Bindel on “sexist dinosaurs of the Left”

February 28, 2013 at 12:29 am (conspiracy theories, Feminism, Galloway, left, misogyny, sexism, Sheridan, strange situations, SWP, women)

Julie Bindel, a socialist feminist [or should that be "radical feminist" ? - see comments below], writes in the generally right-of-centre magazine Standpoint. It should go without saying that us Shiraz’ers don’t necessarily agree with all of what she argues:

Sexist Dinosaurs of the Left are far from Extinct

JULIE BINDEL
March 2013

Disrespect for women: Tommy Sheridan (left) and George Galloway (right) share anti-feminist attitudes with the Occupy movement

Feminism’s natural home is the political Left. The struggle for equal pay, kick-started by the female workers at the Ford Dagenham car plant who went on strike in 1968, was supported by male-led unions. Socialists are assumed to be in favour of total equality between men and women and castigate the Right for considering women to be only worthy of childrearing and housekeeping.

In 2012 the Trades Union Congress appointed a female general secretary, Frances O’Grady, for the first time in its 145-year history. Yet the Tories managed to vote in a woman as party leader as far back as 1975. Who says sexism is the domain of right-wing traditionalists?

The leading contemporary socialist feminist thinkers such as Sheila Rowbotham and Lynne Segal are well known in the academy but will never become as prominent publicly as their male counterparts. The reason for this is straightforward. When women work with leftist men to achieve a common aim, any issues specific to women are often seen as a “bourgeois deviation” and counter to the wider cause.

In 1964 Stokely Carmichael, the prominent US Black Power activist, was asked about the role of women in the civil rights movement. He replied, “The only position for women in the movement is prone.” Carmichael’s remarks caused outrage among many women and are still considered emblematic of the entrenched misogyny of 1960s activist movements. Sexism on the Left on both sides of the Atlantic has a long and shameful history. One Berkeley anti-war leader said of feminists in 1969, “Let them eat cock.” At Students for a Democratic Society meetings, “brothers” reported their unique dreams for utopia which included, “Free grass, free food, free women and free clothes.” If and when women tried to criticise male chauvinism within the movement, their actions were mocked. Such sexism prompted the feminist critiques of the New Left that would later develop into the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s.

Despite more than four decades of feminism, sexism on the Left has barely abated. As recently as 2004 former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone warmly welcomed to City Hall Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim cleric who advocated domestic violence and the stoning of adulterous women, and justified doing so when challenged. Al-Qaradawi was a speaker at a conference, hosted by Livingstone, defending the “right” of Muslim women to wear the hijab. Although the conference claimed to promote “choice”, al-Qaradawi has ruled that wearing the hijab is not a matter of choice but of religious obligation. There were no feminists of Muslim origin invited to speak at the conference or any Muslims critical of religious doctrine. Feminist critics of Livingstone’s friendly relationship with al-Qaradawi described the conference as a one-sided presentation of religious fundamentalism masquerading as a human rights debate.

George Galloway is a fine example of a man on the Left who appears to consider women as inferior. Galloway, along with left-wing heroes Ken Loach, John Pilger and Michael Moore, is a supporter of Julian Assange, currently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face questioning on allegations of sexual assault and rape.

Galloway implied that once a woman had agreed to sex with a man her ongoing consent was implicit, even if she were asleep. His remarks were deemed to be so offensive to women that the then leader of the Respect party, Salma Yaqoob, resigned in protest. “It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder,” Galloway pontificated in a YouTube video, “and said: ‘Do you mind if I do it again?’ It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.”

Suggestions by a number of men on the Left that Assange’s two accusers are part of a CIA-inspired honeytrap and that the great man himself is the only victim are in themselves indicative of a culture of “bros before hos”, a term some left-wing women have heard male counterparts use.

Nowhere is sexism and hypocrisy on the Left more evident than in relation to the abuse of women. The late Stieg Larsson, heralded as a left-wing anti-sexist hero for his portrayal of women’s resistance to male violence in his Dragon Tattoo trilogy, once said that those who campaigned for the rights of women in immigrant communities wanted only to “portray all male immigrants as representatives of a single homogeneous attitude towards women” and that such people “only talked about honour crime because they wanted to divert attention from how white men raised in the ‘patriarchal structures of Swedish society’ abused and murdered women as a matter of course”.

