Why "fun feminism" should be consigned to the rubbish bin

If men like a particular brand of feminism, it means it is not working.

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.

Caitlin Moran, whose best-selling book has made her into one of the country's best-known fun feminists, is an apologist for porn and wasted an opportunity during a feminist debate on Newsnight to joke about cardigans. The writer Natasha Walter claims that being able to wear trousers and drink beer on her own means sexism is dead, and other "feminist-lite" types can be found blogging nonsense about the need to include men in our movement and not offending the poor dears with mentions of rape and domestic violence.

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.

I am tired of being told by so-called third-wavers that my feminism is fascist, old hat, irrelevant and man hating. It is nothing personal to me; just that feminism is something that has been central to my life since I was a teenager. I do not want to see its radical edge co-opted by over-privileged, self-serving faux feminists.

These "fun feminists", who have little or no idea about the theory or practice of this movement, take advantage of the benefits that radicals have fought long and hard for, whilst contributing nothing. In fact, they are damaging to other women, and are destroying progress won by those of us who do not weep when men disapprove of our views.

So keen are the funbots on not upsetting men, they betray those second wavers who made great sacrifices to break the silence on male violence towards women. Heterosexual women know full well that most men run a mile away from proper, radical feminism, so they chose to spout the type of nonsense about lipstick and burlesque that the boys just love to hear.

It is not enough to call yourself a feminist because you are a strong woman. Thatcher was an enemy to feminism, as is Nadine Dorries. Like other liberation movements, feminism has an ideology and a goal. It is not about personal liberty and freedom, but the emancipation from oppression and tyranny for ALL women, whatever our race or class.

Some younger activists are radical in their approach, such as those who organise the annual Reclaim the Night marches across the UK, but increasingly, so-called feminist blogs are full of articles on how radicals are responsible for creating an image of feminism as being "against men". Did anyone notice white people, who were by definition responsible for the introduction and maintenance of apartheid in South Africa, being placated and excused by black civil rights activists? Do members of the hard-left doff their caps at the ruling classes in the hope that they will "keep them on board"?

During a panel discussion at a feminist conference last year there was a massive kerfuffle when the critic Bidisha dared to suggest that being a feminist is belonging to the "girl's team". Imagine white folk telling black anti-racist activists that their movement is ineffective because white people are not given equal say about strategies for change.

"Fun feminism" isn't feminism at all. It is about the rights of the individual. In the "fun feminist" world, anything goes, no matter how destructive or harmful it may be to the individual or to women as a class.

For heterosexual women, feminism can be a nightmare. Women are the only oppressed group who are expected to love their oppressor. But please stop trying to play nice. Until we overthrow male supremacy and admit that male power is the problem, not radical feminism, nothing will change.

Julie Bindel is a journalist and feminist campaigner. She tweets at @bindelj

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Show Hide image

What Donald Trump could learn from Ronald Reagan

Reagan’s candidacy was built on more than his celebrity. Trump not only lacks experience as an elected official, he isn’t part of any organised political movement.

“No one remembers who came in second.” That wisdom, frequently dispensed by the US presidential candidate Donald Trump, came back to haunt him this week. Trump’s loss in the Iowa Republican caucuses to the Texas senator Ted Cruz, barely beating Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for second place, was the first crack in a campaign that has defied all expectations.

It has been a campaign built on Trump’s celebrity. Over the past eight months, his broad name recognition, larger-than-life personality and media savvy have produced a theatrical candidacy that has transfixed even those he repels. The question now is whether that celebrity will be enough – whether a man so obsessed with being “Number One” can bounce back from defeat.

Iowa isn’t everything, after all. It didn’t back the eventual Republican nominee in 2008 or 2012. Nor, for that matter, in 1980, when another “celebrity” candidate was in the mix. That was the year Iowa picked George H W Bush over Ronald Reagan – the former actor whom seasoned journalists dismissed as much for his right-wing views as for his “B-movie” repertoire. But Reagan regrouped, romped to victory in the New Hampshire primary and rode a wave of popular support all the way to the White House.

Trump might hope to replicate that success and has made a point of pushing the Reagan analogy more generally. Yet it is a comparison that exposes Trump’s weaknesses and his strengths.

Both men were once Democrats who came later in life to the Republican Party, projecting toughness, certainty and unabashed patriotism. Trump has even adopted Reagan’s 1980 campaign promise to “make America great again”. Like Reagan, he has shown he can appeal to evangelicals despite question marks over his religious conviction and divorces. In his ability to deflect criticism, too, Trump has shown himself as adept as Reagan – if by defiance rather than by charm – and redefined what it means to be “Teflon” in the age of Twitter.

That defiance, however, points to a huge difference in tone between Reagan’s candidacy and Trump’s. Reagan’s vision was a positive, optimistic one, even as he castigated “big government” and the perceived decline of US power. Reagan’s America was meant to be “a city upon a hill” offering a shining example of liberty to the world – in rhetoric at least. Trump’s vision is of an America closed off from the world. His rhetoric invokes fear as often as it does freedom.

On a personal level, Reagan avoided the vituperative attacks that have been the hallmark of Trump’s campaign, even as he took on the then“establishment” of the Republican Party – a moderate, urban, east coast elite. In his first run for the nomination, in 1976, Reagan even challenged an incumbent Republican president, Gerald Ford, and came close to defeating him. But he mounted the challenge on policy grounds, advocating the so-called “Eleventh Commandment”: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Trump, as the TV debates between the Republican presidential candidates made clear, does not subscribe to the same precept.

More importantly, Reagan in 1976 and 1980 was the leader of a resurgent conservative movement, with deep wells of political experience. He had been president of the Screen Actors Guild in the late 1940s, waging a campaign to root out communist infiltrators. He had gone on to work for General Electric in the 1950s as a TV pitchman and after-dinner speaker, honing a business message that resonated beyond the “rubber chicken circuit”.

In 1964 he grabbed headlines with a televised speech on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater – a bright spot in Goldwater’s otherwise ignominious campaign. Two years later he was elected governor of California – serving for eight years as chief executive of the nation’s most populous state. He built a conservative record on welfare reform, law and order, and business regulation that he pushed on to the federal agenda when he ran for president.

All this is to say that Reagan’s candidacy was built on more than his celebrity. By contrast, Trump not only lacks experience as an elected official, he isn’t part of any organised political movement – which enhanced his “outsider” status, perhaps, but not his ground game. So far, he has run on opportunism, tapping in to popular frustration, channelled through a media megaphone.

In Iowa, this wasn’t enough. To win the nomination he will have to do much more to build his organisation. He will be hoping that in the primaries to come, voters do remember who came in second. 

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war