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The meaning of the F-word: Making better choices

Julie Bindel, activist and writer

I consider it a priority to challenge the libertarians on the notion of women's "choice". Today, we can apparently "choose" to work as prostitutes, wear a niqab with just the eyes visible through a slit, give up a fulfilling career to have and raise children, get married and keep the "obey" bit in the vows, become porn stars, join pole-dancing classes, have breast enlargement, labiaplasty and other forms of cosmetic surgery, drink men under the table, raise girls on The Great Big Glorious Book for Girls and boys on The Dangerous Book for Boys, sexually harass men at work, have loads of unprotected sex, denounce feminism as irrelevant nonsense, go to lap-dancing clubs with male colleagues, ogle male strippers at "ladies' nights", produce lesbian porn, adopt a fundamentalist religious position, send your daughter to have her clitoris removed and vaginal opening stitch­ed up in preparation for marriage, and other "freedoms" too numerous to mention. Interestingly, in the heyday of feminism, these freedoms were perceived as bad for women.

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This article first appeared in the 12 March 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The weaker sex

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Labour tensions boil over at fractious MPs' meeting

Corbyn supporters and critics clash over fiscal charter U-turn and new group Momentum. 

"A total fucking shambles". That was the verdict of the usually emollient Ben Bradshaw as he left tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. His words were echoed by MPs from all wings of the party. "I've never seen anything like it," one shadow minister told me. In commitee room 14 of the House of Commons, tensions within the party - over the U-turn on George Osborne's fiscal charter and new Corbynite group Momentum - erupted. 

After a short speech by Jeremy Corbyn, shadow chancellor John McDonnell sought to explain his decision to oppose Osborne's fiscal charter (having supported it just two weeks ago). He cited the change in global economic conditions and the refusal to allow Labour to table an amendment. McDonnell also vowed to assist colleagues in Scotland in challenging the SNP anti-austerity claims. But MPs were left unimpressed. "I don't think I've ever heard a weaker round of applause at the PLP than the one John McDonnell just got," one told me. MPs believe that McDonnell's U-turn was due to his failure to realise that the fiscal charter mandated an absolute budget surplus (leaving no room to borrow to invest), rather than merely a current budget surplus. "A huge joke" was how a furious John Mann described it. He and others were outraged by the lack of consultation over the move. "At 1:45pm he [McDonnell] said he was considering our position and would consult with the PLP and the shadow cabinet," one MP told me. "Then he announces it before 6pm PLP and tomorow's shadow cabinet." 

When former shadow cabinet minister Mary Creagh asked Corbyn about the new group Momentum, which some fear could be used as a vehicle to deselect critical MPs (receiving what was described as a weak response), Richard Burgon, one of the body's directors, offered a lengthy defence and was, one MP said, "just humiliated". He added: "It looked at one point like they weren't even going to let him finish. As the fractious exchanges were overheard by journalists outside, Emily Thornberry appealed to colleagues to stop texting hacks and keep their voices down (within earshot of all). 

After a calmer conference than most expected, tonight's meeting was evidence of how great the tensions within Labour remain. Veteran MPs described it as the worst PLP gathering for 30 years. The fear for all MPs is that they have the potential to get even worse. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.