—including Black Women for Wages for Housework, Wages Due Lesbians, and Women Against Rape—and now located in the heart of London’s Kentish Town, a few streets away from where Karl Marx lived with his family for more than ten years. In 1983, she delivered her important “Marx and Feminism,” later published as a pamphlet.

This article will be released in full online September 29, 2019. Current subscribers: please log in to view this article.
Selma James

Selma James quoted in article: “What is killing marriage and the family?”

It’s not just the free market or big government – there’s Big Sister too
Belinda Brown | May 11 2019 | comment 1

The male breadwinner … now just a privilege of the upper middle class?

The birth of a new Royal baby here in Britain reminds us what privileged women have, and what their poorer sisters lack: a decently earning husband and therefore the prospect of a stable family life. Of course, when that decently earning husband is a prince, he doesn’t just bring home the bacon — he owns the whole farm.

This was one of the more controversial points which Tucker Carlson, the American conservative political commentator, called attention to when he delivered his monologue on the importance of the family earlier this year. If we want to have happy, functioning societies the wellbeing of the family should be a central concern of political life, Carlson said. Most of us could sign up to that.

What was difficult for some was his suggestion that where men do not earn decent wages women don’t want to marry them; and that the absence of marriage leads to the breakdown of the family ‑‑ to fatherlessness and single parenthood, and many other social ills besides.

The link between male employment and marriage is amply supported by the data (see herehereand here), but in pointing it out Carlson exposed a tension in conservative arguments: the free market can weaken the very families it relies upon to thrive.

Not only do processes of deindustrialization weaken male employment. As households split into independent units consumerism is fed by family breakdown and divorce.

Right wing commentators David French and Ben Shapiro were quick to defend the market from any ideas which might curtail its freedom . If people had disorganised families, they suggested, this was down to individual agency. They wanted the separation between our personal lives and the economy to remain intact.

Others were more interested in exploring the questions which Carlson provoked. JD Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, acknowledged that what was good for the market was not necessarily good for the nation but needed careful working out. Eli Finkel said the poor want to be married just as much as everyone else. Writing in the Federalist Willis L. Krumholz, explained that government measures had made marriage less attainable for the least well off. Suzanne Venkerdemonstrated with a barrage of evidence that women prefer to marry decently earning men. The result is, as academics Bradford Wilcox and Samuel Hammond have shown, marriage has become a privileged institution almost jealously guarded by the upper middle class.

Feminism and the war on the male breadwinner

In all this discussion about the free market and government interventions, hardly any mention was made of a third and more malignant factor in the decline of marriage: feminism, the almost universally accepted ideology whose central and explicit aim has been to dismantle the supportive role of the male in the family and the family with it.

State intervention and its destructive effects have been enormously amplified by accommodation to feminist policy, which has actively sought to undermine the male breadwinner role for nigh on 70 years.

Yet it is the male breadwinner role which middle class women, often feminists themselves, benefit from, both through marriage and when they get divorced. Working class women, on the other hand do not get married, as the forces ranged against their men mean they are unable to support a family.

Second-wave feminists have always made it clear that they regard women’s traditional financial dependence on men as the root of all evil. Quotations are easily harvested from feminist literature. Here, for example is Selma James, who set up the International Wages for Housework Campaign, speaking in 1983:

“The wage relation is not only a power relation between waged worker and employer but between those workers who do and those workers who do not have wages. This is the material basis of the social antagonism between the sexes. Whether or not we are in a relationship with men, let alone a dependent relationship, women’s dependence in society generally sets the terms of the relationship between all men and all women. Whether or not money passes hands between any particular individuals, the “cash nexus” binds the sexes to each other and into society. Women, the poorer sex, are the socially weaker sex; men, more powerful financially, can exercise social power against us in every area of life.” (1)

This financial inequality is the very essence of “patriarchy” – seen as the oppression and exploitation of women by men based on the economic “power” of the husband and father in the home.

And feminists have also been clear that they want to get rid of it. Here is Germaine Greer, in The Female Eunuch:

“Women’s Liberation, if it abolishes the patriarchal family, will abolish a necessary substructure of the authoritarian state; … so let’s get on with it”.

