I have a pretty much hate-hate relationship with feminist-identified-feminist Julie Bindel, who I’ve previously been cross with for transphobia and biphobia. Bindel belongs to a certain faction of feminism which, as Roz Kaveney identifies, behaves like a cult, with some fascistic overtones.
Upon seeing this tweet from Bindel, therefore, I experienced that emotion with no name, which is shock without surprise. It was something simultaneously jaw-droppingly horrid, and completely in keeping with her track record:
Those women that proclaim “I’m not a feminist” should be paid less than men, have no maternity benefits, no access to refuges, and no vote.
That’s right. Unless we all renounce patriarchy and come into the light of feminism, we should apparently be immediately immiserated and disenfranchised. While in this 140-characters-or-fewer, Bindel doesn’t spell out a road map for how this goal would be achieved, there’s not a pleasant way of systematically immiserating and disenfranchising people.
Bindel has helped survivors of domestic violence before. Taking her point to its logical conclusion, will she ask each and every one of them whether they are a feminist, and if they say no–and remember, a lot of women do not identify as feminist–would she turn around to them and send them back to their abusive partners? Because this is what she is saying.
There is also the problem of women that Bindel has decided are not feminists: the trans women, the sex workers, the bi women and so forth. Are these women to be systematically immiserated and disenfranchised because Bindel doesn’t agree with them? This is what she is arguing.
It’s hardly a surprise when some women don’t want to assume the feminist identity if we have people like Bindel spouting such rhetoric, advocating not just for continuing oppression of women, but to increase it punitively.
The thing is, Bindel’s strain of feminism is so dated and fails to include vast swathes of women and women’s experience, that the only way to recruit more people into this mode of being is through threats of systemic violence. If you can’t get them to join you, beat them.
I long for a day when Bindel becomes a thoroughly irrelevant voice howling into the void, but that is not yet. The mainstream media consider her a voice of feminism, and for as long as she is marked as a representative of us, this circus will go on. Feminism must not be about replication of oppressive structures, but about their complete destruction.
By that token, Bindel is probably not a feminist. But that doesn’t mean she should be oppressed.
ETA: Bindel has clarified her remark with a further tweet, pointing out it meant exactly the thing I thought it meant. It totally isn’t fair enough.
ETA2: Julie Bindel has replied, using the “it’s just banter” defence. Her Twitter bio may say she’s not a fun feminist, but apparently I’m just humourless:
@stavvers in what way is saying you hate me polite? Not only have you had irony/humour bypass you appear to be getting a bit obsessed w me!
I’m not entirely sure when Julie Bindel started writing for lad mags, but if that makes her happy then good for her.