I Tried To Be Nice

5 Aug


Retrograde Poem Number 9

28 Jul


Questions, Questions

How many years does it take for security to fix the break?

How does it come, this fixing? Do I get to have an appointment?

Do you become made of other things? Do you chelate? Is there something the matter with you? Are there needs for such decisions in advance? Also, when are we late?

Is that always a part of your new start, this breakage? Is that really a given, or are there other sorts of slippage?

If you are different, what is the difference that was taken from you? That’s what they used to tell me way back when

Back when I was courted innocent by dealers of various sorts

Dealers of myths, mostly.

And I went. Oh, I went. It was The Map and I have always kind of been good at least at reading, if not following directions.

And I’m still stuck all stuck-up, wondering whether it was maybe not a taken piece that made me less, so much as different, in ways

Ways that are not quite as special as I might like. I might be more, I might be less, but these are all just protrusions, right? More fodder to the compass.

No rest for the weary
No rest for the wicked

Why is it so hard to decide?

Happy Retrograde Station Everybody

26 Jul

Happy Mercury Retrograde Station everybody!

This means all the creepup on cray is pretty much hitting its peak. Now the dam is broke and everyone is flowing downstream in the debris. I hope your rafts run unpunctured, my friends.

When Mercury goes direct station, you can really get a grip on what the hell just happened. That’s not until around August 19, so you’ve got lots of time. Meanwhile, I strongly suggest getting off the Internet more and thinking about art and nature.

It’ll do you good.

Mercury Retrogrades run three times a year, they have buildups, culminations and bringdowns. They remind me of menstrual cycles, only slower.

I am increasingly thinking that this is a powerful myth women invented, way back when. Women who got erased. That there are cycles when women speak out. That they come with the seasons. That they are inevitable. That they always have been.

Just imagine, if there was all this female stuff that just got erased except much more than is currently even suggested.

Including that men will listen, over time. Because, say, “women will not allow you to choose otherwise. We will wear you down like water. We will wear you down like sea. We will wear you down like roots in rock and we will burn you like fire.”

“But most importantly, we will own your stories. You cannot make us redundant. You are from us. You cannot commit sacrilege against us and expect to get away with it.”

Imagine if that was what patriarchal cultures erased. Imagine how many times this might have happened, this erasure.

It’s so much about stories.


24 Jul


 – Miep Rowan O’Brien, March 21, 1991


Why do people work in mills?

To make it easier for us to throw away clothes.

Why do people work in coal mines?

To make it easier for us to show off our energy.

Why are people homeless?

To make it easier for us to live in seclusion.


Why do we throw our shit into the sea? 

To make it easier to forget where we came from.

Why do we throw our shit into the sky?

To make it easier for us to hide from the stars.

Why do we like to throw everything away?

To make it easier to forget about ourselves.


Why do people die in wars?

To make it easier to feel good about ourselves.

Why are people in pain ignored?

To make it easier to feel bad about ourselves.

Why do poets die young and tragically?

To make it easier to feel romantic about ourselves.


Why do we beat each other up?

To make it easier to get on with it.


Why do we break each other’s hearts?

To make it easier to feel human.


Why do we like to try to die?

To make it easier.

The Cuckoo in the Nest

21 Jul

Facebook is blocking this link so sharing in the interests of pushing back against censorship of women’s voices on that dreadful, misogynist platform.


“It doesn’t make any difference what genitals someone has!” A very sneery teenager barked this statement at me during a discussion on gender identity and the recent London Pride parade. We were referencing a group of women who had moved to the front of the parade and carried banners protesting lesbian erasure from the LGBT movement and the swelling tide of transgender dogma which says lesbianism could, even should, involve biological males.

Much has already been written about the reasons for this action [*1]. I’m not a lesbian and it wouldn’t be fair of me to speak for the women involved. However, were I in their place, I would certainly feel betrayed and abandoned by a movement which was supposed to protect my rights and safety. Lesbianism means “Female homosexual”; women who are same-sex attracted. It does not involve males or male genitalia. If even the LGBT community itself…

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QotD: “Len McCluskey signs letter accusing trans rights activists of intimidation”

11 Jul

Anti-Porn Feminists

Britain’s most powerful union leader has joined a group of feminist campaigners to sign a controversial letter that accuses some transgender rights activists of violent and intimidating behaviour.

The Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, was one of about 140 people, including Julie Bindel and Ruth Serwotka, who signed a letter in the Morning Star warning that a handful of recent episodes risked drawing “the whole of our progressive movement into disrepute”.

The letter highlights a series of recent incidents, including the conviction of Tara Wood, 26, in April for the assault of Maria MacLachlan “a 60-year-old woman who had gathered with others in order to attend a meeting” to discuss “the potential impact on women and girls” of changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

It also described a confrontation on a Bectu union picket line in March, saying that “trans activists, with no connection to the industrial dispute itself, mobbed…

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No One Is Illegal

21 Jun

La Jicarita


I seriously doubt that the voters out in Trumplandia know that their president’s executive order yesterday, June 20, stopping the separation of children from their parents seeking asylum at the Mexican border now means that the entire family—parents and children—will be kept together in indefinite detention in federal prison. Yes, babies and toddlers and young children are going to federal prison, locked up as criminals, for seeking asylum in the United States of America.