Or Kate Millet, who was also influential in her day:

“Why are we here today?” “To make revolution.” “What kind of revolution?” she replied. “The Cultural Revolution.” “And how do we make Cultural Revolution?” “By destroying the American family!” “How do we destroy the family?” “By destroying the American Patriarch.” “And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?” “By taking away his power!”

To the “patriarchal family,” as feminists like to call it, was attributed all manner of problems.

Male support for the family was described by a United Nations group in 1986 as the cause of violence against women, making the “economic independence of women … crucial.”

Sociologist Jessie Bernard regarded it as psychologically crippling:

“The wife of a more successful provider became for all intents and purposes a parasite, with little to do except indulge or pamper herself. The psychology of such dependence could become all but crippling.”

A highly influential British report of 1990 – ironically called The Family Way – said that (financial) inequality was the cause of marital breakdown:

“Inequality is not a recipe for wedded bliss. It is, on the contrary, one of the main causes of marital breakdown.”

Today we know that marriages are happier and stronger where the woman earns less than the man.

Dismantling the male wage

A central aim of feminist policy has therefore been to dismantle male support for the family. As Professor Carol Smart, CBE, explained in 1984 one way of killing off the patriarchy is to abolish marriage. Though this might sound unpopular or unrealistic, if tackled indirectly it could be done:

“It would be far more effective to undermine the social and legal need and support for the marriage contract. This could be achieved by withdrawing the privileges which are currently extended to the married heterosexual couple. Such a move would not entail any punitive sanctions but would simply extend legal recognition to different types of households and relationships, and would end such privileges as the unjustified married tax allowance. Illegitimacy would be abolished by realizing the right of all women, whether married or single, to give legitimacy to their children. Welfare benefits and tax allowances would also need to be assessed on the basis of individual need or contribution and not on the basis of the family unit”.

Another popular option was to get rid of the father. Prominent journalist Polly Toynbee suggested in 1989 that

“Women and children will suffer needlessly until the state faces up to the reality of its own inability to do anything about the revolution in national morals. What it can do is shape a society that makes a place for women and children as family units, self-sufficient and independent.” (2)

As Anna Coote, a government policy adviser, suggested in 1991, fatherhood was beyond salvaging:

“The father is no longer essential to the economic survival of the unit. Men haven’t kept up with the changes in society; to they don’t know how to be parents. Nobody has taught them: where are the cultural institutions tell them that being a parent is a good thing? They don’t exist. At the same time, women don’t have many expectations of what men might provide.” (30)

Yet another solution has been to increase the economic clout of women while eroding male earnings: by reducing the relative share of male employment (done) or reducing their hours (done), or by reducing the value of the male wage (done). Also important, of course, is increasing average female earnings.

This is why feminists are so unrelenting about the gender pay gap, even when it is acknowledged that women are paid the same for the same work. It is not about equality but about women and children being able to survive independently of men.

Finally, the system of taxes and benefits can be manipulated in such a way as to render female dependency on males extremely costly, make single motherhood a viable lifestyle, and get all mothers out to work.

This was the approach adopted in 1990 by the feminists who produced ‘The Family Way’ policy (Anna Coote, Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt). The Labour Party at the time wanted to remove the discriminatory nature of the Married Couples Tax Allowance, so that it could be used equally by both spouses. However, Coote et al argued against this because such a measure would still provide financial support for marriage that they regarded as “indiscriminate”. It would be far more “efficient – more targeted’’, they explained, to use public resources to support children and those who care for them [women] than discriminate according to the parent’s legal status.

They recognised that “A shift of resources away from the married couple’s allowance would, of course, affect married men’s take-home pay.” They acknowledged that this might be politically unpopular but discussed various strategies by which it might be done. After a continuous campaign to end the Marriage Tax Allowance and spend the money on needy mothers, the feminists had their way in 1999.

Under the new system even married parents with children were treated as individuals. A family of two working individuals (each earning £21,000) living with their children would benefit hugely from the personal tax allowance liability, which would allow them each their first £10 K tax free, compared with a single earner earning £42,000. Similarly, neither of the working couple would be liable for the 40% tax rate, whereas a single earner family would be liable for this rate although the family take home pay came to the same amount. On top of this, they manipulated the Child Benefit, the Tax Free Childcare Allowance, and the Child Benefit Tax Charge in ways which ensured that any family where the woman dared not to work outside the home would substantially miss out. It is detailed here.

