Hard News by Russell Brown


Feminist as crazy old man

I have properly discovered Julie Bindel, via this unintentionally amusing Comment is Free piece on the Guardian website. Bindel, who spends most of her time in 1978, breaks the cheering news that not all men are bad and some may even provide real friendship to women.

Previously, she shares, "I knew there were good men, but I had no time for them and often found that they felt threatened by my lesbianism and hardline politics." On the other hand, she may simply have been too annoying -- but now, "I like being close to a few good men, but I will continue to give the bad ones a really hard time. It is my job."

Intriguingly, one of the men sufficiently unthreatened as to provide male friendship for Bindel was a radical psychiatrist. Radical psychiatry was conceived by Claude Steiner and others in late 60s Berkley.

Radical psychiatry is "a political theory of psychiatric disturbance and a political practice of soul healing," holding that "the language of soul healing has been infiltrated with irrelevant medical concepts and terms," yet "most psychiatric conditions are in no way the province of medicine" and "People’s troubles have their cause not within them but in their alienated relationships, in their exploitation, in polluted environments, in war, and in the profit motive."

Remarkably, its manifesto says:

Paranoia is a state of heightened awareness. Most people are persecuted beyond their wildest delusions. Those who are at ease are insensitive.

You can see how radical psychiatrists could easily be the most annoying people in the world. And also how they might have a good time with Julie Bindel, given their shared interest in outsourcing all subjective experience to the dictates of a narrow and declamatory political philosophy.

This allows Bindel to dismiss the experiences of others at the same time as she elevates anecdotes from her own experience to the status of received knowledge. For instance, as a "political lesbian", she tends to regard women who are lesbians merely because they feel love and attraction towards other women, as frivolous backsliders.

And if becoming a lesbian was a choice for her, it must be just a matter of personal preference for everyone. She concluded a now somewhat infamous Guardian column with the invitation: "Come on sisters, you know it makes sense. Stop pretending you think lesbianism is an exclusive members’ club, and join the ranks. I promise that you will not regret it."

Over at Lesbilicious ("the web's tastiest lesbian magazine"), regular readers felt just a tad patronised by all this, but it's one of Bindel's regular themes. So many people, she despaired in another column "[refuse] to accept that sexuality and sexual desire are social constructs, not biological or genetically determined." She doesn't actually present an argument, just makes fun of what she finds in "various science magazines." And then there's this:

Many lesbians and gays want to believe we were "born that way" to provoke sympathy and understanding. In the mid-1980s, during the kerfuffle around Section 28, I dared to write in a gay publication that being lesbian or gay was a positive choice. I was inundated with letters telling me what trouble I had caused, because if heteros thought we were choosing to be deviant, that means we are responsible, not our genes. Some said: "I have known I was gay since I was three months old. How can it be a choice?" Obviously she was exaggerating.

Yes, obviously. Although I'm sure if she emailed Bindel asking to have her experience negated in an even more patronising way, I'm sure Julie would find time to help. Treating other women like infants is her job too.

But if you really want to see Bindel get her judgeypants on, you need to see her stuff on transsexual rights. She kicks off one column thus:

I am not the only one who worried that the introduction of the Human Rights Act might backfire on those of us who worry about little things like rape, murder, child abuse and prostitution.

She struggles on through a couple of weirdly confused paragraphs about men sunbathing in their backyards or something before triumphantly declaring: "It's not all bad news, however."

The good news being the overturning in Canada of a order to modestly compensate a post-op transsexual who was prevented from training as a rape victim counsellor. The rest of the column is largely taken up with apparently wilfully nasty comments about sexual reassignment surgery and those who seek it.

As the Liberal Conspiracy blog noted with some despair, she has recently reprised the transphobia theme, picking up and putting down the idea of biological determinism like it was a phone in a call centre. Another blogger wondered whether she understood the concept of human rights at all (she doesn't, in my opinion, and doesn't wish to).

But I think the issue was best covered in Julie Bindel: Trannies nicked my paper on the Tube:

I believe in share and share alike, but this morning I put my copy of Transsexuals: The “Women” Behind Hitler down on the seat opposite and someone who looked like a bearded man but was far too pretty to be one by birth — men do nothing for me, so this was obviously a woman — just leaned over and took it. Damned cheek! I called it a penis-wielding misogynist magazine rapist, but it just looked at me oddly, so obviously didn’t have a penis.

Does this happen to you or do I just look like a mug or soft touch? Don’t they know I work hard at discussing serious feminist issues and gender determinism in society?

I believe they do. Transsexuals have been hounding me for years, just because I quite objectively described them as misbegotten scum who should be put out of our ideological misery. Hideous twilight in-betweeners, trying to hijack female privilege from real women. Vile and odious halfling monsters oppressing women and children, particularly me, by their mere existence and interrupting my important journalistic work and committing the misogynistic hate crime of interfering with my speaking fee income. Hell, I bet they’d question Julie Burchill’s feminist cred.

Oh yes! That brings us nicely around to one of Bindel's most infamous works – a luvvy-drenched "email interview" with Julie Burchill, which features such cracking "questions" as this:

Bindel: I know you get really pissed off with what seems to be a liberal consensus which results in a love-relationship between the British left and fascist Muslim fundamentalists. Is the Guardian also guilty of this?

Frankly, I think the Guardian is "guilty" lately of surrendering a proud tradition of women writing about women to a group of smug ideologues (yes, I also think Tanya Gold writes like a twit on a range of subjects). I'll cheerfully read Burchill writing tripe, because she does so in sizzling prose, is madly funny and will occasionally conjure a brilliant thought. None of these things are true of Bindel's work, with its "radical" certainties and its monochromatic ideas on sexuality and gender.

So why I have written a whole blog post about it? Because Danielle told me to finish it because apparently we can never have too many threads about gender; and because Bindel intrigues me in the same way that Garth George does. It just seems ironic that the packages respectively marked "radical feminist" and "grumpy old Christian bigot" appear to hold such similar contents.

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