Julie Bindel’s Feminism for Women journal – equality is not enough | Company books

IIt’s been over 40 years since 17-year-old Julie Bindel turned out to be a lesbian and signed up as a feminist, the two sons who have run like a double helix in her personal and professional life. Since the late 1970s, she has been a researcher, journalist and spokesperson for women around the world, with a particular focus on those who are victims of male violence. Bindel is a veteran of the 1980s feminist campaigns against pornography, a co-founder of Justice for Women, which works for women convicted of murdering violent partners, and an advocate for women and girls around the world who have been raped, trafficked and prostituted. .

The use of the word “prostitution” is crucial here for Bindel, who shatters the fact that the term has been supplanted by “sex work”. Although it seems less critical, she argues that this linguistic whitewashing serves to erase the material conditions – poverty, racism, chronic inequality in health – which force women to rent their bodies in often dangerous and degrading circumstances. . In short, it is a question of applying a neoliberal gloss, with its attractive language of “choice”, to a situation which is in reality only coercive.

For Bindel, this repackaging is a symptom of how liberation feminism (second wave feminism, the genre she cut her teeth on in the early 1980s) has been eroded since the 1990s by feminism from the early 1980s. ‘equality. Feminism for equality is market driven, overly concerned about the number of women on the boards of FTSE companies and complacent about the dangers women continue to face at the hands of men. One of her most disturbing examples concerns the normalization of sexual violence: more than a third of UK women under 40 have experienced unwanted choking, slapping and gagging during consensual sex. So it’s no coincidence that there has been a marked increase in the defense of “rough sex” used by men to get away with murder. Too often, Bindel argues, egalitarian feminism obscures the desires and interests of men.

Bindel isn’t a fancy writer, but they’re not fancy things. She uses statistics, interviews, and her own experience to build a narrative of how she thinks the progress made in women’s lives over the past 40 years is set back. What is the point, she asks, of “empowerment” in a Britain where such a small percentage of reported rapes result in conviction? And how is it anything other than deeply damaging, literally shameful, that young teens learn about sex through pornography on their phones?

There is, of course, something else, something more. Over the past few years, Bindel has grown into a controversial, often platformless figure spitting out both on social media and on the streets. Anger is primarily a response to her insistence that there is a material basis for sexual difference that cannot be erased. Or, to put it another way, she doesn’t believe that what she calls a “feeling” can make a man a woman. How, asks Bindel, can we prevent such a person from causing discomfort and even danger in spaces reserved for women, including shelters and prisons as well as gyms and locker rooms? Trans people and their supporters, in turn, say her arguments are alarmist, especially when opposed to the violence they endure on a daily basis.

Bindel is not entirely innocent of baiting the opposition, at least on the evidence of this book. Calling trans activists “Queer Isis” like she does at one point seems like a deliberate provocation, no matter how hurt she has been. Yet behind it you feel that Bindel’s predominant sentiment is one of overwhelming regret for having come to this, with the progressive left viciously crumbling rather than uniting to fight escalating social injustice. based on gender. “Let’s build a feminist movement based on solidarity,” she writes, “as opposed to conflict and bigotry”. On this point, it is difficult to disagree.

Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation is published by Little, Brown (£ 16.99). Support the Guardian and the Observer by a copy at guardbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.


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