Penalising the single-earner family

The result has been that a single earner married couple with two children, on 75% of the average wage ‑‑ a typical aspirational family ‑‑ face a Marginal Effective Tax Rate of nearly 73% ‑‑ higher than any other OECD country. Consequently, poverty has been heavily concentrated among single earner families and, of course, families with more children, where the mother is least likely to be able to work.

It also means that the main breadwinner is unable to increase his or her income because it would simply mean taxes would increase and benefits decline. This destroys the rewards of work and undermines the incentives to get on. It also means that employers have little incentive to raise wages because only the Treasury will benefit. The result is dependence on welfare and a mother who is forced out to work.

At the same time, processes that discourage marriage or even couple formation as a “tax trap” mean that some families are financially better off living apart. The Institute of Fiscal Studies said in 2010 that 95 percent of all single people would incur a couple penalty if they married or started to live together as a couple. Half of these would face a penalty of £101 per week. This is being tweaked by the Universal Credit but the situation is not about to change significantly.

Sociologist Patricia Morgan explains how the expansion of means tested or “targeted” welfare has meant that further and further up the income distribution, the state outbids husbands and fathers transforming them into liabilities. This may be why ‑‑ although the affluent are very much more likely to be married than the those with lower incomes ‑‑ the trend away from marriage is gradually working its way up the social scale.

The result of these policies has been that the UK has the highest rate of family instability in the developed world. Fatherlessness and resulting poverty are associated with poor social outcomes in education and employment, with increased mortality, crime, further family breakdown and drug abuse. This has been estimated to cost the UK£51 billion a year in lost tax revenue, benefits, housing, health, social care, civil and criminal justice and education.

Feminism is the quack doctor on hand to sell its poison as the cure. Rather than strengthening the position of the male so that marriage once again becomes viable for the less well off, his relative position is further weakened. For example, a Joseph Rowntree report noting that “male employment has fallen and earnings among low to mid skilled men have grown relatively weakly,” proposes women’s employment as the solution:

“for couple families having both partners in work offers strong protection against poverty even when wages are low. Given the uncertain prospects for future wage growth, women’s employment will continue to be vital for lifting families out of poverty.”

I don’t know how relevant the British experience I have outlined is to the situation in the United States. But I know that the paper on which Carlson based his data actually refers to a male’s relative earnings and says the decline in manufacturing has been part of the process. This seems an acknowledgement that there are other factors at work.

We need to stop pussyfooting around these issues. These changes are not a result of the culture of modernity or of some zeitgeist over which we have no control. They are the result of 70 years of an ideology which has been explicit in its aim to destroy the breadwinning role of the male, along with the family itself. The progressive ideologies which have helped to destroy marriage have been complicit in this process, as have the armies of social workers who feed off it.

Feminists have rent apart the fabric of society and we should, to borrow a feminist expression, “call them out” for it. By identifying and naming feminism, by understanding its workings we can begin to repair the deep wounds to society.

At the same time, we need to be careful to rescue any useful babies that might be swimming in the bathwater. For they are there. We also need to try to understand the psychology of feminism and the motivations that have propelled them. But that is another article.

If we can do these things we can move toward to a healthier society where family and community is at the centre. And feminism will become a fascinating period in history, an example of a hugely destructive movement but one from which a great deal can be learned.

Belinda Brown is author of The Private Revolution: Women in the Polish Underground Movement and a number of well-cited academic papers. British, she also writes for The Daily Mail and The Conservative Woman. She has a particular interest in men’s issues and the damage caused by feminism.


1. James Selma 1994, Marx and Feminism, Crossroads Centrepiece, Kings Cross Women’s Centre.

2. The worm-turned syndrome”, in The Observer, 17 October 1989.

3. “The Parent Trap”, The Guardian, 16 September 1991. 

Selma James

Complain to Woman’s Hour about their sexist reporting on “parental alienation”

Selma James to Woman’s Hour

I am appalled by Woman’s Hour’s report on  ‘parental alienation’ (26 April 2016)  provoked by Families Need Fathers’s march the day  before.

You reported on ‘parental alienation’ which has  notoriously been used by fathers, including violent fathers, to discredit the mother who is most often the caring  parent, and to get power against her and over the children. Two women, a lawyer and a psychotherapist, on your programme reinforced FnF’s point of view; neither spoke for the mother’s situation or acknowledged that in a sexist society it is different from the father’s – economically, socially and in terms of how the courts deal with women as compared to men.

