When did women become such wimps?

So many self-described feminists are easily offended, trans-pandering pushovers.

Julie Burchill

Julie Burchill

Topics Feminism Identity Politics UK

What is feminism for? Is it for all women, or is it for a few elite women who believe that they have a divine right to tell other women what to do – or indeed to decide who is and isn’t a woman worthy of advocacy? To hear what some left-wing feminists say – and since 7 October, what they haven’t said, considering that it took UN Women two months to condemn Hamas’s rape and murder spree – you’d think that it’s proper for a good feminist to care more about cross-dressers having their feelings hurt than about Israeli women being raped and murdered.

The fall of feminism is in line with the degradation of ‘radical’ politics in general. When academic Judith Butler said that men could be women and Islamo-fascism could be left-wing, all bets were off. It really is possible to be so educated that it makes you stupid.

Nowadays, it is routine for organisations that claim to be feminist to centre the fantasies of men rather than the rights of women. Everyday Feminism sounds like a lovely, down-to-earth name for an advice website, but the reality is a rabbit hole of trans pandering and white-woman demonising. The UK’s only avowedly first-and-foremostly feminist party, the Women’s Equality Party (WEP), drank the trans Fool-Aid a while ago. Last year, its decision to support gender self-ID led to threats of mass resignations. Current leader Mandu Reid ignored an impassioned five-page letter from WEP founder Sophie Walker, warning Reid of the dangers of pandering to trans activists. ‘Mandu, “woman” is not a costume, or a feeling in a man’s head’, Walker rightly argued.

The women of the Labour Party have turned full ‘Transmaid’ as well, with a few honourable exceptions like Rosie Duffield showing some spunk – as opposed to catering to it.

Institutions that once considered themselves female-friendly – the NHS, the BBC, M&S – now fall over themselves to promote a man’s right to enter a women’s toilet or to win trophies in women’s sports. And so, the ideology that they all pay lip service to – namely, feminism – has become worthless. When you hear a sensible person call themselves a feminist today – like the beauty queen, Noky, on the recent Big Brother – it feels like nostalgia, like a beautiful memory of a shimmering summer.

What has replaced feminism for young women? For some, it’s ‘girlism’. The Urban Dictionary describes this as ‘the idea, intertwined with feminism, that… “girly” features, which [were] considered formerly as weak and fragile, are actually strong and resilient. Girlism stands for the strength of being girly, the lack of need to change girly personalities in order to be valid, brave and feministic.’

In practice, girlism often adds up to little more than having nails so long you have to hire someone else to pick your nose. ‘You go, girl!’ is the battle cry of these desiccated creatures – though sadly, falling at the first hurdle is their speciality. Keen on ‘lazy girl jobs’ (wasting time) and ‘body positivity’ (being fat), they are the antithesis of the hard-bodied, hard-boiled 1980s career girls my friends and I believed were the best way for women to be – that is, just a little bit more like a man. Comparing my cohort’s robust mental health with the epidemic of anxiety and depression now affecting young women, I can’t help thinking that my lot had the right idea – and a lot more laughs.

The most ghastly example of girlism around currently is 26-year-old Nella Rose, a social-media influencer and contestant on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, until she was voted off last night. Rose has already inspired a Moonpig greetings card, which reads ‘I’m really offended that it’s your birthday’, based on her ceaseless ability to be offended by anything and everything – from Fred of First Dates fame saying he was old enough to be her dad to Nigel Farage saying that limitless immigration might not be the best thing for societal infrastructure. Though she was constantly reassured by her fellow campmates that she is a ‘strong woman’, she made a snowflake seem like a sliver of stainless steel. She actually cried when told that her washing up was below par. When a letter from home called her an ‘inspiration’ and an ‘example’, I had to wonder to what – a sloth?

‘I’m just a girl’, she would smirk smugly as she watched the male campmates trudge off to clean the long drop. Although Rose is the worst example, the other women on the show also lack the cheerfulness and stoicism of the men, who vary from a boxer to a Made in Chelsea toff. Looking at the female contestants, such as Grace Dent and Jamie Lynn Spears (who both wimped out early while greedily clutching their pay packets), one had to wonder whether there weren’t just a few life skills that a lot of modern women might learn from men. I was particularly impressed by the serene boxer, Tony Bellew, when he explained that if he goes into a coma after a particularly vicious fight then, ‘That’s on me – it ain’t [the other fighter’s] fault’. You could see poor Nella’s mind whirring as she struggled to grasp the concept of free will.

Tragically, it’s feminism that has brought us full circle to this place where lying around and being offended is thought to be a good way to be a woman – almost identical to being a torpid Victorian miss, except substituting essential oils for smelling salts.

When I was a girl, there was an unwritten rule that you couldn’t be right-wing and a feminist. But over the past few years all the interesting feminists have abandoned the left, finally getting what I grasped in the 1980s when I saw the first ‘ditch the bitch’ posters aimed at Mrs Thatcher. Ever since Mrs Pankhurst was refused membership of her local Manchester Labour Party for the crime of not being a man, the relationship between women and the left has been an abusive one. It’s arguably even worse now, as a Labour woman has to tolerate multiple misogynistic belief systems, from ‘trans rights’ to Islamism. So now women of substance are abandoning feminism, too.

It’s a beautiful word and I held on to it for as long as I could. But I can no longer stand alongside females who have reduced feminism to just another luxury belief held by women who won’t be going to jail or playing professional sport any time soon. When I think of the no-nonsense female icons of yesteryear – May Hobbs the militant cleaning lady, Billie Jean King knocking the hell out of Bobby Riggs, Mrs Pankhurst’s girl gang causing a commotion – I find their closest kins today in the TERFs. When I first met Kellie-Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker), founder of Let Women Speak, she told me that she wouldn’t call herself a feminist but rather a women’s rights activist. I was slightly shocked back then, but I get it now. It does have a pleasing, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-on-with-it feel. But there’s an even better handle that I heard spoken in scandalised tones as a child that needs to be revived. Feminism is finished and girlism is ghastly – so long live women’s lib.

Julie Burchill is a spiked columnist. Her book, Welcome To The Woke Trials: How #Identity Killed Progressive Politics, is published by Academica Press.

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Topics Feminism Identity Politics UK


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