Feminist arguments never develop, they are only recycled.
This essay was first published in PoliQuads Magazine 2020
The new year saw KFC slapped with a cultural penalty notice for producing an ad showing a woman adjusting her breasts in a car window. The crime was not that she jiggled her jugs through a window knowing there were people in the car who might be offended or aroused, but the fact that the car contained two teenage boys who were most definitely the latter. For this heterosexist intransigence, KFC were ordered to apologise by a “grassroots campaigns movement against the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls” with a following of 7.5k on Twitter. Being as we hominids have been a sexually reproducing species for millions of years, those chumps sure have got their work cut out.
The “movement” called Collective Shout denounced the ad as “the sexist grooming of boys”, charged it with “reinforcing gender stereotypes” and of contributing to “to a lesser view of women”, which they claimed unequivocally results “in their mistreatment” It doesn’t. Healthy heterosexuality, even pornography, is not part of a “continuum of abuse”. But the language was familiar to me. I’d heard these same arguments before, many times before in fact.
I began studying feminism and putting its premises under scrutiny back in 2003 when I was at university. I wasn’t putting those premises under scrutiny to tear them down but in the hope I would bolster them up. I had noted many logical inconsistancies in feminist theory and I felt the theory would be stronger and more useful if they were corrected. This was the beginning of a journey which, following the evidence, would eventually show me that feminism was not about improving women’s lives, fighting for equality or even helping victims of rape.
After the 60’s, feminism made a decisive “radical” move away from pursuing equality via reform to one of liberation from something feminists called patriarchy. From then on feminisms first and foremost goal was to “smash the patriarchy” and if women got in the way of that goal they were viewed as enemy combatants as much as men. The liberal feminist Betty Friedan was the first casualty because she was not anti-male or anti-family.
After a wild decade in the 70s this new radical orthodoxy fell into a malaise in the 80s and 90s as women achieved equality in real life, wore power suits on TV, and Demi Moore sexually harassed Michael Douglas. They had no time for the radical and obscure aim of “liberation” from “patriarchy”. The last decade has seen the husk of 90s feminism reanimated by an ideological fluke named intersectionality which has little to do with women at all, as it’s wholehearted support of trans ideology demonstrates. Now we see pitch battles between the old guard (renamed TERFS) and the new. This is highly ironic because orthodox feminism was the architect of its own destruction way back in the 70s as it opened itself up to social constructionism and became a vector for postmodernism, critical theory (note this is not the same as critical thinking) and identity politics – these being three of the four pillars of the ‘new; intersectionality, the 4th being critical race theory. The post modern chickens have come home to roost.
Yet, in spite of the ferocious conflict between feminist creeds there is a central premise on which they all agree. That premise is the belief in patriarchy. They all want to be liberated from patriarchy aka whitecisheteropatriarchy with its intersectional bells on. In keeping with other tenuous postmodern hypotheses patriarchy has magical powers which cannot be tackled by reason and logic. To believe in patriarchy is an act of faith and if you don’t believe you can go “die in a fire”. Though poll upon poll show us that never more than 15% of people identify as feminist, feminists insist we are dumb animals, unaware of the oppressive patriarchal matrix which imprisons us. They even try to assert that criticising feminism is a misogynistic act. It is not. The words “feminist” and “woman” are not synonyms. Feminists are defined by their politics not their sex or gender. Further, feminist arguments never develop, they are only recycled. Let me show you.
On April fools day 2006, media feminist and Guardian regular Madeline Bunting railed against the sexualisation of our public spaces, decorated ubiquitously with female bodies. Bunting’s invective was roused by, amongst other things, a console game advertisement on the sides of UK double-decker buses which had instructed those who just happened to glance at it to ‘Paste your girlfriend’s white bits here.’
A week later, Libby Brooks, another Guardian regular and fellow traveller, published a new call to arms for feminism, A New Sexual Manifesto, again, in The Guardian, “This is not about being anti-sex,” she began, pre-empting the oft-used insult of feminists being anti-sex and frigid, “It is not about being prudish, or easily embarrassed, or unliberated. But it is about anger.” Her target? The “market” of cultural sexism.
Both articles were inspired by Ariel Levi’s 2005 investigation into the rise of what she termed “raunch culture” in the US. In the best spirit of the sisterhood, she named it Female Chauvinist Pigs. Pigs was ostensibly a ‘new’ broadside against the “pornicopia” of the West, which to my eye looked suspiciously like a Stateside reworking of Imelda Whelehan’s Overloaded, a book which charted the rise of “laddism”, – aka “toxic masculinity” today – Loaded’ magazine and lipstick feminism in 1990’s. Levi leveled her criticism not so much at men but women who were living in the false consciousness of sexual liberation. The message was: You’re not liberated. You’re still being exploited and to make things worse, you are willfully abetting the patriarchy! To a feminist, there could be no greater crime. The title of Levi’s book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, invoked a similar, uneasy paradox. The pink elephant in the sisterhoods room; female intrasexual competition. Yes, once again, the great nemeses of feminism, other women, play footsie with patriarchy while Amazonia burns.
