Feminist fallacies: Equality benefits everyone
For feminism to be effective, women and girls need to demand our rights and not rely on men to hand them over
“Equality benefits everyone” is the third article in Julie Bindel’s new online column for The Critic, “Feminist fallacies”, which explores modern-day myths about the women’s liberation movement. The second article, “Men can be feminists”, can be read here.
The Women’s Equality Party, which bends over backwards to please and appease men, has the strapline on its website, “Equality for women isn’t a women’s issue. When women fulfil their potential, everyone benefits.”
Selling feminism to men by promising them that they will directly benefit is one of the problems with equality feminism. Yes, a world in which women are no longer socially, politically, and legally inferior to men will be a better place for everyone in the long term, but to begin with, boys, this is going to hurt.
How can we spout the mantra “equal rights for everyone!” without knowing what or whom “everyone” would be equal to? Equality needs a default position, and when we talk about so-called women’s rights, the default position is being a man. This might sound like semantics, but equality simply cannot work for everyone.
The last thing feminism is supposed to do is accommodate demands for ‘more equality’ for men
If women strove for, and won, “equality” with men, nothing in men’s behaviour would need to change and the status quo would be upheld. Let’s think about it. If 50 per cent of all MPs in the House of Commons were female, whose voice would dominate? How would it all be nice and equal when the blokes will be confidently braying above the sound of women desperate to be heard? Equality would only mean that women could behave as appallingly as men often do.
The job of feminism is to end male dominance and women’s oppression — not to enable women to join the boys’ club. The fact that men feel entitled to get the best jobs, leave domestic work and childcare to women, and pontificate about whether women should be “allowed” to access abortion and contraception shows that equality could never work.
We need to change male behaviour in order to be truly liberated.
Take the issue of pornography, for example, which is a cause and consequence of women’s inequality and oppression. Would it help matters if equal amounts of pornography featured the same number of men being abused, humiliated and harmed, and if women consumed porn in equal numbers to men?
And what about rape and domestic violence? Would equality mean that such atrocities towards women and girls disappear? Of course not — women would simply be entitled to behave in the same awful way as the worst of men. In Nordic countries, where women have almost total financial and political equality with men, male violence against women is off the charts.
We need to dismantle the power structures built by men
The aim of the women’s movement is to liberate all women from the tyranny of oppression. The last thing feminism is supposed to do is accommodate demands for “more equality” for men, as many an employment tribunal has heard. That’s right: men regularly use sex discrimination and equality legislation to complain about their “unequal treatment”. In one case a male gynaecologist was awarded compensation and an apology for the “discrimination” he suffered by not being allowed to conduct intimate examinations without a chaperone present.
In her brilliant albeit depressing book The End Of Equality (2014), Beatrix Campbell explains that in the UK, from the 1960s to the 2000s, men’s core daily domestic work — cooking and cleaning — increased by a rate of about one minute per day, per year. Progress on all equality measures — including the division of labour in the home, civil liberties for women across the Global South, and so on — has either stalled or reversed. Violence against women is a global pandemic: for example, one woman dies every three days at the hands of a violent partner in the UK.
Power is rarely — if ever — relinquished voluntarily. It has to be taken. Therefore, equality is a fallacy and can never be achieved until women have liberation. We need to dismantle the power structures built by men. We need to take an axe to the table rather than politely ask for a seat at it.
For feminism to be effective, women and girls need to demand our rights and not rely on men to hand them over. Women that strive for equality are lacking imagination. It’s liberation or bust.
Julie Bindel’s latest book, Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation (Constable, Robinson), is out 2 September 2021.
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