70-90% of court cases feature domestic abuse yet less than 1% of  child contact applications are refused – violent fathers nearly always get contact. Does Woman’s Hour really believe that women do not face sexism in the family  courts and in the courts generally?

FnF and similar organisations deny the prevalence of rape and domestic violence in order to gain access to children and continue their control over the women who have left them. There was no mention that mothers who have faced violence from fathers are often disbelieved because the courts are sexist and are more likely to take the word of violent and even rapist fathers. No mention of domestic violence as a major issue in parents separating. No mention of the children killed by violent fathers who were given custody or contact  by sexist courts,  disregarding mothers’ warnings and pleas and  children’s terror. No mention of the two women a week murdered by partners or ex-partners. No mention of the contribution mothers, the primary carers in most households, make to children’s lives compared to fathers. No mention of mothers who risk having their children taken from them by social services and the family courts if they report domestic violence. No mention that fathers who get custody or contact often depend on another woman for the actual care of the child/ren who’s been taken from the mother. No mention that single mothers are living in poverty and this is being used to imply they are ‘neglecting’ their  children.

Jenni  Murray carefully avoided asking any questions that women would normally raise on this issue so that Families Need Fathers, a notoriously sexist and many believe right wing organization, was unchallenged and their march against mothers (whatever they claim) supported by default. There was also no mention of the growing movement of mothers which has been opposing the unwarranted removal of children by local authorities and the courts, which often use false claims of ‘parental alienation’ against mothers  and children. The children are the first victims, their fears and wishes ignored, their lives endangered.

I’ll not be the only one who is outraged that Woman’s Hour should themselves treat women in this sexist way.

Selma James

Global Women's Strike 2000-present Selma James

Statement: End Discrimination: Respect Human Rights And Restore Shamina Begum’s UK Nationality


For clarification and/or further information, kindly contact Charles Hector (+60192371100, Selma James ( +44 20 7482 2496, ) and/or Nina Lopez ( +44 20 7482 2496, )

Kindly report on this statement, OR alternatively cause it to be published in your Opinions, Letters or similar section in your publication. [On publication, it would be appreciated if you could send us a link or copy, which we will send to various groups]

Thank you,

In solidarity,

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of Selma James and Nina Lopez

on behalf of the listed organisations and individuals


Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters – HRDP in Myanmar

Disabled People Against Cuts

English Collective of Prostitutes

Global Women’s Strike

Haiti Action Committee, US

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, UK

Legal Action for Women

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

Marvi Rural Development Organization, MRDO

North South Initiative

Payday men’s network

Peter Tatchell Foundation

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

Women of Colour GWS

Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka



Ahmed Aydeed, solicitor

Hannah Baynes, solicitor

Sara Callaway, Women of Colour GWS

Chris Callender, solicitor

Professor Tom Cheesman

Louise Christian (Human Rights lawyer)

Elizabeth Cross

Dr Jonathan Fluxman

Anthony Gifford QC

Teresa Hayter

Charles Hector, advocate and solicitor

Toufique Hossain, solicitor

Selma James, Global Women’s Strike

Lorry Leader

Nina Lopez, Legal Action for Women

Barbara Le Fevre

Daniel Machover, Hickman Rose solicitors

David Malone, barrister

Anna Mazzola, writer

Bhatt Murphy, solicitor

Jacqueline McKenzie, immigration and asylum lawyer

Sally Middleton, Birnberg Peirce & partners solicitors

Giorgio Riva

Akua Rugg

Jane Ryan

Rachel Zeng, human rights defender

Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, musician




Media Statement  9/4/2019


We, the undersigned individuals, organizations and groups are appalled that the United Kingdom has revoked the citizenship of Shamina Begum, a 20-year-old mother who asked to come back to the UK after giving birth to a baby boy in a Syrian Refugee camp. While the UK government refused to allow her and her child in, the baby died.

It was reported that the Home Office sent Begum’s family in UK a letter informing her that Home Secretary Sajid Javid had made an ‘…order “removing her British citizenship” on Tuesday [19/2/2019]. The document, addressed to Begum’s mother, said the decision was taken “in light of the circumstances of your daughter…” (Independent, 20/2/2019)


Denial of Right To Be Heard & a Fair Trial

It is unconscionable and unjust that anyone is deprived of one’s citizenship and/or nationality. It is even more shocking when they have not been accorded the right to be heard and to a fair trial. In addition, any decision should be made by the courts – not merely an administrative order of some Minister, in this case the Home Secretary.

