Via The F-Word, a dispiriting post that starts with the question: “Ever wondered what we’d get if “two of Britain’s most outspoken feminists” (Julies Bindel and Burchill) had a conversation in The Guardian’s G2? Let’s see…


As it happens, I wasn’t aware that Julie Burchill actually identified as feminist – or anything like it, for that matter. Certainly, when I lived at home and snuck away with Mum’s issue of the Guardian at the weekend, I never noticed anything that suggested that she did.

And on the subject of Julie Bindel, I know a little. I know she’s on Facebook; I know she’s been embroiled in a large and wide-ranging argument on the subject of trans people’s rights, which, as far as I can tell, she doesn’t really care about; I know she does care about lesbian rights, although she’s been reported to have said that lesbianism is “a choice”; and, bizarrely, I know that she’s been recently “made up” by an Avon representative. Like you do.

I got this information – all of which I’d already gained from other sources – from the first page of a Google search.

After my 10-minute foray into the wilds of Julie Bindel’s unofficial Google biography, what I’ve gained is shock that she didn’t manage to say anything worse in this latest Guardian article. She certainly doesn’t have a good track record.

I’d love to say that I wouldn’t normally criticize somebody without their knowledge, but that is clearly a lie. I do it all the time, usually with BBC reports, and, by implication, the reporters. And if they can get the special “Rachel” treatment, I see no reason not to extend that honour to her, too.

You know, I read somewhere once (and wish I’d made a note of it) that feminism, at least in the academic sense, stopped being relevant to one woman when she could no longer talk to her mother about it. And I think this is something that ought to be added to my list of Things Feminists Often Get Wrong: academia has its place. And that place is in libraries, looking smug. Out in the real world, real women are affected by real things that real people do and say. And it’s all too easy for a privileged group to think of the issues of a nonprivileged group in terms of theories, or camps, or controversies, or whatever the buzzword of the year is. But when you try to apply theories to the real world, they often don’t fit. Even I know this, and I’m a mathematician. I live in an academic swamp of theories and corollaries and even laws, but when it comes to things like mechanics, these get handed down to me with the disclaimer that sometimes this isn’t true.

For example: one thing you learn is that a feather and a rock should, in theory, fall at the same rate, and hit the ground at the same time if dropped from the same height. This is fine, if you’re on the moon. But here on Earth, there is air resistance, which means that the law, although technically true, is not actually very helpful, and if you were of a gambling disposition, you would have just lost money. Unless we were on the moon.

All of this is a slightly lengthly way of shoehorning a mathematical analogy into a post that didn’t need to include one. But it’s also a way to point out that at the end of the day, theories are all well and good, but if the people you’re theorising about tell you that you’re wrong, and be damned the problems it might cause your worldview, it tends to be a good idea to listen to them. Yes, even if they’ve just damned your faulty worldview. As it turns out, I don’t much care about that either. If the theory breaks when applied to real life, it’s either not a good theory at all, or something vital is missing from it, and that’s your problem. Clearly, it is not the feather’s fault that it doesn’t match up. And I wouldn’t expect the feather to care.

And all of this is an even longer way of saying that reputations live on. Like I said, it was the first page of a Google search. And if you can pick up reputations by association, this is one association I will happily – and determinedly – choose to live without.

Given all this, and if I lived in happyland where unicorns farted rainbows, I might be a little surprised that the Guardian had picked Julie Bindel to represent feminism. As it happens, though, I’m not at all surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised. Which brings me rather neatly back to the title, and means that I should probably stop writing!

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