Those of us who attended Allegra Love’s presentation at the First Christian Church in Santa Fe know this, as well as how the concept of detention is not a partisan issue nor just a twentieth century, isolated incident of institutional racism against people of color. Love, who is the director of legal services at the immigration advocacy organization Santa Fe Dreamers, opened her presentation with these words: “Family separation is not morally complicated…

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Miranda Yardley Banned From Twitter

15 Jun

This was a few weeks back but I hadn’t heard of it, what with being twittering only intermittentely.


Germaine Greer Interview, May 23, 2018, Channel 4 News – transcript

10 Jun

Interview of Germaine Greer, by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Channel 4 News, May 23, 2018

KG: Thank you very much for coming in.

GG: Pleasure.

KG: These days, more often than not, when I see you interviewed, you’re being asked about trans rights, about equality. Do you find the fact that no one’s talking about liberation any more, about women’s roles, a bit depressing?

GG: No. I try not to do depression. Like most people who are depressive, I have depression from time to time. It’s the black dog. It just turns up and you just have to get through it. It isn’t a rational response to anything, depression. It concerns me. It worries me. Equality is, as far as I’m concerned, a profoundly conservative aim. It will get us nowhere. It would mean that women do the things that men do, and they can make all the noise in the world about wanting to be paid exactly the same amount of money for doing what? For doing their job in exactly the same way? 

This will get us nowhere. The corporate world is misery. I don’t really think that men are happy in the corporate world. But they train for it from the time they’re tiny. When they have their first secret club and they have their first leader, and they have their first Stepin Fetchit and their first joker. Boys live in groups and these groups are patterns for the corporate world they will eventually enter. Except that now they’re so huge. And when you look at the takeovers of virtual companies by other virtual companies you begin to wonder if we’re all going mad. But men are trying to exist in this world, which is cutthroat and competitive and bellicose, and women are fighting for entry, even though – when women invent video games they’re a different kind of video game. But they’re not the ones, sort of the biggies, where we seem to be making fantasy war the whole time. Why do women want to get involved in that? Because there used to be a women’s league for peace and freedom, and women understood that war is now being waged against civilians, against women and children. And yet we’re saying “Can we please join the army?” That’s the wrong aim, the equality aim. “I want to carry a weapon. I want to be able to shoot people I’ve never met. I don’t think we can go that way.

KG: Did you always know that? When you were writing The Female Eunuch, had you already decided that equality was the wrong goal? 

GG: Yes. Definitely.

KG: How did you come to that conclusion so quickly and so early on?

GG: I could see that the lives that men were leading were driving them crazy. That the corporate world is one of dog-eat-dog, or somebody climbing up you back. If you actually look at the pattern of the corporate world, there are people falling out of it. It’s actually a machinery for failure. And there’s only one CEO at the top. And it’s always struck me as amazing. What does the CEO do? The answer is “Nothing.” His desk is empty, because everything has been delegated. But when you delegate jobs to other people, if they fail, you dump them. You don’t take any personal responsibility. And most of the hoops that men leap through in the corporate world are meant to winnow them out, get rid of them. And I just thought this is hateful. And we know that men are unhappy. How many times do we have to be told that men are killing themselves? We know this. We’re their mothers, after all. We know something about how sad they are. We know how war is driving our soldiers mad. You know, they come back from the war and they’re homeless and mentally disturbed. They’re in prison. And we lose more soldiers through self-harm and suicide than we do through enemy action. Doesn’t anybody get it that this is wrong? That this is crazy? It doesn’t make sense at all.

KG: I want to spend most of our time talking about the things you’ve written about in your books, but I just want to know what you think of the current state of feminist discourse and the things that it’s seemingly obsessed with. What does it tell us about how much progress we’ve made in the last 50 years, since you wrote The Female Eunuch? 

GG: I don’t look at the usual indicators. There may be more women earning the same pay as men, if that was the issue. But we still have women doing all the unpaid work. The U.N. analyses tell us that. And how can you expect equal pay for working in paid work when you’re going home to work harder, for nothing? I mean, that’s a simple case of expecting the employer to do something that nobody else is going to do. Well, that isn’t going to work out, that way. We keep pretending that men are doing an equal share, but every time we get the analysis of who does what, it doesn’t work out that way. 

KG: So do you think equal pay is a foolish goal? 

GG: I think thinking of it in terms of pay…if you think of it in terms of reward, that’s a bit different. Why do we do the jobs we do? Why do nurses nurse? Why do they get frustrated when they’ve got too much paperwork and when they haven’t got enough resources and when they haven’t got access to the newest techniques of relieving people’s suffering? Because they love the work. And everybody who deals with nurses, or teachers, or carers, knows this. And they make them pay. You’re doing a job you love doing, you’re working for people you love, you go home knowing that you’ve relieved somebody’s suffering. Well, we’ll fine you for that. We’ll just pay you less, because we know you won’t strike.

