Say what?

// 13 May 2009

Ever wondered what we’d get if “two of Britain’s most outspoken feminists” (Julies Bindel and Burchill) had a conversation in The Guardian’s G2? Let’s see…

Gender stereotyping?

[Burchill] I like men and get on much better with them one to one than I do women, who can be a bit emotional. But part of what makes a man a man is that he never takes offence!

Check. Cultural blindness and general Western arrogance?

[Burchill] On the whole, in the west, where feminism has made its mark…

Check. That combined with mocking other women?

[Burchill on the burkha] God created women to look like women; he didn’t create them to look like parrot cages with a nightshade chucked over it.

Check. More gender stereotyping?

[Bindel] I much prefer women to men. A lot of them are emotional cripples.

Check. But this time it’s funny ‘cos it’s men.

Yes, I get that this is all light hearted banter, but I still feel the need to stand up and say, ‘This ain’t my feminism’. And thanks for fuelling the anti-feminist trolls there, Grauniad.

I suggest you go read this piece on the results of the Fawcett Society’s investigation into women and the justice system instead.

Comments From You

Josie // Posted 13 May 2009 at 3:12 pm

Men never take offence???? I must tell that to my male partner, who could easily have a starring role in Grumpy Old Men!

I actually heartily agreed with Burchill’s comments re the burkha, particularly how offensive the concept is to men, who are assumed to be wild savages incapable of controlling themselves if they should catch a glimpse of female flesh or hair. Maybe it’s because I’m an atheist, but I had never before considered her viewpoint that the concept is also offensive to “the Creator” as it suggests that the human bodies he/she/it created are inherently sinful.

I didn’t read her description of the burkha as anti-women actually – I felt that she was mocking the idea that women should be made to look like stodgy uniform lumps rather than people who are able to express themselves by how they dress. But yes, far too many broad brush strokes and not enough thought in this conversation in general! And I usually LOVE Julie Bindel……

Laura // Posted 13 May 2009 at 3:20 pm

Hey Josie,

Yes, I agree with her point that saying women should cover up to stop sexual violence is offensive to men, but I think she’s taking a very simplistic view of why women cover up in this way. Yes, some are forced, yes it’s a product of a certain society, culture and religion, but I have read interesting, thoughtful and valid explanations from women who choose the burkha or lesser forms of veiling, and I don’t think it’s enough just to say it’s misogynistic. And whatever her intention behind the description of women wearing the burkha, she is basically saying they look silly. Which is pretty unnecessary I think!

Jennifer Drew // Posted 13 May 2009 at 3:53 pm

Yes the issue of women’s continued mistreatment and subjection to draconian sentencing is far more important than the Guardian engaging in trival ‘debates’ aimed at promoting claims women are their own worst enemies!

I note the numbers of women imprisoned continues to rise compared to the fact women predominantly commit non-violent crimes compared to men charged with violent offences. Neither must the fact that many women imprisoned have a history of complex problems which are not addressed by the prison system which was designed and set up by men for men – not women!

Hazel // Posted 13 May 2009 at 4:23 pm

Sigh. They are really are my least favourite feminists whose initials are JB.

Sabre // Posted 13 May 2009 at 4:32 pm

This is terrible! For one thing it read as totally boring and trivial. And also all the things that Laura Woodhouse points out.

It insults a whole range of women; generally for being ’emotional cripples’, women over 30 for not being attractive enough to Burchill, single people who are apparently not ‘particularly happy as a species’, women in burqas…

And what on earth is the ‘Islam-licking lobby’?

This ain’t my feminism either! As for the burqa-wearing women, she may not agree with it but there’s no need to insult the way women look in them – that’s classic shaming of women for not conforming to a perceived beauty standard!

The interview reads a bit like two people spoofing feminism. Weird. From the comments left on the Guardian site I think other people are just as baffled as me.

kandela // Posted 13 May 2009 at 4:57 pm

“I much prefer women to men. A lot of them are emotional cripples.”