It was recently revealed that some male “leaders” of the Socialist Workers Party attempted to hold a sharia-type court hearing as a response to an accusation of rape. Tom Walker, a journalist on the party’s paper, Socialist Worker, resigned in disgust at the blatant anti-women stance taken by the central committee. “There is clearly a question mark over the sexual politics of many men in powerful positions on the Left,” he said. “It may shed some light to learn that ‘feminism’ is used effectively as a swear word by the leadership’s supporters. In fact it is deployed against anyone who seems ‘too concerned’ about issues of gender.”

Similar tales of sexism and downright misogyny came to light in Scotland during the Tommy Sheridan debacle. Sheridan, a charismatic working-class activist and convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party, stepped down from his post in 2004, citing his wife’s pregnancy. But it later came to light that the News of the World had got hold of explosive evidence of Sheridan’s extramarital affairs and trips to a Manchester swingers’ club. Sheridan admitted his indiscretions at a party meeting but demanded that members cover for him for the good of the SSP. The feminists refused on a matter of principle.

Catriona Grant, equality spokesperson at the time, says that Sheridan decided his best form of attack was to pretend that a political plot by feminists was afoot. “Seemingly the women in the party wanted to get rid of him by means of a matriarchal coup. Sheridan found himself talking publicly about witches and dark arts,” Grant told me.

Sheridan went on to sue the News of the World in 2006 for defamation and won £200,000 damages. But following a subsequent police investigation he was convicted of perjury, and sentenced to three years in prison, of which he served one. (Andy Coulson, formerly News of the World editor and David Cameron’s communications director, and two other journalists have since been charged with perjury and other offences in connection with the Sheridan case.) Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at the University of Hertfordshire, is author of a book on Sheridan. I asked if he considered the male party members who covered up for Sheridan to be sexist. “There were concerns about his behaviour when he was in Militant [before setting up the SSP] and complaints were made, but the leadership in London chose not to act on it. I suppose they didn’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”

The Occupy movement appears to be yet another left-wing movement dominated by sexist men. One female member, who asked not to be named for fear of being classed as a “splitter” or “scab”, explains that the movement is a perfect example of “mostly young, almost exclusively white, almost all middle-class men, who thought that the revolution was finally here. But don’t bother mentioning the oppression of women in society, sexual harassment on site, or how we end up doing all the dirty jobs in the camp, as they’ll talk over you, or shout at you to stop monopolising the conversation.”

She added: “There’s no point questioning the objectification of women, or the way we’re talked down to and not listened to by men on the site despite often having many years of campaigning for social justice behind us.”

Women in the workplace suffer sexism from men of all political persuasions, but the reality is that the very unions that can potentially support them against discrimination and sexual harassment, for example, are themselves often bastions of male privilege. Cath Elliott is a union activist and freelance writer who finds herself battling sexism almost on a daily basis. “Having been involved in left politics since I was a teenager I thought I might have got used to sexist left-wing men by now,” says Elliott. “But no, it is always disappointing when men on the Left sell women out.”

Brendan O’Neill, an extreme libertarian formerly associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party and its magazine Living Marxism, is one of many men on the Left who defendspornography despite a long battle by feminists to show how it degrades women. In a recent article, “A Marxist defence of Page 3 girls”, on the LeftCentre website O’Neill quoted Marx on press freedom before wading into the feminists who gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry about sexist media representation of women. O’Neill called them a “bevy of feminists”, “a shrill chorus”, and “boob blockers”.

Male Labour MPs are not exempt from uttering the odd sexist rant. Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for Great Grimsby, tweeted to Louise Mensch when she resigned as a Conservative MP, “Shut up Menschkin. A good wife doesn’t disagree with her master in public and a good little girl doesn’t lie about why she quit politics.” Although his comment was probably intended to be tongue in cheek, it still showed a blatant disrespect for women. When David Cameron told Angela Eagle, an openly lesbian Labour MP, to “calm down, dear” in the Commons it attracted widespread criticism. Somehow men on the Left seem to get away with it more easily, perhaps because of the patronising view that the working classes treat their women rough and ready (despite the fact that successful leftwingers are rarely working-class these days).

Vera Baird QC, Solicitor-General in the last Labour government and now Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, says that she gets tired of some left-wing men sidelining women and disregarding crucial issues such as sexual violence and harassment in the workplace. “Feminists have long challenged men’s sexism, whether in trade unions or political groups, but unfortunately the same old stories keep being told. It is high time those particular men recognised that we are not going to wait for the so-called ‘revolution’, meanwhile standing there, cap in hand, waiting for our turn to speak out about what matters to women.”