The fact that the UK government knows that Begum is in a Syrian Refugee camp, not in the United Kingdom, and that she had been asking the government to help her and her baby get home, made this act of citizenship cancellation even more outrageous. The tragic death of her child, who was born a British citizen and may have been saved had he been allowed into the UK with his mother, is unconscionable.

The Home Secretary allegedly made his decision “…in light of the circumstances…” but Begum has not been heard, therefore the ‘circumstances’ may not be true – they have certainly not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fifteen-year-old Begum, with a couple of friends, allegedly left the UK and travelled to Syria. She then allegedly got married to a man from Holland. They allegedly had children, and this is now her third child. Her other children apparently are also no longer alive. Her ‘husband’ was allegedly involved in ISIS and/or a terrorist group. There are allegations that Begum herself may have supported terrorist agendas, beliefs, ideology and may even have participated in their activities.

There can be many allegations, but allegations are irrelevant when it comes to the administration of justice, especially when the end result is the possible deprivation of liberty, or worse, the loss of nationality. Allegations need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt especially when it comes to cancelling one’s birth right. Begum was a citizen at birth. She was not granted her nationality by any subsequent act of government.

What we have heard and seen in the media may have influenced the government of the day. There is always the possibility of bias, selective ‘quotes’ and/or selective reporting that may invite wrong conclusions.

The government, on the other hand, must be more thorough and just, especially if the end result is the expulsion of a person from the UK, the only country that Begum belongs to, the separation from her family there, and now the death of a new born.

At present, there is no crime in UK law that prescribes that the penalty is the revocation of citizenship. Even the worst of criminals, such as convicted mass murderers like the Yorkshire Ripper keep their nationality.

A mother, wife, child or relative of a person convicted of a crime should never be considered guilty simply because of family ties or association. If Shamina Begum did break UK law, then she should be brought back to the UK and accorded a fair trial. If convicted, then she should be sentenced as a citizen in accordance with the law.


DISCRIMINATION – Different treatment based on parentage

Discrimination is also a major concern if different treatment is being accorded to a class of citizens who are assumed to be or maybe entitled to dual nationalities through parentage, or even marriage. Would other citizens of the UK, with no migrant heritage, be treated in the same way ending up with the revocation of their UK citizenship?

‘…Speaking after he revoked her British citizenship, [Home Secretary,] Sajid Javid said he would not take a decision that would leave an individual with nowhere to go… Although he has not commented directly on the case, Mr Javid appeared to confirm earlier in the week the government felt able to take such action – which would prevent her from returning to the UK – because she is a dual national or has the right to citizenship elsewhere. Under international law, revoking someone’s citizenship is only permissible if it does not leave that person stateless…’ (Sky News, 21/2/2019).

It must be noted that Begum does not hold dual citizenship, which is permitted in the UK, but is a UK citizen from birth. The Home Secretary’s order would thus now make her stateless. Bangladesh has already stated that Begum does not have any right to Bangladeshi citizenship.

The position adopted by the UK is clearly discriminatory. It sets a frightening precedent for millions of people born in the UK to immigrant parents. They can now lose their citizenship whilst those born to British-born parents cannot.

It is most disturbing to find out that there has been a significant escalation of removal of citizenship. This was highlighted by the Windrush scandal where Commonwealth citizens who had lived in the UK for decades were deported if they could not show documentation proving their citizenship.

Removal of Citizenship has increased by 600% in a year. Over the past 10 years, 150 people have been deprived of UK nationality. Fourteen people were deprived of citizenship in 2016, and 104 in 2017. (Independent, 21/2/2019).

This is another result of the ‘racist policy’ to create a ‘hostile environment’ against anyone assumed to be an immigrant from the ‘New Commonwealth’ (i.e. people from countries with mainly non-white populations) put in place by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was then Home Secretary.