KG: So are you saying that the women who are still fighting for equal pay should be more militant?

GG: (laughing) No. Well, wait a minute. Does militancy actually work? I mean, shouting and screaming doesn’t work. Marching doesn’t work. A negotiation could work. But, I mean one of our biggest problems was what happened when we had the equal pay act, and the male work force was asked what would be a fair outcome? And they said something they had to know was rubbish. They said women should be paid equal pay for work of equal value. And you had to say to them “What makes you think work has a value? Because you didn’t get higher pay for your job until you used your muscle, until you went out on strike, until you did collective bargaining, until you actually wrestled with the potentates, until you got a deal. And now you don’t want to share the deal.” And they didn’t. They didn’t want to share it with other workers in their own industry, so that a man tightening screws on the assembly line would be earning more, because of the battles fought by his union, than the women making upholstery. Now you can sell a car without 50 screws in it, because no one will know where they went, but don’t try to sell it without upholstery, because you won’t. And that’s what happened in Dagenham. But you see, we keep telling those stories wrong. We pretended that Dagenham brought the women equal pay. It absolutely did not do that. That was a distortion of the history. The women got the semi-skilled rate, which they shouldn’t have got. They should have got the skilled rate. They accepted a deal, and they got done. And this is what happens to women all over. They accept a deal and they get done. 

KG: The gender pay discussion, though, has followed the #MeToo movement, which has also dominated discussion over the last year. You’ve gotten into some sorts of arguments over that, sort of saying it was a whinging culture.

GG: No, I didn’t use that word. My problem with it is that it’s dishonorable. You know, these women claim to have been outraged 20 years ago. Far too many of them entered into an agreement that involved non-disclosure, and they took payments, sometimes for a lot of money, six figure payments. Now the statute of limitations has elapsed, and they’ve suddenly decided there’s nothing to gain now by keeping silent. Now we’re going to start kicking ass and taking names, talking loud and drawing a crowd. And we’re now going to pursue the men who we consider to be malefactors here. 

You don’t do that, in my view. That’s blackmail. I don’t know how it’s different from blackmail. If I come to you and say “I know that you felt up a girl in the typing pool, who was so frightened that she never came back to work, and I’m going to tell the papers,” and you say (holds hands outstretched in a resisting gesture) “Don’t be too hasty. What will it take to keep your mouth shut?” I don’t know how those negotiations went on, but I think they’re profoundly dishonorable and women should never have entered into them and it’s now quite wrong to say that they’ve been brave. They’re being brave now that the statute of limitations has elapsed in most cases. In the case of Bill Cosby, for example, Cosby was sued in a civil action, by  (sounds like “Scansion,” I don’t know who she’s talking about) a woman who was awarded damages. She had also signed a non-disclosure agreement. But now (see previous note on name) her case, which she won on a lower burden of proof, because it’s done on probability and not on the absence of all possible doubt, now that case has been reheard under this pressure and Cosby, in a second retrial because the first one fell over, in a second retrial has been found guilty. And you just think “This is such a mess.” And the next thing that’s going to happen – 

KG: Isn’t it righting a wrong, ultimately?

GG: No. They haven’t righted anything.

KG: Even if it was a long time ago…

GG: They haven’t righted it, though. How could they right it?

KG: Well, not righting it but actually doing something about it. Doing something to hold people to account. 

GG: But it won’t work. It’s not going to work. The terrible thing is that Rose McGowan, I hear, I read online, has sold her house in L.A., to pay the costs for the civil case against Harvey Weinstein. She could have gone to the police about Harvey Weinstein for nothing, because that’s what we pay our taxes for. 

KG: So what’s a woman supposed to do, then? If they are victims of some sort of sexual assault or harassment?

GG: We’re not even allowed to call ourselves victims. (Snarkily) We’re “survivors.” In fact, the wreck of the Titanic (laughing). And it’s not. It’s just a fuck. Please. There’s a mad idea that this could destroy your life, that it’s the worst thing that could possibly happen. 

KG: A sexual assault.

GG: And it’s not true. Look, if it has to do with how susceptible you are, then this is more stuff we have to think about. If a woman says “You overcame me, you ignored me, you ignored me saying to you ‘Please stop, please don’t do this,’” and then she says “You’ve taken my liberty, my optimism, my light,” done all this, and you think “Hang on a minute. It was a fuck. How could it do all that? Why have you collapsed because this happened? It happened to me. 

KG: Can you say the same of rape? 

GG: In my case it was a rape. They talk about consent? Here I’ve got a man saying “Say ‘fuck me!’” And I’m saying “No!” And he’s saying “Say ‘fuck me!’” And I’m saying “No!” And each time he hits me across the face with the back of his hand. And I don’t know if he did it five, ten, fifteen times, did I in the end say it? I can’t remember. How could I remember?

And at some point I tried to crawl out of the car. I was in a car where he’d taken the handles off the door. And I tried to get out and he shut the door on my head and crushed the cartilage in my ear. And eventually it was completed, as they say in law. I have no idea whether it was complete in law. But it didn’t kill me. This is going to amaze you, but I worried about him. I thought “You poor bastard. You’re completely crazy. And they’re going to get you, like a mad dog. They’re going to get you.”

