RE: Julie Bindel on “Fun Feminism” in the New Statesman

I read the New Statesman. There, I said it. I’ve outed myself as a dirty liberal. With that said, I don’t always agree with every sentiment presented in the paper, as is my prerogative, but more often than not I can find something of value in every article if I put my mind to it. Having said that, I’ve long since accepted that anything written by Laurie Penny should be taken as gospel, which I suppose says a lot about my personal politics (i.e. consider the words of anyone approved of by Warren Ellis as being nothing but sheer literary gold). But I found something recently that actually made my blood boil a little bit.

From The Staggers, the “rolling blog” of the New Statesman:

What is feminism? A political movement to overthrow male supremacy, according to us radicals. These days, however, young women (and men) are increasingly fed the line from “fun feminists” that it is about individual power, rather than a collective movement…

We need to bring back the radical edge to feminism, and do away with any notion that slutwalking, lap dancing, sex working or Burkha-wearing is liberation for women. If men like a particular brand of feminism, it means it is not working. “Fun feminism” should be consigned to the rubbish bin along with the Lib Dem party.

Now, lets get a few things plain from the start. I’ve always identified, in one way or another, as being a feminist of sorts. When pushed on the subject in the real world, I’ll make use of my go-to reply that I use when I’m asked if I subscribe to any political school of thought: “I don’t know, I haven’t done enough reading.” Clearly, the author, Julie Bindel, has done her reading, as she clearly identifies with very old school feminist theory. In short, I’m not going to pit my reading list against hers.

But I am kind of pissed off. Reading the whole article, I very quickly got the impression that it’s more of a rant about anyone who doesn’t fit in to the author’s hardline definition of a feminist activist. The author takes great liberties attaching the tagline of “faux” or “fun feminists” to anyone who doesn’t fit this bill.

Another thing that particularly gets my goat about the article is (and yes, before you start wondering, it’s that bit) she totally scoffs at the idea of inviting men to work within the movement. Now don’t worry, I get how silly that might sound, but hear me out. If feminism is really about closing the gender gap and having equal rights for both men and women, then why can’t men be fighting for it too? Surely (and stop me if you’ve heard this one before) that’s not the best way to combat the classic stereotype of the man-hating feminazi?

But there’s something else here that really annoys me more than anything. Now, I understand that feminism is, primarily, a movement by which all women are able to work for their collective empowerment. That I get. But the author scoffs at the notion that feminism is also about personal freedom and liberty for women. She lambastes her “slutwalking, lap dancing, sex working or Burkha-wearing” comrades for choosing to do something they find personally empowering. I’m sorry, but you can probably guess what that sounds like to me.

Male privilege needs to be questioned and overthrown. Equality rights and privileges need to be achieved for people of all genders, no matter their class or race. These old walls need to be torn down. But if a movement shuns the notion that its members should strive for their own personal liberation, then what good is it?

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