Nine years later in 2014, feminists bravely squatted down and dumped all over British scientist Dr Matt Taylor for wearing a supposedly sexist shirt. During live stream coverage of spacecraft Philae achieving the first landing of a spacecraft on a comet in human history, he had decided to wear a shirt, handmade for him by a female friend, depicting cartoon buxom space babes of the kind seen in Flash Gordon. Exaggerated celebrations of female superbeauty, known in science as “supernormal stimuli”. The feminist’s went nuts, their ire upstaging a monumental scientific event and birthing #Shirtgate instead. It is, to date, the most high profile event for #WomenInSTEM. In spite of huge grassroots support online, Taylor later tearfully apologised for wearing his “offensive”, “sexist” “misogynistic” shirt. It’s some consolation to know that after the controversy, sales went through the roof.
In 2017 feminists used the same rhetoric to attack walk-on girls in Darts and grid girls in Formula One. It didn’t matter that the girls loved their jobs and, as models, made a very good living from their looks and nubile sexuality. Feminists decided it was “demeaning” so their free choice could go jump in the hot tub. As was personally told by an intersectional feminist who works in Wesminster as we took part of a panel discussion on Talk Radio, “Just because a woman makes a decision doesn’t make it a feminist decision.” There we have it. The girls lost their jobs for the good of the sisterhood because, remember, feminism isn’t about individual choice it’s about (all together now!) liberation from patriarchy.
The same year children’s publisher Usborne were forced to retract a book about puberty which described human breasts thus “Girls have breasts for two reasons. One is to make milk for babies. The other is to make the girl look grown up and attractive.” A Twitterstorm was created by a stay-at-home-dad known as @manvpink who had, in his woke wisdom, decided to raise his baby girl as a tomboy. She had no say in the matter as she couldn’t yet speak. By the time she could you have to wonder if she feared her dad wouldn’t love her anymore if she asked for a Barbie. God knows what her rebellious years are going to look like.
As it happens, the description in the book was wrong, but not about human breasts existing to make girls look grown up and attractive. It’s the bit about the milk that’s wrong. The evolution of human breasts is something I have researched and is the subject of my science/stand up set Sexy Isn’t Sexist. https://www.youtube.com/embed/R2bNejUmHa0?autoplay=0&mute=0&controls=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.poliquads.com&playsinline=1&showinfo=0&rel=0&iv_load_policy=3&modestbranding=1&enablejsapi=1&widgetid=1
Human breasts are what are known as secondary sexual characteristics which develop at puberty. Young women at puberty develop a few “strategic gynoid fat deposits” on their hips, thighs, buttocks and chests as their bodies are flooded with oestrogen. Boys develop their own, very different, secondary sexual characteristics, none of which are strategic fat deposits. Human breasts, however, are and their function is precisely to signal sexual maturity in women, signals that are millions of years old and which heterosexual men find impossible to ignore. Women do too, but for different reasons so we won’t go there here. So Usborne was correct on one count – the most controversial one. They were not correct in stating that breasts are for making milk however. Breasts, as I mentioned above, are strategic gynoid fat deposits. There is no milk in fat. You get milk from mammaries. Of over 5000 species of mammal on the planet all have mammaries but only one has breasts. Guess which one. Humans.
So though breasts and mammaries occupy the same general space on the female body they are in fact two separate organs with two distinct functions, the primary function of breasts not being for feeding babies but to attract the attention of mates. In other words, to be sexually objectified. Which, it turns out, isn’t quite so bad as feminists make it out to be. But more of that later on down the line.
But never let pesky facts getting in the way of a tired old narrative. Fast forward a full 20 years from Whelehan’s book years and we have a reboot; same dogma, different generation. This time it’s Collective Shout who are getting into the game, “Where the patriarchy once demanded silence from suffering women, it now demands groans of ecstasy” “While a “liberated sexuality”, where patriarchy is magically subverted through sex -toy aided orgasms, may sound like a fun idea to some, this position is naive.” Sound familiar? It should. The record hasn’t changed. It hasn’t changed for decades. In fact, It’s so old you could play it on a gramophone. If this trend in the war against sexual objectification continues, the next step may well be putting paper bags over pretty girls faces as they walk down the street. Come to think of it, these Collective Shouters would do well in Dubai, enforcing purdah.
The fact is, feminist arguments never develop, they only get recycled. Here we are at the pinnacle of civilization and it is feminists not “the patriarchy” who are loudly protesting that there should be limits to those privileges, and not based on medical or economic or ethical considerations, but on ideological ones.
On their website, Collective Shout, tells us they are, “for anyone concerned about the increasing pornification of culture.” It’s quite normal to be concerned about protecting kids from pornorgaphy, but for this group it’s clear that porn and paedophilia are just a Trojan Horse strategy get its foot through your door. It does not discriminate between porn, paedophilia and healthy human sexuality, as its attack on the KFC ad demonstrates.
Too often feminism connects the word ‘woman’ in terms of weakness, victimhood and shame. From Muff Marches to Take Back the Night rebooted as Slut Walks , to No More Page Three or Free the Nipple (make your bloody mind up!) to #MeToo and #TimesUp, and god forbid we forget Period Poverty when buying sanitary products in the UK is as cheap as chips, feminism is a one trick hustle that gets dusted off and paraded in new clothes for each new generation. I have a rule of thumb for deciding if an ideology is toxic, does it seek to ameliorate suffering or weaponize it. If it’s the latter, and feminism is, do not fall for it. The truly vulnerable deserve better.