KG: And you don’t think that experience could destroy a woman? 

GG: No.

KG: It didn’t destroy you, but you don’t think it could destroy anyone?

GG: It shouldn’t destroy anyone. If it does, it’s because you’ve been told lies about who and what you are. I’m trying to think of ways around it. Most rapes don’t end up in a court of law. Most rapes occur in marriage, as a matter of fact, and I’ve just finished reading a new book, which is by Basia Briggs, where she talks about her first marriage. Never in the history of womanhood was there more destructive abuse than in that perfectly suburban relationship in which her husband used and abused her relentlessly. And it never occurred to her that she had a case against him, because you can’t bring a case against him without destroying the family. It’s the same old problem we have with domestic violence. 

KG: But what are you saying about those women who do say “It’s destroyed me,” then, and who want to bring action? Are you saying they’re making it up?

GG: Well, we have to make it untrue. The fact that they’re now taking action suggests that it’s untrue. But I would want to suggest that it’s always untrue. Rape isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, obviously. We like to think “Oh, the penis is a weapon.” Susan Brownmiller said (dramatically) “You know, it’s a weapon.” No it isn’t. You want to hurt a man, try hurting him there. It’s one of the easiest places to hurt him. 

Speaking for myself, I kind of had a vague idea that I should grab his balls, or twist them or something. But I thought “I’ll screw it up, I won’t get it right and he’ll kill me.” I didn’t really think he’d kill me. I just thought he’d hit me. By that stage I’d been hit so much. 

It isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. We shouldn’t have our young women more afraid of a penis than our sons are afraid of a knife. That is just stupid. We are not getting it. Our girls have a way out. In a way, rape is a way of escaping murder. Boys can’t make that deal unless somebody wants to bugger them, which as we know is easier to prove in law than rape of a woman. It’s all a mess because it’s come down to us through masculine law, when women used to be the property of a man, and so the crime was against the man. The crime of rape is now against the state, and it has to be dealt with as any other crime, when you have to prove the case beyond all possible doubt. In the case of consent, you can’t do that. I don’t turn blue when I consent. There’s no way you can tell. 

KG: What you’ve just said in the last few minutes is a really good illustration of what happens with you in these sorts of debates. What you’re doing here is making a really powerful argument about the uselessness of the law- 

GG: And we’ll change it.

KG: And how rape is never prosecuted –

GG: But it is prosecuted. And lost.

KG: But in the process of this, a lot of women listening to this will say that what you just said is utterly offensive about women, and people who’ve been raped, and you’re belittling their suffering and their experience by saying it doesn’t kill them. That ends up being the headline. Doesn’t that happen to you a lot? You say something and that headline winds up as something you perhaps didn’t intend. 

GG: Well, this is why I’ve told you that I know about being raped. When I’ve written about rape in the past and said “Let’s try and get sensible here.” Let’s try and understand how much of it there is. If we agree that most of it is never reported to the police, it’s not understood by anybody involved to be a crime, then we’ve got to understand that the things that stick up, the horrible, brutal things, which we know were done in the case of the Belfast Four, that these things are, as it were, the peaks that stand up above a huge landscape of sexual abuse, of non-consensual sex that women bear, and it does them no good at all. It erodes their self-confidence, it erodes their sense of selfhood and dignity, and it impoverishes the tenderness, the mutual love that should exist between spouses.

We’ve got to not do this. We’ve got to somehow deal with the fact that there’s too much bad sex. You could even argue that most of the sex that happens in the age of pornography is bad sex. It’s sex with organs and not with people. It’s fetishistic, it’s masturbatory, people are never more alone. We’ve not even elevated sex. We’ve turned it into something completely banal.

KG: But what you said about rape; a man might take from that “Germaine Greer is saying rape isn’t that bad.” 

GG: Well, it’s not as bad as murder. I’m convinced of that.

KG: But not just that. That it isn’t as bad as society currently holds it. 

GG: But does society hold it? Just be aware of the fact that most rapes are not reported. And all the figures about the relationship of the reported ones to the unreported ones are as soft as butter, because they have no idea what they’re talking about. A rape that’s unreported is simply unreported. I didn’t report mine. You might be surprised to learn that Mary Beard was raped, on a train, in Italy. She didn’t report hers, either. She was in Italy, didn’t speak Italian, on her way to work on her Ph.D thesis. Her whole life would have been torn apart if she’d decided to try and bring a criminal case in Rome, and I can tell you it would have taken just about the rest of her life. You just can’t do it. It’s not doable. It’s never been doable. I didn’t do it, because I knew that I would be discredited. What was I – I went to a party in the suburbs. I danced with this man and we went to get a cigarette. We went out the wrong door from the party and ended up in the garden on the other side of the house. He then said “Let’s go for a walk.” And I thought “It’s too early to start screaming” so I kind of went for a walk. And then I ended up being pushed into the car and everything else followed from there. 

