Thursday 1 December 2011

But they do such good work...

Today I'll just be the grumpy feminist, sitting over here in the corner complaining about charity at Christmastime. How many times have you heard this:

"Oh, I obviously don't like a lot of the things [Charity] stands for, but, you know, they do such good work..."

The idea of good work and of charity generally, is fraught with issues as well, but there's something more specific happening here. There's a division presented between the practical, on the ground, real charity stuff - soup kitchens, emergency accommodation, addiction treatment or whatever. That's concrete and real. The other stuff - homophobia, transphobia, ableism, misogyny etc - that's not nice, but it's purely theoretical and we really should be focused on the important things here. It's not like it makes any difference in practice...

...except it does. Even when charity provisions don't actively discriminate - and sometimes they do, with horrendous consequences - you can be sure that there will be a lot of people who don't feel safe using their services. The people who are discriminated against are both more likely to be in the groups that need services provided by charities, and likely to be in a more difficult situation than many others needing those services.

It's also not the case - as some people assume - that the choice is between having, say, a homeless shelter which isn't accessible to everyone, or no shelter at all. Such services are often partially government funded - the need for them is already recognised; it's simply a case of who the contract goes to. And I like to think that as a society we do see the need for solutions - or at least ambulances at bottoms of cliffs - to these issues, even if not as much or as soon as I'd like.

This isn't a division between real physically tangible things or some fluffy abstract principle. This is about whether kids who can no longer live safely at home get to sleep in appropriate accommodation or on the streets. It's about whether people are able to eat in an environment in which they feel safe, or have to weigh that up versus going hungry. It's about whether people abused by carers have a way out or whether the abuse of them is reinforced. It's about whether can access free counseling that is appropriate to them, or whether they get increasingly and more dangerously desperate. The identities of  the people who need them don't make that food or that roof any less concrete, any less needed.

You may or may not have the ability or inclination to donate money. You may feel that it is better going to places that aren't charities in the usual sense of the word (a reminder that CMP meatworkers are still locked out). But if you do chose to make a charitable donation, please make sure that it is to a group that is genuinely in line with your beliefs, and not pushing us two steps backward for every one they take forwards.

No comments: