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2.3.10

1983: "Tarzan" Felled By Greenham Common Peace "Wimmin"

In August 1981, a group of women began a march from Cardiff, Wales, to Berkshire, England.

Their destination was the Greenham Common Airbase. The women were greatly concerned by the 1980 decision to site 96 Cruise missiles at the base.

The women arrived at the airbase on 5 September, 1981.

The march of the "Women For Life On Earth" led to the establishment of the Greenham Common Peace Camp.

In December 1982, 30,000 women held hands to "embrace the base".

Also in 1982, a decision was taken that men should not be allowed to join the Peace Camp.

20th Century Words by John Ayto (1999, Oxford University Press), one of my favourite resources for tracing the origins of newer words, tracks "wimmin" to 1983:

wimmin n (1983) A semi-phonetic spelling of women, adopted by some feminists as one not containing the ending -men.

20th Century Words notes that the word "wimmin" had been used in the past "for suggesting a particular sort (or class) of accent" - (a character in a book might pronounce "women" as "wimmin") - "but the polemical purpose marks out a new usage."

Mr Ayto traces two early uses of the word "wimmin" in feminist circles to Greenham Common:

1983 Sunday Times: Return to Greenham Common, view the wool webs, the papier maché masks, the eccentric re-spelling of words like 'wimmin', the improbable cosiness of the little tents in a landscape of wire fencing and policemen.

1983 Listener: Meanwhile, what of the Peace Women ('wimmin' in feminist placards) camped outside Greenham Common?

At a time when concerns over a possible nuclear haulocaust were running high, and apparently unable to make their voices heard by reasonable debate, the women resorted to other measures to make their views known to the UK Government...

From the Daily Mirror, February 8, 1983:

TARZAN'S WAR

Minister felled by peace women

Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine was dragged to the ground last night by a crowd of peace women from Greenham Common.

Several of the women lay down in front of him as he arrived for a Tory meeting at nearby Newbury town hall, Berks.

A protester said that one of them planned to chain herself to the Minister, but failed and only managed to make him fall.

Mr Heseltine's wife Anne was also pushed and jostled as police dragged 60 women away.

Police considered calling in a helicopter after the meeting to airlift the Minister - nicknamed "Tarzan" - to safety as the crowd continued to protest against nuclear missiles.

Instead, local Tory MP Michael McNair Wilson created a diversion by dashing through the crowd surrounded by police as Mr Heseltine escaped through a side door.

Earlier, Mr Heseltine smiled as he brushed mud from his pinstripe trousers and combed his hair back into place after his fall.

He said: "It was obviously rather rough and I was pulled to the ground.

"I felt a few pushes and shoves but I wasn't hurt at all."

Mr Heseltine said that the behaviour of the women - who were protesting at the stationing of cruise missiles at Greenham - convinced him he was right not to meet the CND about uniliteral disarmament.

"Their minds are closed to all arguments," he said.

"It would be pointless trying to hold a sensible conversation with them."

One girl demonstrator was trampled and bruised during the scuffles. There were no arrests.

Earlier 64 women were arrested when a fence was cut at Greenham Common air base and demonstrators marched on to the airfield.

Twenty were still being held last night.

The first of the 96 Cruise missiles arrived at the base in November 1983.

6 comments:

  1. Wasn't it highly sexist of the peace wimmin to set up a wimmin only camp?

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  2. Sexism by definition requires power. Power+privileged=Oppression
    Without power is it just bias.

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  3. But surely women have lots of power? "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world". Speaking as a male, my mother encouraged me to play with toy guns and be "butch" when I was a kid, not to cry or show emotions. I'm glad I thought for myself. It's as though women sculpted men into being unfeeling beasts through some ancient desire to be "protected". Gender issues are far more complex than many people - particularly the feminist movement, make out.

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  4. Oh, come now, Paul, men are just slime responsible for oppressing wommin forever and a day. We wimmin are blameless (grin)!

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  5. I see Paul's point, and I've stated my thoughts on this blog. My mother and aunts seemed very eager to push me into a traditional male mould - no emotions, play with guns, etc, when I was a kid in the '70s. If I offered to wash up, Mum thought it was "sissy", although she moaned if I didn't, and she was horrified when I opted for home economics at school rather than woodwork!

    The gender thing is complex. Only by looking at things objectively can we begin to sort things out. Sadly, I think we're still a long way from that.

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  6. CanterfordMarch 12, 2010

    Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had power and was highly sexist: "Violence against women and girls is unacceptable no matter what the circumstances are."

    Whilst the majority of domestic abuse victims are women, it is the Home Secreary's job to cater for all. And I notice that the most ropey of research and word of mouth is fully endorsed by the Government when it comes to investigating domestic violence against women - men in England and Wales are instantly arrested and placed on the DNA Database when accused. The Government is taking its bizarre and unequal message into schools in England and Wales in 2011.

    But there is no Government effort to investigate violence against men and boys. It is said that many men are afraid to come forward for fear of looking foolish - but the Government doesn't care.

    The Government has stated that violence against women and girls is unacceptable under any circumstances (including self defence if being attacked by a female, I suppose) and inferred that violence against men and boys is fine.

    This is the sexist agenda pursued by the likes of Harriet Harman and Jacqui Smith, whilst male government ministers sit by, letting Mummy do whatever she wants!

    It's scary.

    ReplyDelete