I would have been dead to rights. They would have torn me to pieces. In those days I wouldn’t even have been examined for DNA. Nowadays you get worked up over weeks. Not only that, but you have to surrender your mobile phone. You lose all your privacy, as a rape victim, because you become a piece of evidence. 

KG: So you think the answer to this is actually to stop trying to prosecute people for rape. 

GG: No, no. It’s not quite that. It’s a better idea to try to bring a civil case for damages. But be aware you can lose it. You can lose it for contributory negligence. That you didn’t behave sensibly. You put yourself in a position of jeopardy. A third party can lose it, like the people who owned the house where I was at that party, because they didn’t put in safeguards for young women who might be drawn off into the dim suburbs of Melbourne. And you can have costs awarded against you. And it can go on and on and on. And the longer it goes on – this is the thing, I think, about Mary and about me, that I didn’t want my story to be “I was raped.” That’s not my story. I was in the wrong place. It was like being hit by a bus. I didn’t internalize it. It wasn’t my fault. In fact, ironically, the boy involved, who offended again, and I feel bad about that, because if I’d actually denounced him; and I prefer to call it denouncing, by the way, rather than complaining; if I’d denounced him he might have been stopped. Because a rapist of that kind, who’s extremely violent, is usually a recidivist. This is a predator, and he set me up, and he actually had the car and everything set up to do exactly what he did. 

KG: So why is damages a good outcome, but a nondisclosure agreement for which you get paid $130 thousand dollars or whatever it might be for a sexual assault, not? 

GG: They’re not necessarily for your sexual assault. You get paid not for being assaulted but for keeping your mouth shut. Now, I didn’t keep my mouth shut. All the people in my circle knew what had happened. And what actually happened in my case, and it sounds almost Indian, is that the guys who took me to the party; I was working as a housekeeper for four guys who owned a flat in a very luxurious part of Melbourne. And they’re taking me to the party. I then disappeared, because once I got to my feet, after being – I was badly bruised and knocked about and very dizzy. I wanted to go back and tell the guys “Please take me home. Something awful has happened.” I thought people would be able to tell. I didn’t even know if I was covered with blood. I had no idea. 

And I just wandered up the road. The guys came home to the flat about an hour later, and they were very angry, because they considered that he had taken a liberty with a friend of theirs. And what they actually did was something totally illegal, but wonderful. About three nights afterwards, I was ironing tablecloths in the kitchen, and suddenly he was there in the doorway of the kitchen. And I looked at him, and then one of the other guys standing behind him said “Is this the one?” And I said “Yes.” and thought what’s going to happen? They’re going to make me marry him or something, a marriage of reparation. I said “Guys, what’s going on?” 

They took him away. They took him to the front room and they shut the door. And they said to him, because they all came from the same public school set, you know. And they said “Do you like to ski at Hotham? Well, don’t come any more. We’ll get you above the snow line.” And then they said “Don’t you surf at Torquay? We’ll get you outside the surf line. You’ll drown.” 

And he disappeared. And that was extraordinary, to actually – because it doesn’t happen. And there was no legal process or anything. Completely illegal, but it worked. The only thing is he committed the same crime again with a young woman who was engaged. It’s a silly story, though. She and her fiancé were going to a party, they needed some grog, liquor, so they went to a grog shop, and they said to this guy whose name I’ve completely suppressed, I have no idea what his name is, they said to him “Take her to the party and I’ll be along with the grog,” and he raped her on the way to the party. Mad as a hatter. And dangerous.

KG: Throughout your public profile and a lot of your big television interviews and tackling big topics, you end up upsetting some people. 

GG: Well, what am I going to do if I don’t do that?

KG: Do you care about causing offense? 

GG: I get offended every day! Who’s going to fix that up? Every time Mother Brown’s book, Mrs. Brown’s boys comes on television I’m vomiting with rage. But who’s going to give me a break? 

KG: But do you think it’s a good thing to try not to offend people? 

GG: No. No.

KG: So you always say whatever you think and hang the consequences?

GG: Tell the truth! 

One of the things that happens in rape is you’re not allowed to get over it, because they keep saying; if you say ‘I’m okay, I’m not crushed,” they’ll say you’re in denial, that you’ve been traumatized and you’re now denying it. And this will change you for the rest of your life. 

Everything that happens to you changes you for the rest of your life. How can it be more dreadful than being conscripted into an army, say, and being made to kill people you’ve never met? I mean, how can we turn this into this vast drama when there are so many worse things that are going on in the world? 

KG: You say it’s really important to tell the truth. The people who are most offended with you at the moment seem to be the trans community. This is something that you get asked about a lot, even though as far as I can tell –

GG: Even though I’m not interested.

KG: You don’t really write about it or talk about it voluntarily. And so it makes me wonder why you enter into this debate. Is it just because somebody asked you a question, so you answer it? 

GG: Which debate? 

KG: About whether trans women are women, you know, what is a woman? All of that definitional argument that you’ve been drawn into recently. You went to a lot of trouble with a lot of people and they’re all offended with you. 

GG: No, they pretend to be made –

KG: No, they are offended. You can see that.