Child Rights Convention – Removing A Mother’s Nationality Is Not In The Best Interest Of A UK Child Citizen

Begum’s son was born days before her citizenship was revoked and was therefore a UK citizen.  The government’s action was against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), amongst others, as it deprived him of his mother and of his right to be breastfed by her.  It was certainly not in the best interest of the child. His subsequent death is a tragedy that may have been avoided had his rights been prioritized. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott questioned whether stripping Begum of her nationality “made it impossible for her to fulfil her duties as a mother and bring her baby home to a safe place.”


Therefore we

Call on the UK government to forthwith revoke the Home Secretary’s order removing Begum’s UK citizenship/nationality, and immediately bring her back to the UK as per her request;

Call on the UK Government to respect human rights, including the rights of the child as contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); and

Call on the UK to abolish laws and/or policies that can result in discriminatory treatment against citizens based on factors including parentage.


Charles Hector

Selma James

Nina Lopez


For and on behalf of the 16 organisations and 27 individuals listed below



Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters – HRDP in Myanmar

Disabled People Against Cuts

English Collective of Prostitutes

Global Women’s Strike

Haiti Action Committee, US

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, UK

Legal Action for Women

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

Marvi Rural Development Organization, MRDO

North South Initiative

Payday men’s network

Peter Tatchell Foundation

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

Women of Colour GWS

Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka



Ahmed Aydeed, solicitor

Hannah Baynes, solicitor

Sara Callaway, Women of Colour GWS

Chris Callender, solicitor

Professor Tom Cheesman

Louise Christian (Human Rights lawyer)

Elizabeth Cross

Dr Jonathan Fluxman

Anthony Gifford QC

Teresa Hayter

Charles Hector, advocate and solicitor

Toufique Hossain, solicitor

Selma James, Global Women’s Strike

Lorry Leader

Nina Lopez, Legal Action for Women

Barbara Le Fevre

Daniel Machover, Hickman Rose solicitors

David Malone, barrister

Anna Mazzola, writer

Bhatt Murphy, solicitor

Jacqueline McKenzie, immigration and asylum lawyer

Sally Middleton, Birnberg Peirce & partners solicitors

Giorgio Riva

Akua Rugg

Jane Ryan

Rachel Zeng, human rights defender

Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, musician


Selma James

Selma James in Stylist Magazine

What the rise of the ‘cleanfluencer’ tells us about women’s lives in 2019

‘Cleanfluencers’ are the latest social media stars to sweep our feeds, but is this newfound passion for housework a step backwards?

I’ve just spent 20 minutes watching Mrs Hinch, aka @mrshinchhome, clean a bathroom floor on Instagram. She kept calling her mop “Trace”. I believe she names all of her cleaning utensils. She taught me to pour “a neat capful of Zoflora” in the bottom of my toilet brush holders to “keep them smelling fresh”. Mrs Hinch – Sophie Hinchliffe to her friends – loves Zoflora disinfectant. She pours it on her “babies” (her dishcloths), before she puts them “to bed” (to soak overnight).

Around 1.9 million other followers – the self-dubbed ‘Hinchers’ – watched it too. And they loved it. So much so that she’s got a book, Hinch Yourself Happy: All The Best Cleaning Tips To Shine Your Sink And Soothe Your Soul, coming out in April.

Hinch is not an anomaly. Lynsey Crombie (@lynsey_queenofclean) also has 110,000 followers eager to hear how to make an eco-friendly lavender mattress cleaner – her book, How To Clean Your House… And Tidy Up Your Life, is out later this month, as is Nicola Lewis’s Mind Over Clutter.

Not far behind her, The Home Edit (an American duo who organise people’s homes into rainbow-coloured perfection) have one million followers on Instagram and count Mandy Moore and Reese Witherspoon as clients. Somehow, and without irony, 2019 has become the year we’re obsessed with watching other people clean their toilets.

But it’s not simply watching – we’re also doing it. After Mrs Hinch praised her Minky M cloth, the Minky website crashed from demand. Customers are apparently bulk buying Zoflora, with a shop assistant tweeting: “Sold out 65 bottles of Zoflora in the first 15 minutes the shop opened because [Mrs Hinch] posted about it on Instagram.” In fact, the household cleaners market is predicted to grow from £21.4 billion to £30.7 billion by 2024. This January, after Kondo’s Netflix show was released, charity shops reported a record amount of donations, spurred by people decluttering.