I’m offended by this. Did it ever occur to JB that men are emotional cripples because the Patriarchy insists they repress their emotions? The patriarchy says, ‘You make the rest of us look weak if, as one of us, you show you are vulnerable. So you better not get emotional or we’ll really give you something to get emotional about!’

To say you don’t like men because they are emotional cripples is blaming the victim.

Julie Bindel // Posted 13 May 2009 at 5:01 pm

Chill out everyone, it was a bit of fun!

All best, Julie (Bindel)

Catherine Redfern // Posted 13 May 2009 at 5:07 pm

This is really depressing. :-(

Sarah // Posted 13 May 2009 at 5:23 pm

To Julie (if it is really she)

‘Chill out’, eh? A fine riposte, if ever there was one, to the thoughtful criticisms put forward. Now we’re the humourless feminist crew again, hmmm? The ‘just a bit of fun’ line is surely, SURELY, a mickey-take of misogynist, racist, homophobic etc. “comedians” and not a serious response?

Shazbat // Posted 13 May 2009 at 5:24 pm

I have to say, I was entertained by the sheer number of commenters that were deleted. CiF has a huge number of mysogynist commenters, and I could just imagine their heads exploding one after another, at the thought of not one but TWO bolshy feminists… Who can be taken to represent ALL FEMINISTS EVA in this case? Best dish out some bile…

No, I don’t agree with all of them. But I did find it interesting to have two women, both self-declared feminists, coming from completely different ideological backgrounds having a conversation. It saves time in having to justify feminism if both parties see the need for it to begin with. What’s with the Islamophobia however? Not impressed with that.

Hazel // Posted 13 May 2009 at 5:47 pm

Has Julie just won at bingo?

KJB // Posted 13 May 2009 at 6:55 pm

Wow, great minds think alike! I also saw this and blogged it on my blog:

http://gts-kjb.blogspot.com/2009/05/feminism-wept.html

Anne Onne // Posted 13 May 2009 at 7:51 pm

Not my feminism either. My feminism doesn’t reduce all Muslim women who don’t conform to a certain standard of western attire to a silly simile whilst imposing Western Feminism as the only one that exists.

My feminism recognises that women and men are not innately over emotional or emotional cripples respectively, and doesn’t turn the damage that the patriarchy does to both genders as a reason to hate one or the other, or those in between.

My feminism doesn’t confuse men clamming up and ‘never’ taking offence with men being emotionally balanced, reasoned individuals who are capable of gauging why they are offended, and if that stems from privilege or a real problem.

My feminism doesn’t think expressing emotions is an inherently bad thing, nor does it think women are lesser for having been brought up to express their emotions, especially considering young men are more likely to commit suicide.

My feminism doesn’t confuse violent criminals beating up other violent criminals as progress, when men have beat up other men over raping each other’s possessions for centuries of not longer.

My feminism doesn’t think that wanting to listen to Muslim women and what women’s issues they actually want progress in means that we have a ‘love-relationship between the British left and fascist Muslim fundamentalists.’. In fact, my feminism would rather that nobody presumes to speak for Muslim women rather than speak TO Muslim women. Then again, my feminism actually acknowledges that feminism exists outside the UK/US.

My feminism sees these issues as more than a laugh.

The rest of the article was fine if random conversations float your boat. It’s a pity that anything remotely feminist or political at all about it was a complete wreck of various patriarchical cliches, though.

If they were going to run a chat between two feminists, I could think of dozens of feminists who a) don’t spout misogyny/Islamophobia/racism blithely whilst ignoring the implications of what they’ve just said, as if being insulted in a ‘light hearted’ column makes it all OK (hint: It was just a joke isn’t an excuse for anyone older than around 8. Really. ). There are plenty of varied feminists out there, and this didn’t really do anything to show the diversity of feminism, or how feminists discuss any issues. If it set out to be more than a fluff piece chronicling small talk, it didn’t achieve it. A fluff piece isn’t inherently a bad thing, but if it’s trumpeted as the Big Deep Discussion Between Rival Feminists then it succeeds on each and every count.

