“Feminism is for everyone” is the sixth article in Julie Bindel’s online column for The Critic, “Feminist fallacies”, which explores modern-day myths about the women’s liberation movement. The fifth article, “Women need to calm down”, can be read here.
Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man — Margaret Mead
Who is feminism for? Everyone, apparently, if we are to accept the word of the liberals. Men and women. And not just people; feminism is here to respond to the climate crisis, the re-emergence of fascism, animal abuse and the nuclear weapons industry.
Or could it be that feminism is for women? I know it feels like an edgy, radical stance to take in the current climate, where we are constantly fed nonsense about how men will be the main beneficiaries of this movement, but the truth of the matter is that feminism is the only social justice movement on the planet that centres women and girls.
Black, indigenous and women of colour have pointed out on a regular basis that men dominate social justice movements to tackle racism and colonialism.
Who else will prioritise the rights of women if feminists don’t?
“We have to fight racism, police abuse against our people, and the men in our community that deny us a voice,” says Bridget Perrier, an indigenous Canadian sex trade survivor who talks about men feeling threatened that women have a movement of our own. “That’s why feminism exists,” says Perrier, “because we are invisible in all the other social justice movements.”
Why is it that feminism is supposed to prioritise every other issue before pursuing its own objective: women’s liberation? This movement centres women and girls and that is — and has to be — at the core of any meaningful definition of feminism.
Why, then, do so many women insist that feminism is as much for the benefit of men as it is women? It is clearly not the case; although some men are less concerned than others in terms of the inevitable loss of power and privilege they would experience post-women’s liberation, a feminist revolution would mean an end to patriarchy.
However many men also suffer under the current system — bullied for not being “real men”; having to adopt a macho persona to fit in; and terrified to show any vulnerability — they still benefit from it more than they lose.
Having seen the way so many women bend over backwards to placate and reassure men that feminism is for the good of everyone, I can’t help but conclude that this is about seeking male approval.
Julia Gilliard, former prime Minister of Australia whose 2012 “misogyny” speech in response to a sexist colleague went viral, is, despite her kick-ass stance on women’s rights, is also partial to a bit of man-pandering at times.
“Men have always played critical roles in the women’s movement,” she wrote in a newspaper column in 2019. “From John Stuart Mill to Fredrick Douglass, male allies have long supported the struggle for gender equality. And today there are plenty of men who are proud feminists — just ask Andy Murray, who hired and championed a female coach, Amélie Mauresmo; or Ryan Gosling, who has become something of a feminist icon. But there is still a long way to go, and we’ll only get there by drawing more men into the conversation.”
The idea that these men are viewed as shining “feminist icons”, just because they don’t tell women to get back into the kitchen, seems outrageous. How on earth can Gilliard argue that we won’t get anywhere unless more men are involved?
Women have been conditioned to put men before ourselves. The problem with framing feminism as a movement for everyone is that women will continue to undermine their own quest for liberation. Who else will prioritise the rights of women if feminists don’t?
Feminism is for women. If the feminism you practice appeals to men, ask yourself what you are doing wrong.
Julie Bindel’s latest book, Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation (Constable, Robinson), was published on 2 September 2021.
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