Sucheta Chatterjee, a lawyer and feminist activist, recently posted on a social networking site what she imagines to be in the heads of her male comrades. “Just stop bitching about feminism and race issues. Stop being divisive and undermining the class war. How many times have I told you that after the revolution, life will be paradise? Women will be treated like full-fledged humans and blacks will be taken seriously. Till then, shut the fuck up. And bitch, go make me a sandwich. Only fair trade wheat please.”

As much as I loathed the Thatcher government I have always felt deeply perturbed by the misogyny directed towards Baroness Thatcher by men on the Left. When I hear young male socialists today shout “Burn the witch” and other such grotesque slogans I realise that the vitriol towards her goes beyond a robust dislike of her political legacy. It comes also from a woman-hating resentment that she climbed to the top of the political tree. I will not be dancing on Thatcher’s grave or holding a street party when she dies unlike many of my male comrades. I would sooner celebrate the end of the left-wing dinosaur and the beginning of true political equality.

31 Comments

  1. brucerob said,

    Julie Bindel is a radical feminist, not a socialist feminist as should be clear from her general condemnation of the left as sexist.

    • paul d said,

      So you cannot be socialist if you ever condemn the left for anything? Therein lies the problems of the left these days.

      • brucerob said,

        That is not the point -obviously you can and I and my organisation do. But I doubt Bindel would describe herself as a socialist feminist and her views place her elsewhere on the spectrum of feminist views.

  2. daniel young said,

    The left or right are only sexist if they allow such things to go on.Both cannot hold their head high in regard to morality.Could be we should be more careful whom we choose to elect.

  3. Jabez said,

    Interesting article and thought provoking, but wrong in one respect, Julian Assange has agreed to return to Sweden and face the rape allegations, BUT the intransigent, belligerent Swedish authorities have refused a guarantee that he will not be extradited to the USA. Who in this world would seriously expect fair treatment in a country that sanctions Guantanamo? .

  4. Michael Moran said,

    Really god article. The story of the sexual abuse prevalent in Militant, and now the Socialist Party is yet to be written, but it wil make the SWP look like a Dorkinesque fantasy

    • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      ‘Dorkinesque’?

      The only Dorkin I can think of is a geeky comic book illustrator….

      • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        Unless of course your ‘w’ has gone the same way as the second ‘o’ in your ‘good article’ and you are thinking of the late Andrea Dworkin – whose actual life however hardly struck me as the perfect shangri-la of sexual equality you want to evoke….

        But I do see the difficulty in coming up with any figure of speech to handily describe something we’ve never actually had in all of recorded history.

  5. modernity's ghost said,

    ” but wrong in one respect, Julian Assange has agreed to return to Sweden and face the rape allegations,”

    Incorrect. Assange has not.

    He’s tries various ploys, and trying to get the Swedish government to guarantee something which is out of their purview is one of them.

    As many legal eagles have pointed out, extradition from Sweden on political grounds is strictly prohibited, thus the chance of him being swept off his feet and into a cell in Guantánamo Bay is highly unlikely.

    In fact, the uneven treaty between Britain and the US would have made an extradition directly from London to Cuba more probable.

    But that’s all by the by, Assange avoided arrest by taking up residence in the Ecuadorian Embassy and it is the female staff I feel sorry for.

    Such sexists are often creatures of habit and I doubt this is the last we will hear of Assange and his peculiar attitude towards women.

    • Jabez said,

      Sorry Modernity G – The fact is that his lawyer stated on TV that Mr Assange would leave under his own free will providing the Swedish government gave him a promise re extradition to the dreadful camp in Gutanamo, a form of detention that is highly questionable as far as legality is concerned. You said quite clearly that his being sent to Gutanamo Bay was “highly unlikely”. Julian Assange is astute enough to recognize the possibility nevertheless, as you recognize, that he could therefore suffer the indignity of extradition. I do not condone rape, but if this defender of freedom is prepared to return to Sweden and face the allegations, for that is all they are, (not sure whether he has been charged,) but I can check later, then he must feel confidant of an acquittal. The ball is clearly in the Swedish authorities court..

  6. modernity's ghost said,

    Concerning Sweden’s promises and Assange this has been done to death.

    1) The Swedish government can’t give such a promise because the Swedish judiciary are separate from government, you understand this not too subtle point?

    2) Independent Swedish legal experts have stated that what Assange wants is impossible for that government to give.

    3) Why can a rape suspect make demands of a government? What other defendant has ever done that? Its a bit more than cheeky.

    4) The ball is very much is in Assange’s court. To be clear, he is not wanted for questioning, but to be arrested. He has skipped bail and avoided arrest.