GG: Honestly, I keep being told that I’m going to be no platformed, right? The general public out there thinks I’m being prevented from speaking on this subject. A: I don’t speak on this subject. They speak on nothing else. So leave it to them. We’re not even allowed to refer to the fact that somebody is transgender. We’ve got to call these people “women” and behave as if we cannot see that they are not as we are, when it’s blindingly obvious. That’s all an infringement of our right of free speech, but we don’t make a big fuss about that. What actually happens is they keep saying that I’m not allowed to speak on any subject whatsoever.

KG: Because of that. Because you’ve – 

GG: Because they’re men and – (with irony) well, they *were* men. And they think that they’re important. “What about me?” It’s the great male question. We could embroider it on all your t-shirts. “What about me?” 

We have problems of definition about “what is a woman?” maybe? But we have many more problems connected to the fact that we *are* women. Because people can’t make sense of our anatomy or our health or what menstruation is, or why some women are crippled by menstruation and can’t go to work. We can’t make sense of why our babies die in utero –

KG: But how much do you care about this issue? 

GG: I *don’t* care. 

KG: There are lots of feminists who find the whole question of trans women very annoying and they feel it’s an assault on them and they feel it’s a misogynist kind of construct.

GG: I’m afraid I’m – 

KG: Are you amongst them? 

GG: No, I’m more insulting, I’m afraid. I think it’s uninteresting. I think we have much bigger problems. And our problems are connected with things like that we cannot tell a young woman, a woman, why her baby died in utero at seven months? Why can’t we tell that? Because we’ve never worked on it. Why have we never worked on it? Because of misogyny. Because of lack of interest. Because being interested in women’s affairs is to become the most condemned of doctors, a gynecologist. So they can’t answer the simplest questions. What is postpartum psychosis? How do we take care of women who are threatening to kill their babies and the young woman who died as they ferried her between three hospitals? A young, well-connected woman who died, because they eventually, they tried to restrain her, she ruptured her liver. At that stage they decided she needed to go to a mental hospital and she ended up dead. That is absolutely outrageous. It should never happen in our community, or indeed in any community. 

KG: Don’t you feel though you’d be able to spend more time on all those questions if you just moved on from this trans question?

GG: But I’m not- 

KG: “Okay, fine. If you want to join us as women, then you’re women. Come and join us in the bigger struggles.”

GG: Well, they’re not going to help us much with postpartum psychosis, are they? Or even with menstrual discomfort. 

I think we can manage. We are 51% of the population and we’re being held to ransom by a handful of people who are extremely vocal and aggressive. And that’s no surprise to any of us. I don’t understand why we have to make a mockery of older women. And that’s universal. You say to me that I’m offending people. Every time you get vilified because you’re an old woman, and you only have to be 50, not very old. I’m now 80. I’m as old as you like, and you can call me senile and anything else you want to call me. But I’m not going to be hijacked for this question of sexual identity, of gender identity. 

Look. I wrote a book a long time ago about how you get made into a woman. In those days, we called it “conditioning.” And you could see it happens from birth. Little baby girls are left to cry for longer than baby boys. They are fed for shorter periods than baby boys. We want them to be smaller than baby boys, and so on and so on and so on. And it goes right through our entire lifespan, where we’re learning femininity. And it’s a masquerade. It’s not who we really are. There is nothing feminine about being pregnant. It’s almost the antithesis of that. There’s nothing feminine about giving birth. It’s a bloody struggle and you’ve got to be strong and brave. There’s nothing feminine about breastfeeding. God knows it drives everybody mad. They want to see nice big pumped-up tits, but they don’t want to see them doing their job. And it just goes on and on. 

That masquerade is now what is being presented to us back as the real deal, with the hair extensions and the false eyelashes. And you think; “Why do you think that’s real?” when we all know that it isn’t. 

Gender – let me explain here. Sex is a given. And you can be intersex. One of the women on Genderquake is genuinely intersex. She has breasts and a penis. And she’s fantastic. She doesn’t want to cut her body about. God knows it’s a problem body. She has a problem when she meets someone, whether she thinks they might be able to develop a relationship. When does she say “By the way, I’ve got a penis”? She’s accepted as female gender. That is all fine. That’s not a problem for me. And intersex is relatively common, especially in certain ethnic groups, and they have ways of dealing with it.  

It’s a completely different thing when you decide to eliminate masculinity at one end and adopt hyperfemininity at the other, because you’ve left all this space in here where the rest of us live. I’m not a particularly feminine person but some aspects of my character, men would tell you, are extremely feminine. I don’t even think about it.

KG: So, just so we can make sense of this conversation, just briefly, can you explain to me what you mean by femininity and masculinity, and how they differ from sex? 

GG: (laughing) Well let’s see. Femininity is learning to speak more softly. It’s learning why little girls want to wear a pink tutu to the shops. It’s why they want their bedroom painted pink. Or be a princess. My godchildren spent five years wanting to be princesses. I had to preach many a sermon about how unhappy princesses are. They’re all learning that stuff and they impose it on each other.

KG: Does femininity go with being a woman? 

GG: That’s a gender thing. Gender can be anything you like. It’s entirely cultural. But unfortunately sex is not entirely cultural. It’s something you’re born with whether you like it or not. And most of us who grow up to be women, who have our first period at 12,13,14, whatever, traumatizing otherwise, a body we thought we knew becomes smelly and dirty and different. And then the boys come along and be watching pornography and say that we’re not groomed and we have to remove our body hair and so on. We’re to spend our lives removing body hair. That’s femininity, which is the fake version of femaleness. Female is real, and it’s sex, and femininity is unreal, and it’s gender. And it’s a role you play, and for that to become the given identity of women is a profoundly disabling notion.

KG: In the 48 years since you wrote The Female Eunuch, when you first took these notions apart, of the differences between femininity and being female, do you feel that women have sort of disappointingly conformed to femininity, or have they followed your lead? 

GG: I would be very disappointed if they followed my lead. That would make me tear my hair. I’m not a cultist. I’m not a charismatic preacher. 

KG: But there hasn’t been any real divorce of femininity and being female.

GG: There has been for some people. There was in China. In China, during the Great Leap Forward, men and women were indistinguishable. They looked exactly the same. Now that’s made very easy because they’re the same height. Now in our race, our mixture of races, speaking of basically Aryan, men are bigger than women. Characteristically women are shorter.  So it’s hard for us to pretend to be men. And it’s been one of the things that breaks my heart when I see female-to-male transsexuals, that they have tiny hands and tiny feet. And I think, just as male-to-female transsexuals have enormous hands and enormous feet. And I think “Here you are, you’ve taken male hormones and you’ve grown a little beard and your hair is cut and you’re wearing men’s clothes, and here are these tiny hands and feet that are giving the game away.” We don’t have the drugs to give you that will make you sprout big hands. It’s in some ways a delusion, a delusion that you can do it. I mean, if you think about it, why would you think “I’m in the wrong body but if I cut bits off of it, it’ll turn into the right one.” There’s no logic there. It can’t work. If I have a hen on a chopping board and I take off its leg, it doesn’t turn into a cock. You can’t do it. I’m really interested in the young people who didn’t feature in Genderquake the other day, the young people who’ve decided they don’t want to be any sex, who have their secondary sexual characteristics suppressed. They remove breasts, they remove penises and testicles, and they want to be like angels. Sexless. And I’ve actually written about it long ago, around about the time of The Female Eunuch, I wrote a story about what would it be like if when you met people you didn’t know what sex they were? And you would get to know them and fall in love with them and you still wouldn’t know what was likely to happen when you became intimate? You’d have to discover it. And I thought that would be amazing. 

KG: So what do you think is going on there? Why do you think we’re seeing more of this publicly? 

GG: Well, I think there are lots of reasons. One is that we have to have fewer children, so we might begin to not practice reproductive sex as much. We would actually do more polymorphous – 

KG: So you think this is sort of an evolutionary step?

GG: Well, you’d better hope that it is. Because we really have to have fewer children. The earth can’t support us anymore. And we’ve already got same-sex marriage. Interesting. I don’t know, I think same-sex yes, marriage not. Marriage has bad history and I’m not a champion of marriage, of people owning each other. I’m profoundly against that. But if what’s happening is we’re learning different ways of pleasuring each other that don’t involve the exposure of an ovum to sperm, and it’s arguable that that’s already happening. But you would hope it became not an imitation of slam, bam, thank you ma’am. That it actually became more intelligent. 

KG: Let’s move on a few decades, to the book that you’ve rewritten, revised and put out again. It’s about women aging and the menopause, as it says on the front. Why is this the book that you’ve revised? 

GG: Because a great deal has happened since it was first published. There are the two great cohort studies, the one in America and the one in England. And they were very badly designed. They got terribly mixed up over their terms of reference. They terrified a whole generation of women. And they got the wrong results because they set it up the wrong way. There are plenty of people who are bitter about this, who says that because of what happened in that case, women have died of diseases that we knew how to prevent. I’m not convinced by this, I think. I wish it hadn’t been badly designed. But what we really needed was a much stronger commitment to better studies looking for specific things that we’re trying to understand. They tried to do it on the cheap and this is the story of women. That you think you can do it that way, and they absolutely couldn’t. So women, lots of women who might have got benefit from replacement steroids dumped them and were too terrified to use them again. And that was a sad thing, but it was a direct consequence of the fact that the replacement steroids, HRT as we call it, have been oversold, ridiculously oversold. They were not the elixir of youth. They would deal with specific problems connected with, now what I can’t say is “estrogen deficiency” because we never proved it. But it’s to do with the fluctuations in estrogen secretion in the body of a menopausal woman. It could be anything from 30 to 60. So that’s another vagary that we can’t fix. 

So I want to say yes, replacement steroids have a role, but be skeptical and don’t take them for any longer than you need to. 

KG: Are you going to revisit any of your other works and revise them?

GG: No, I don’t think so.

KG: The Female Eunuch doesn’t need rewriting?