This all begs the question, why? Why, 60 years after labour-saving electrical appliances like washing machines became common, giving us hard-won freedom from domestic drudgery, are we suddenly elbow deep in Marigolds? Why did I spend my lunchbreak watching Kondo roll up clothes – and why did I weirdly quite enjoy it?

It’s a fascinating trend. It’s also a slightly disconcerting one. After all, there are no male cleaning influencers to be found and Mrs Hinch has admitted that 90% of her followers are women. When we already know that the majority of the domestic load falls to us – a sorry 60% more – the rise of cleaning influencers feels rather regressive.

Still, there’s no doubt that the rise of the cleaning influencer is a pretty surprising turn of events. We asked four experts why they think the cleanfluencer has taken the zeitgeist and run with it.

The historian

Virginia Nicholson, historian and author of Perfect Wives In Ideal Homes, on the similarities between Fifties housewives and cleaning influencers today 

“I think the trend for cleaning influencers is symptomatic of macro trends happening around the world right now. If we look at austerity, the Brexit crisis, climate change, the Trump phenomenon – there is a huge amount of uncertainty in society, which is similar to the post-war period of the Fifties when housework and housewives were similarly glamorised.

It makes sense. Whenever we’re dealing with traumatic upheaval and uncertainty in our lives, we retreat to our four safe walls. After the Second World War, women’s identity had been smashed to smithereens – quite literally in many cases when homes had been bombed – so when the war ended there was a national feeling of wanting to get back to the home and rebuild who they were before. There’s an atmosphere of uncertainty today and we’re retreating to our homes once again.

There was a similar glossiness to the housewives of the Fifties as there is with cleanfluencers – perish the thought that anyone doing housework would feel discontent at their task. Back then, there was a huge pressure on women to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, to be perfect in the bedroom and keep perfect homes. In 1951, the average woman spent 15 hours a day on housework. Books from that era reveal incredibly prescriptive instructions on how to keep the perfect home. Mrs Beeton’s Book Of Household Management talks about dusting the passageway before breakfast and ensuring household order so that your husband returns from work promptly at the end of the day, rather than lingering in ‘taverns and dining houses’.

This was also when women’s magazines became popular. Good Housekeeping sold the ideal woman as smiley, blonde, and white; a woman who did everything perfectly without any fuss. There was high pressure for women to tick all these boxes, which is something that we women today are feeling – the pressure to be thin, to be beautiful, to have an amazing home and to look like the latest Instagram sensation.”

The futurologist

Will Higham is a behavioural futurist and the founder of He believes this trend will force a closer look at the toxicity of many cleaning products

“The cleanfluencer taps into a lot of trends we’re seeing right now. Firstly, young people today are the most educated they’ve ever been but lack many basic ‘adulting’ skills, which they’re very aware of. So they go to the place they learn everything today: their smartphone, specifically YouTube, podcasts and Instagram. There is a shift away from celebrity influencers to advice influencers who can genuinely teach us something. They feel more authentic. Cleaning is a basic life skill and people – men too, I believe – are eager to learn it.

But perhaps the biggest motivation is that the world is the most volatile it’s been for decades – socially, politically and technologically, things are changing rapidly and people don’t know where they fit. They want to take control of their lives again. We can’t fix the big things, we can’t clean up the whole world or undo all of the plastic pollution. But we can bring more order to our lives by cleaning our living rooms.

This trend won’t disappear any time soon. There are a couple of things which will get in the way, though. While the minimalism trend is strong, it clashes with the fact that we have an increasing love of emotionally resonant objects. So while we own less – we rent and stream – at the same time we want things that are emotionally important around us.

The other thing that is likely to happen is a revolt against these potentially toxic cleaning products. We’re becoming increasingly concerned about what they do to our bodies; we’re already worried about the increase in allergies and asthma.”

The psychiatrist

Dr Lopa Winters is a consultant psychiatrist and executive coach. She says that there are clear links between cleaning and our mental health

“There’s so much confusion surrounding gender and identity and I wonder if part of this is to do with the loss of traditional gender roles and our wish to return to something binary and easy to understand. There is so much challenging of boundaries right now – whether that’s race, age, our careers – that we’re craving simplicity and tradition to tether ourselves to.