    5) Anyone in doubt should consult the extensive writings of David Allen Green’s archive, this is a starter http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/media/2012/09/legal-mythology-extradition-julian-assange

  7. Bruce Robinson said,

    I have found two self-descriptions by Julie Bindel, neither of which employ the S word:

    “Journalist, writer, broadcaster and radical feminist (not the fun kind). ”

    “Bindel is also a lesbian and has shared her views and been quoted regarding sexual identity and sexual orientation issues and refers to herself as a political lesbian feminist.[5][6″ [Wikipaedia]

  8. Jabez said,

    I will look at Green’s stuff and other information later, and may come back to you. Point 3 however. But Julian Assange may be a rape suspect as you say, but the demands he is making are linked to much, much more. Cheeky, but surely his eagle legal is aware of the implications.There are nasty evil governments in the West who are seeking pay back for his publication of government covers-ups, is the rape ‘charge’ a ploy to meet that end? And as far as I understand, no person has been physically harmed as a consequence of his previous ‘freedom of information’ disclosures. I am sure that a majority of democrats welcome these over due revelations, because they reveal the truth about a variety of important military matters. Indeed, on a lesser scale of importance, revelations about the buffoon Prince Andrew (Daily Mail description) which would have remained hidden behind government and a royal whitewash but for this man. Thank you so much Mr Assange for that..As far as secreting him away from London is concerned. I assume that thought has been given to this extreme measure, but cost allegedly, would involve an “investment” of £250,000 plus, including a sum for payment of his outstanding bond.Phew, that is heavy man! Finally, any person convicted of rape must face the consequences, but regrettably there seem to be too many government obstructions/prejudices in place that are preventing the case from going further. As I said earlier the ball is well and truly in the intransigent governments court(s).

    • modernity's ghost said,

      There are several points here:

      1) David Allen Green is required reading for anyone serious about understanding Assange and the legal issues.

      2) Differentiation between Assange and Wikileaks. Even Anonymous, who were strong supporters of both, have said Assange is wrong.

      Even Jemima Khan has argued against the cult of Assange, and there is a clear need to separate out the issues, the person from the organisation and not confuse the two.

      3) The privileging of a white middle class male’s rights (Assange), over that of rape victims is unacceptable.

      Assange can’t demand anything.

      [Or will comrade "Delta" start making demands too?]

  9. Jimmy Glesga said,

    I like the photos above of the two infamous Scottish shaggers. History will not remember either.

  10. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Which neatly encapsulates what is so wrong with both the left that Bindel calls for the destruction of and with the radical feminism which she represents.

    Without the left we would just have global capitalism but with more Thatchers and Merkels taking their rightful place amongst its elites and equal opportunity exploitation for all.

    But we have brought this all on ourselves – abandoning class for identity politics but failing utterly and irrevocably even at that.

    Vae victis….

  11. Timon for Tea said,

    Just for the sake of completeness on Assange, let’s not forget that because Assange would be returned to Sweden under warrant, the US would have to have both the Swedish and the UK government agree his extradition. In other words, going to Sweden drastically reduces the likelihood of extradition compared with staying in the UK.

  12. Jabez said,

    Timon – Thanks, interesting. Modernity G – His rape situation is actually an allegation, so I think he can morally demand within reason whatever he wants.

  13. modernity's ghost said,

    Tautology.

    It is a ploy, to avoid investigation of his conduct.

    If that were to happen then Assange would lose his veneer of radicalism and be found to be another white middle-class male exercising his privilege.

    The point which Timon made has been common knowledge for over a year and I am surprised that Assange supporters don’t know that.

    But as Khan pointed out, activism around Assange is like a cult.

    Unquestioning.

  14. Jabez said,

    Modernity G – The point made by Timon re extradition is valid, although Assange devotees have been aware of the consequences for a long time. However, history has shown that the British government cannot be trusted, whenever- Pay Back – is on the agenda…( Did the political double cross originate in Britain we wonder?) If any reader seriously believes that reciprocated favorable arrangements, (covert favors) have not been negotiated between Sweden and Britain – think again! Yes I do believe that a form of cult exists, but not necessarily for Assange, but the ideology he represents, that is why he must seek and cement guarantees from governments who wish to see him and therefore his organisation brought to heel.Khan may have been ‘turned’ (pressure exerted from???) to reject her previous solid faith in Assange’s ideology, nevertheless there are other contributors to his bond – less than £20,000!!,- who have proved that they will remain ‘faithful’ no matter what occurs..

    • modernity's ghost said,

      Two points.

