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

Getty
Show Hide image

As it turns out, the Bake Off and the Labour party have a lot in common

And I'm not just talking about the fact they've both been left with a old, wrinkly narcissist.

I wonder if Tom Watson and Paul Hollywood are the same person? I have never seen them in the same room together – neither in the devil’s kitchen of Westminster, nor in the heavenly Great British Bake Off marquee. Now the Parliamentary Labour Party is being forced to shift to the ­political equivalent of Channel 4, and the Cake Meister is going with. As with the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, so with Bake Off: the former presenters have departed, leaving behind the weird, judgemental, wrinkly old narcissist claiming the high ground of loyalty to the viewers – I mean members.

Is the analogy stretched, or capable of being still more elasticised? Dunno – but what I do know is that Bake Off is some weird-tasting addictive shit! I resisted watching it at all until this season, and my fears were justified. When I took the first yummy-scrummy bite, I was hooked even before the camera had slid across the manicured parkland and into that mad and misty realm where a couple of hours is a long time . . . in baking, as in contemporary British politics. It’s a given, I know, that Bake Off is a truer, deeper expression of contemporary Britain’s animating principle than party, parliament, army or even monarch. It is our inner Albion, reached by crossing the stormy sound of our own duodenums. Bake Off is truer to its idea of itself than any nation state – or mythical realm – could ever be, and so inspires a loyalty more compelling.

I have sensed this development from afar. My not actually watching the programme adds, counterintuitively, to the perspicacity of my analysis: I’m like a brilliant Kremlinologist, confined to the bowels of Bletchley Park, who nonetheless sifts the data so well that he knows when Khrushchev is constipated. Mmm, I love cake! So cried Marjorie Dawes in Little Britain when she was making a mockery of the “Fatfighters” – and it’s this mocking cry that resounds throughout contemporary Britain: mmm! We love cake! We love our televisual cake way more than real social justice, which, any way you slice it, remains a pie in the sky – and we love Bake Off’s mixing bowl of ethnicity far more than we do a melting pot – let alone true social mobility. Yes, Bake Off stands proxy for the Britain we’d like to be, but that we can’t be arsed to get off our arses and build, because we’re too busy watching people bake cakes on television.

It was Rab Butler, Churchill’s surprise choice as chancellor in the 1951 Tory government, who popularised the expression “the national cake” – and our new, immaterial national cake is a strange sort of wafer, allowing all of us who take part in Paul’s-and-Mary’s queered communion to experience this strange transubstantiation: the perfect sponge rising, as coal is once more subsidised and the railways renationalised.

Stupid, blind, improvident Tom Watson, buggering off like that – his battles with the fourth estate won’t avail him when it comes to the obscurity of Channel 4. You’ll find yourself sitting there alone in your trailer, Tom, neatly sculpting your facial hair, touching up your maquillage with food colouring – trying to recapture another era, when goatees and Britannia were cool, and Tony and Gordon divided the nation’s fate along with their polenta. Meanwhile, Mel and Sue – and, of course, Mary – will get on with the serious business of baking a patriotic sponge that can be evenly divided into 70 million pieces.

That Bake Off and the Labour Party should collapse at exactly the same time suggests either that the British oven is too cold or too hot, or that the recipe hasn’t been followed properly. Mary Berry has the charisma that occludes charisma: you look at her and think, “What’s the point of that?” But then, gradually, her quiet conviction in her competence starts to win you over – and her judgements hit home hard. Too dense, she’ll say of the offending comestible, her voice creaking like the pedal of the swing-bin that you’re about to dump your failed cake in.

Mary never needed Paul – hers is no more adversarial a presenting style than that of Mel and Sue. Mary looks towards a future in which there is far more direct and democratic cake-judging, a future in which “television personality” is shown up for the oxymoron it truly is. That she seems to be a furious narcissist (I wouldn’t be surprised if either she’s had a great deal of “work”, or she beds down in a wind tunnel every night, so swept are her features) isn’t quite as contradictory as you might imagine. Out there on the margins of British cookery for decades, baking cakes for the Flour Advisory Board (I kid you not), taking a principled stand on suet, while the entire world is heading in one direction, towards a globalised, neoliberal future of machine-made muffins – she must have had a powerful ­degree of self-belief to keep on believing in filo pastry for everyone.

So now, what will emerge from the oven? Conference has come and gone, and amateur bakers have banged their heads against the wall of the tent: a futile exercise, I’m sure you’ll agree. Will Jeremy – I’m sorry, Mary – still be able to produce a show-stopper? Will Mel and Sue and Angela and Hilary all come sneaking back, not so much shriven as proved, so that they, too, can rise again? And what about poor Tom – will he try to get a Labour Party cookery show of his own going, despite the terrible lack of that most important ingredient: members?

It’s so hard to know. It could be that The Great British Bake Off has simply reached its sell-by date and is no longer fit for consumption. Or it could be that Tom is the possessor of his alter ego’s greatest bête noire, one as fatal in politics as it is in ­bakery, to whit: a soggy bottom. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.