The Early Days of a Better Nation

Friday, July 04, 2003

The F Word

The recent report by the Equal Opportunites Commission, showing that people at least in their focus group regarded feminism as man-hating and outmoded, has given rise to lots of discussion. This is a small contribution to it.

When I was an ignorant but enthusiastic Trot, back in the 1970s, I did some work in support of the National Abortion Campaign with a friendly radical lesbian feminist, and (as I recall) we got along well. At a party I had a long and serious conversation with her, in which she explained that all relationships between men and women were oppressive, that there was nothing men could do about it, if men wanted to help they would stop having relationships with women, and that ideally, men and women should live in separate societies. I decided that if that was what feminism meant, then it actively didn't want any support from me and it wasn't going to get any.

Something like this conversation must have gone on up and down the country, because that is exactly what all too many people now take 'feminism' to mean. Over the years I have met a lot of women, and heard of a lot more, who are feminist in every aspect of their beliefs and attitudes but who firmly insist that they are not feminists. The reason they give is always the same: they don't consider themselves feminists because they don't hate men.

Imagine if the left had taken the most hostile caricatures of what socialism was and what being a socialist meant, and proceeded to live up to them. Lots of people would now be saying things like, 'I'm not a socialist, but I think capitalism sucks and should be replaced by a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by and in the interests of the whole community.'

Oh, wait ...


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