      1. I’ve already pointed out that the US-UK extradition treaty would have made it much easier.

      It seems a rather convoluted argument to suggest that the cunning forces of the CIA would engineer an extradition process which makes it more *difficult* for them.

      I simply do not get that argument.

      Extradition to Sweden would make it less likely that Assange ends up inside a US cell, not more. I am sure it’s perfectly possible for the British government to put Assange on an aircraft straight for the US and not worry about the consequences, whereas the Swedish judiciary and government, in all probability, would not.

      For Assange’s supporters to argue otherwise seems like nonsense.

      The truth is, should Assange go to Sweden his “brand” would be damaged and that’s the reason for his reluctance.

      Assange would ceased to be hero and lose financial support.

      Given what we know about white privilege males, etc that seems more likely as to his motivation.

      Assange is a singularly flawed individual and has taken precedence over Bradley Manning or the reason for releasing information, that’s wrong.

      2. “Khan may have been ‘turned’ (pressure exerted from???) to reject her previous solid faith “

      Ha ha ha. I am glad you have a sense of humour!

      Or the simpler excuse is, the penny has dropped.

  15. Malte Laurids Brigge said,

    I have long believed that organisations of any kind, have both entropic and extopic forces within them. I have worked in many institutions and organisations in which lethargy and entropy produce environments in which abuse and exploitation are rationalised, ignored, justified and rendered commonplace. When forces that are external appear to intrude into the inner placidity of the organism, it first protests then seeks to minimize and then adapt to contain and continue with its core intact. I have seen this in organisations of both the left and right and in state and civil society. So-called democratic centralism merely lessens and delays the effects of these forces and in some cases it enforces them – I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve seen young women lined up for ‘internships’ with the UN on the basis that they will be ‘attractive’ to the worthless old degenerates that hold senior posts there. I’ve seen so-called ‘revolutionaries’ make sleeping arrangements for ‘Marxist’ conferences on the basis of who is the most ‘shaggable’. It is enough to turn your stomach. But as I said, the conduct of these people is not subject to censure or outright halt due to the fact that the conduct is intrinsic rather than abbarant to the organisations. I am no anarchist, but in Nietzschean fashion, it has always struck me that these ‘organisations’ are in fact often merely the ‘formal arrangements for the weak and degenrate to exploit the honourable and sincere.
    By the way, Modernity’s Ghost, presumably you would accept that the conviction of Jack Johnson on vice crimes on the basis of a non-existent Mann Act was justified and secure, due to the fact that he was a known ‘wife beater’ and ‘fornicator’ with white women?

    • Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) OOps upside your Head this time with feeling said,

      utter loon

  16. Jabez said,

    Modernity G – To suggest that for Khan “the penny has dropped” is a terrible slur on this woman’s intellectual ability I fear. Just because you are incapable of seeing the undoubted darker side of the British and Swedish government, and consider the effect on innocent people is deplorable. Regrettably your blinkered comments are indeed highly amusing, however. It proves to me that you have no experience of the British double cross and cover-up, whereas I have! I suppose you think that funny ha ha!

  17. modernity's ghost said,

    Sigh, I can only assume that apart from being singularly uninformed in matters pertaining to Assange, that his supporters have a deficiency in reading skills.

    I’ve made it very clear that the US-UK link in secrecy matters is very strong and more probable as a way of extradition.

    Going via Sweden, with its numerous safeguards, seems not a very cunning plan.

    As for Khan, it is conceivable that the rampant sexism found amongst many Assange’s supporters helped her re-think this issue. Also, Assange/supporters questionable connections to the Far Right and the propensity for conspiracy theories might have influenced her.

    But to assume that some nefarious deed is going on, as the only explanation borders on the paranoid, when far simpler possibilities are available.

    • Jabez said,

      Yoko Ono gives a special award for COURAGE to Mr Julian Assange.

  18. Jabez said,

    Modernity’s G – Multiple SIGHS from Jabez. I think that your impertinent comment that we have a deficiency in reading skills is arrogant beyond compare, as is your self defeating let-out reference to the opposing group as being paranoid. Your naivety is a joke – if only it was as simple as you ignorantly believe and infer. Signing out.

  19. brucerob said,

    Good. Then we can get round to discussing what this thread is about if anyone’s interested.

    • Jabez said,

      Well get on with it then!

  20. entdinglichung said,

    On the Centrality of Feminism to the Liberation of the Working Class by Debbie Brennan and Peter Murray (FSP/australia)

  21. Jabez said,

    Yoko Ono gives Mr Julian Assange a special award for COURAGE. Thank you so much for that Yoko.

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