‘Fun Feminism’: In Defence of Radical Feminism

I love Julie Bindel. I don’t always agree with everything she says but she makes me think which is a precious gift in a society driven by Patriarchal media-soundbites which erase the voices of those who don’t conform and labels them stupid to boot. Bindel, along with Bidisha, Cath Elliot, and Samira Ahmed are some of my favourite journalists because they don’t play the Handmaiden game.

Not everyone feels quite the same love I do as evidenced by this article in the New Stateman making the rounds on Twitter. Again. It is simply a brief outline of the difference between Second Wave Radical Feminism and the, unfortunately, increasingly popular “fun feminism”, otherwise known as Third Wave Feminism. The difference being, according to Bindel, that the former is a:

A political movement to overthrow male supremacy, according to us radicals. These days, however, young women (and men) are increasingly fed the line from “fun feminists” that it is about individual power, rather than a collective movement.

Radical Feminism is anti-porn not anti-sex as the Third Wavers dismissively suggest. We do not believe that women’s liberation is about “choice” and that individual “choices” must be respected irregardless of the harm they cause other women. The “choice” to do Burlesque only exists if you have the education and status to be “risque”. Burlesque isn’t a “risque” activity though. It is one that clearly has negative consequences for women who work in the sex industry due to poverty, addiction, and lack of alternate possibilities. Radical Feminism is about freeing women from male oppression and violence. Lap-dancing isn’t a route to women’s liberation; neither is prostitution. These are lies perpetuated by The Patriarchy. We are not man-haters. If anything, Radical Feminists are the ones who believe that men are actually capable of empathy and humanity and aren’t just animals ruled by their cocks.

“Fun Feminism” is why Terri White wound up as an assistant editor at Nuts magazine rating young women, barely into adulthood, on their breasts without any consideration to the harm she was perpetuating. “Fun Feminism” is why Caitlin Moran can claim, without even the barest hint of irony, that “beauty regimes” and housework aren’t Feminist issues. “Fun Feminism” is the reason why we are required to preface any discussion of violence against women with the statement “obviously all men aren’t rapists or abusers or porn-users” [although, considering porn is the most financially successful industry in the world, a seriously large number of men have to be consuming it to make it profitable]. “Fun Feminism” is why ageing female journalists are slowly being erased from the media. “Fun Feminism” is the reason our daughter’s are being taught that the only power they have is their sexuality and that being physically attractive is the most important thing in the world. Ever. We need more Radical Feminists like Julie Bindel being controversial and being heard. We need more Radical Feminists asking questions and demanding real answers and not the minimising bullshit the BBC comes out with when questioned why their children’s programming features more boys than girls than any of the commercial channels manage. We need more Radical Feminist voices loudly critiquing the “Sex-industry” and challenging pornographers and those who deny the damage done by prostitution.

UPDATE: Bindel on Brooke Magnati’s new book in the Guardian and here on the Myth of the Violent Lesbian.


UPDATE 2: Bindel’s article spawned quite a large discussion on Mumsnet. My dear friend KRITIQ had some quite interesting things to say about labelling movements. I’m going to copy some of those statements here since they pushed me out of my comfort zone in a positive manner [which is a particularly lovely gift KRITIQ has]:

[l] don’t like the term “fun fem” and still think there’s a risk it can be used just to dismiss and silence those who don’t meet some arbitrary standard of feminist values. I’d rather see arguments against the perpetuation of specific beliefs and practices rather than a list of “things that aren’t really feminist,” which will probably get lots of things tacked on the end and there will never be any agreement on. 

For what it’s worth, discussion of sexual oppression IS going to be scary, regardless of how it’s done. It’s impossible to keep the political from being personal and vice versa, so people will have strong feelings and use strong language in articulating these. Perhaps one needs a strong stomach to engage in discussions here and elsewhere on feminism. Being just a textual medium, perhaps we would all benefit from remembering how easy it is to misunderstand and be misunderstood. But, I would never want folks to feel they need to sanitise their experience or views to be more palatable. The experience of being at the sharp end of misogyny, whether individually or collectively, isn’t something that should be sugar-coated, imho. … 

Regardless of the origins of the term “fun fem,” … I still don’t think it’s a helpful term. That was the point I was making. It’s too porous to have a useful definition and like “politically correct” can be easily used as or experienced as just a throw away “slur.” I’d prefer to get beyond what could be seen as just name calling to actually challenging and questioning people about those specific points about prostitution, sexualisation of children, pornography, collusion with rape, etc.
Equally, I despise the term “sex positive feminism.” It suggests that those who don’t think prostitution, porn, stripping, etc. are tickity boo are “negative” about sex, which ain’t the case. Similarly, I don’t like the term “pro life” for those who oppose a woman’s right to choose. Advocates of reproductive rights and choice aren’t anti-life, fgs

These are some of my favourite Radical Feminist blogs, websites and organisations [well, not all will identify as Radical Feminist but they are all women who actively challenge The Patriarchy and are people whose work I admire tremendously]:

Julie Bindel

Bidisha

Andrea Dworkin

Stop Porn Culture

Kate Smurthwaite

RadFem Hub

RadFem Reader

Feminist Reprise

Sisterhood is Powerful


Rebecca Mott

Finn Mackay and her reprint of Sheila Jeffrey’s speech: The need for Revolutionary Feminism.

3 thoughts on “‘Fun Feminism’: In Defence of Radical Feminism”

  1. Really thought provoking post.

    I am the same age as a lot of people who grew up with the ‘third wave’, and I have been calling myself a feminist since my teens. I’ve only recently started learning about radical feminism and it was a wonderful to find that a lot of radical feminists don’t fit the stereotypes that get thrown about – they’re warm, compassionate, positive about *good* sex, and great fun.

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