We have no control over who labels themselves what, why they use that label, and whether they espouse anything embodied by the label. It’s problematic to say someone is ‘not a feminist’, so best to avid stooping to that.

However, actions themselves, and opinions can be analysed. and it can safely be said that nearly everything to do with women in that article was from an anti-feminist viewpoint.

BTW, in case this defense is churned out: satire fails if it’s not easily distinguished as being satire. If nobody on your ‘own side’ can tell that you’re not a troll, you get lumped in troll category. Tough, but that’s satire.

Milly // Posted 13 May 2009 at 8:01 pm

I was so disappointed when I read that guardian article.

The assumption seems to be that Bindel and Burchill’s personal opinions (which they’re perfectly entitled to) are automatically feminist truths because the two have somehow become ‘professional feminists’.

It gives the rest of us a bad name….

Rob M // Posted 13 May 2009 at 8:56 pm

Sabre: The interview reads a bit like two people spoofing feminism. Weird.

It’s written to piss people off, isn’t it? There’s no other reason for it to be there, and although I’m not that familiar with either of them, that seems to be at least Burchill’s stock in trade. “Look at ME, I’ve said something SHOCKING.” Yeah, well done, now try interesting or entertaining.

Legible Susan // Posted 13 May 2009 at 9:40 pm

It’s not my feminism either. I agree with most of what’s been said above – Anne Onne in particular hits the nail on the head!

Karen // Posted 14 May 2009 at 9:25 am

The trouble a lot of the time I think is that in order to get their piece of the newsprint, a lot of women journalists have to be “self-deprecating” (insulting to others of their gender) in order to be allowed by their male bosses to comment (as mentioned recently in a blog on this site). This is why I still think that we need to get even with a tabloid run totally by women, for women. Back in the 1930’s (I think, I could be wrong!) this was the Daily Mirrors role in life but anyone that opens it these day and sees the tacky reports on the latest pretty celebs, bloody Jordan and her ilk etc. can see that they are miles from where they once were and it aint good. So as a result with the Guardian, Currant Bun, the Daily Mysogynist etc, the best we can expect is some style of reporting like the Gospel According To Jeremy Clarkson. Just what we all need! Next time Julies, please engage brains, then pens in that order!

Kez // Posted 14 May 2009 at 10:07 am

Julie Burchill has made a successful career out of “saying the unsayable”, so frankly nothing she could come out with would surprise me.

To be honest I have never particularly perceived her as a feminist. Fair enough, she can define herself in whatever way she wants. But it’s always seemed to me that the only interests Julie Burchill is concerned about furthering are her own.

Anna M // Posted 14 May 2009 at 11:20 am

“emotional cripples” is nice ableism as well…

zohra // Posted 16 May 2009 at 1:09 am

Thanks for writing about this Laura. I was so annoyed at the ‘piece’, I didn’t even know where to begin.

Lisa Lainey Brown // Posted 1 June 2009 at 10:01 pm

What do you expect? It was in The ‘Moral’ Guardian. The single most vile, wretched sanctimonious and smug newspaper going

Kez // Posted 2 June 2009 at 10:45 am

Really, Lisa? The Guardian is viler, smugger and more sanctimonious (fab word, by the way) than the Mail, Express et al? Wow. Not my perception, I have to say (but then I can’t imagine anything on the planet being viler and smugger than those particular titles) but hey, you’re entitled to your opinion!

Lisa Lainey Brown // Posted 2 June 2009 at 6:56 pm

Hi Kez

Whilst I agree that The Daily Mail is truly awful, and I have no sympathy for its ‘somebody out there is having a good time… they must be stopped!’ kind of attitude, I think that The Guardian is guilty of producing some of the most hateful intellectual and educational snobbery I have ever come across…

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds