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As a man with no daughters, here are my views on feminism

Are women even human? How can we be sure? 

When I read news stories about sexual harassment, rape culture or mansplaining, I find myself completely and utterly unmoved. There is a reason for this. I – unlike the men who loudly declare that they deplore sexism because they are the father of daughters – have no daughters. And as a man with no daughters, I am completely incapable of feeling any empathy towards any woman whatsoever.

It’s not that women have played no role in my life. One of my great formative influences was my mother, who not only fed and clothed me but went so far as to grow me in her womb, and even gave birth to me. I have always appreciated the kindness she showed towards me, in large part because I did not wish to spend my childhood hungry, naked or never being born at all. Thank you, mother, for spawning me. You have been a great help.

Today many of my own colleagues are women, too – and despite being women, many of them even have jobs. Isn’t that great? I have yet to learn which of them is which – I think one of them might be blonde? – but the important thing is that I recognise that they are people with whom I work and who also happen to be women. Let us give them all a big hand.

Perhaps my greatest claim to understand that some human beings are women is that my own wife is one: both a human being, and a woman. Yes! I, a man, am in fact married to a woman. So you will see, the idea that I could be in any way sexist is laughable. What could be more feminist than to be married to a living, breathing female?

And yet, despite being conscious of all these women, and even sometimes brave enough to speak with them, I find I am unable to feel any empathy towards women as a class. I am unsure, indeed, that they even exist at all. I am confident that I exist, because I know that I can feel emotions, like joy and pain and the Piccadilly Line. But can women feel emotions of their own? How can we know? How can any of us truly know?

Are women even human? And if they are, why was Katy Arbour so mean to me in the playground that time when I asked her out in the autumn of 1994? Why did she get everyone to laugh at my hair?

Soon there will be war. Millions will burn. Millions will perish in sickness and misery. Why does one death matter against so many?

While I feel no empathy for women at the moment, I believe that this would change were I to produce female offspring of my own. That is because my daughter would not simply be a woman: she would be my own, miniature woman, grown from the seed of the homunculi which lie waiting in my loins.

I would thus expect the world to respect her – partly because of my natural, parental impulse to protect her, and partly because of my equally natural impulse to view her primarily as an extension of myself rather than a human being in her own right.

“Women deserve respect!” I would say. “Because some of them might be my daughter!” This is how men speak when we wish to show that we are good men.

One may argue that my feelings for my wife or mother or friends or colleagues or, hell, just not being a sociopath, should mean that I can conceive of women as people – human beings who deserve respect, just as much as a real person like myself. To which I would respond: Bernie would have won.

Hillary Clinton should shut up.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Brexit. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo: Getty
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Commons Confidential: Tories turn on “Lord Snooty”

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

With the Good Friday Agreement’s 20th anniversary rapidly approaching, Jeremy Corbyn’s office is scrambling to devise a celebration that doesn’t include Tony Blair. Peace in Northern Ireland is a sparkling jewel in the former prime minister’s crown, perhaps the most precious legacy of the Blair era. But peace in Labour is more elusive. Comrade Corbyn’s plot to airbrush the previous party leader out of the picture is personal. Refusing to share a Brexit referendum platform with Blair and wishing to put him in the dock over Iraq were political. Northern Ireland is more intimate: Corbyn was pilloried for IRA talks and Blair threatened to withdraw the whip after the Islington North MP met Gerry Adams before the 1997 election. The Labour plan, by the way, is to keep the celebrations real – focusing on humble folk, not grandees such as Blair.

Beleaguered Tory Europeans call Brextremist backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg – the hard-line European Research Group’s even harder line no-dealer – “Lord Snooty” behind his back. The Edwardian poshie, who orchestrates Theresa May’s taxpayer-funded Militant Tendency (members of the Brexit party within a party are able to claim “research” fees on expenses), is beginning to grate. My irritated snout moaned that the Beano was more fun and twice as informative as the Tories’ own Lord Snooty.

Labour’s Brexit fissures are getting bigger but Remainers are also far from united. I’m told that Andy Slaughter MP is yet to forgive Chuka Umunna for an “ill-timed” pro-EU amendment to last June’s Queen’s Speech, which led to Slaughter’s sacking from the front bench for voting to stay in the single market. The word is that a looming customs union showdown could trigger more Labexits unless Jezza embraces tariff-free trade.

Cold war warriors encouraging a dodgy Czech spy to smear Comrade Corbyn couldn’t be further from the truth about his foreign adventures. In Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Corbyn recalled spending a night in Burundi pumping up footballs. The club offered to donate shirts for an aid trip but he asked for the balls to be shared by entire African villages. He was War on Want, not Kim Philby.

Screaming patriot Andrew Rosindell, the chairman of an obscure flags and heraldry committee, is to host a lecture in parliament on the Union Jack. I once witnessed the Romford Tory MP dress Buster, his bull terrier, in a flag waistcoat to greet Maggie Thatcher. She walked past without noticing.

A Tory MP mused that Iain Duncan Smith was nearly nicknamed “Smithy”, not “IDS”, for his 2001 leadership campaign. Smithy would still have proved a lousy commander.

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 22 February 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Sunni vs Shia