There is a clear link between cleaning and mental health. Our relationship to others, including objects in our homes, is called object relations so every single relationship we have to a person or a thing is a manifestation of how we see the world and how we relate to others. So, if we have an ordered and clean home and take care of our possessions, it communicates something about the state of our mind. That’s why some people get anxious if they lose something, it’s like they’ve lost part of themselves. By tidying your home, you’re effectively tidying your mind – it’s a good representation of what’s going on in your head.

On the flipside, I’ve been into the homes of very mentally unwell people and seen their houses have become incredibly chaotic, with 20 bottles of milk in the lounge, for example. Caring for your home is a type of self-care, although it’s worth noting that it can segue into something else if we become too obsessive and controlling around it.

It’s not surprising that we’re returning to very traditional family values. Home represents ‘base’. Our earliest childhood attachments form in relation to a base parent who we leave and come back to, so it makes sense that we want a sense of home that’s safe and secure to return to as adults, especially when the outside world seems so chaotic and scary right now.

It also makes sense for women who have very busy career lives to find a sense of achievement and mastery in completing a task – even if that task is defrosting your freezer. This is fine if the drive comes from you, but it’s dangerous if it’s pushed on you as something you should do and if you don’t do it you feel a sense of failure.”

The cleanfluencer

Melissa Maker, the founder of, on how she went from being the owner of a boutique cleaning service to a full-blown online influencer

“I started a cleaning business in Toronto in 2006 because there was a perpetual need for a good cleaning service. Then in 2011, my husband suggested filming some YouTube videos of cleaning tips as a marketing tool. We had no equipment, terrible lighting and no real experience with a camera, but more and more people began asking for specific videos on particular cleaning issues. Fast-forward to today, and our YouTube channel has more than one million subscribers, we have an Instagram following of more than 100,000, a book published, our own microfibre cleaning cloth range and we’re also about to launch an e-course for people who want to start their own cleaning business.

Unlike many people who want Instagram fame, I look at cleaning as a problem that people want a solution for. I’m completely honest – I hate cleaning. I wasn’t born with the cleaning gene and I absolutely do not want to spend more time cleaning than I absolutely have to. I think that honesty has really resonated with people.

I also think that Marie Kondo has touched people in a big way and helped to usher in a desire for cleaner, simpler spaces. I also think there is a growing trend for people staying in their homes more, bringing friends and family over for dinner rather than going out and working from home, which all makes us want to make our homes as nice as they can be.

I’ve been taken aback by some of the heartfelt comments I receive. People who tell me they have ADHD and can’t usually stay on a task for too long but that watching a video of me completing a task really helps them. People who are grieving or who are depressed and have lost all motivation have said that the videos empower them so that life doesn’t feel so daunting anymore. There have been so many positive and unintended consequences of the content we have created.

I rarely get accusations that my work is reinforcing gender stereotypes because all of my content is gender neutral and more than 20% of my audience is male. It’s not effeminate to learn how to clean, it’s just a life skill – and an important one at that.”

The feminist

Selma James is a writer, feminist and activist who founded the International Wages For Housework Campaign in 1972

“It may be that this cleaning trend is a fad, or it may be that – as with me from time to time – women want their house to be in perfect order because other parts of their life feel like they’re in chaos. When I have lots of time to clean my kitchen at home and do it properly, I feel very satisfied that a piece of my life is orderly. This new style may be a response to a world in chaos.

The question of housework, however, is on one hand a personal issue, but on the other it is highly political, because whether or not there’s a choice depends on money. Most women aren’t free to make that choice. I think women should be financially supported by the state whatever decision they make, whether that’s working full-time or staying home with children; given a living wage for the work they do at home that affects our social survival.

If this happened, men would stop being averse to doing it. As things stand, men don’t want to be impoverished like women. They’re not stupid. We’ve all seen when a job that used to be largely women, such as nursing, achieves pay equity, all of a sudden there are more men in that role.

My partner is a younger woman – I’m ancient: 88 years old. My energy runs out, so she does more work than I do but it wasn’t always that way. We shared jobs when I was younger. Before her, I was married to a man who was doing intellectual work and I took the burden of cleaning the house.

In my home I like to be surrounded by lots of memories, and that means I am entirely out of fashion. I see younger women’s homes and there’s nothing on show; everything’s clean and they only have two pictures on the wall. But I think they are creating order to deal with uncertainty.”

How Was It For You: Women, Sex, Love And Power In The 1960s by Virginia Nicholson (£20, Random House) is out 28 March

Images: Getty Images