GG: No, no. It needs another book, somebody else’s better book. No, it’s very much a book of its time and it’s not a very good book. I’m perfectly happy to see someone else write a better one. It’s a bit disappointing that it’s on reading lists for kids at school.

KG: Still.

GG: I could go and teach them what’s wrong with it. 

KG: Because so much has changed.

GG: (laughing) Don’t believe a word!

KG: What is wrong with it?

GG: Oh, it’s too literary. Because that was my milieu. I didn’t have much acquaintance with the real world. I was a bookish person. And now I think the academic character of so much feminism, the fact that it went into university courses, rather than into industry and politics. It’s become ridiculous. 

KG: Just in the last few minutes, can I just ask you a few little advice questions, then? 

GG: Advice? I don’t give advice.

KG: Advice questions for people bringing up children.

GG: (laughs merrily)

KG: How should they raise their sons and daughters to think of femininity and masculinity? Because, you know, a lot of parents; I’ve got young children; and a lot of parents will say: “God, it’s amazing how they fall into their gender roles, how the girls just want to play with dolls.” How boys and girls want to play separately. How the boys want to play sports and the girls don’t. Is all of that nonsense? Have you got to try actively to break that, as a parent? 

GG: I think you’re on a prayer to nothing. It’s not going to happen. I’ve been watching little girls because I’m fascinated by this pink business. And I think pink stinks. It’s an awful, chemical color. I wish it was some other, nice color. And I realize that in many cases it’s a kind of guerrilla activity. They are forming a little bunch of stormtroopers in favor of pink. And they want their hair very long, dangling in their faces. I mean, the children who have grown up in my house all had their hair cut because it used to drive me mad that they had hair in their mouths while they’re trying to eat and all that sort of thing. Out would come the scissors and they’d have a little basin crop, and they all wore bib overalls. And it’s funny, somebody gave one of my godchildren a doll and she threw it down the stairs. And I found myself saying “Oh, poor dolly, why did you – oh – shut up! She’s not playing Mothers today. Good on her!”

Boys, on the other hand, have a really challenging life career ahead of them. They have got to join male groups and they’ve got to learn their place in the pecking order. And they’re going to be bullied and manipulated and negotiations will go on. Ultimately we are hominids, rather than Homo sapiens. So they’re very much like ape communities, where you’ve got the silverback who’s the ruler, and then you’ve got all the junior apes who are trying to jockey for position. And then you’ve got the ape who’s placating people by being funny. And then you’ve got all the women, by the way, foraging for this group of useless men, who are playing games of who’s top ape, who’s top dog.

KG: You don’t think you can break that cycle? 

GG: You can, and the result will be you’ll get children who choose intermediate roles. So your sons may decide that they’re going to be gay, effeminate, whatever. And that’s very interesting to me, because I think it is a knowing rejection of masculinity as miserable, as cruel, and ultimately very damaging. We don’t do assessments on men who kill themselves as to their masculinity factor. But I’ve always regarded suicide as a crime of anger, rather than sadness. We live with sadness. It’s a thing around us all the time. But when you lay violent hands on yourself it’s because you’re angry, and I think masculinity is involved there. Masculinity is really hard and once upon a time we needed it, maybe, when we were fighting hand-to-hand. But we need now to somehow get over it, because it’s turning lethal in modern society.

KG: You’ve probably turned up another conversation I’ll have to invite you back for, but Germaine Greer, thank you very much indeed for that.

GG: Well it’s a pleasure. Thank you. 


Julie Bindel Interview, June 3 2018, with Derrick Jensen – transcript

8 Jun


(Sound of nightingale)

Hi, this is Derrick Jensen and this is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is Julie Bindel. She is a journalist, broadcaster, author and feminist campaigner living in London. She writes for the Guardian, New Statesman, Unheard, The Spectator and the Sunday Telegraph, reporting on culture, music, food, film and sexual and gender identity. She is co-founder of Justice for Women, a feminist campaigning organization, that supports and advocates for women who have fought back against or killed violent male partners. Julie has worked extensively on research concerning domestic violence, prostitution and sex trafficking.

So first, thank you for your work, in the world, and second, thank you for being on the program.

JB: Thank you for yours, Derrick, and it’s a pleasure to talk to you again. 

DJ: Well thank you. I enjoyed our first conversation very much.

So, you have a new book called “The Pimping of Prostitution.” Can you talk about how and why the left has so embraced prostitution, and what are some of the arguments in favor of its promotion? What’s wrong with these arguments? 

JB: There are two key reasons why the left embraces the sex trade, when it should be as condemning of the sex trade as it is the tobacco industry, for example. One is because the political left is still dominated by men and by pro-male ideology, by patriarchy. And the second is because there is this misguided notion that a liberal or leftist approach to the sex trade is to see it as the choice of a woman to do what she wishes to do with her own body. Clearly that’s a ridiculous argument, because it’s as different as it could possibly be than the argument, for example, about how women should control our own reproductive rights, our own reproduction; that we should have safe and legal access to abortion. Prostitution is something done to women, and it’s backed up by a huge multibillion dollar industry. But the left gets itself in a twist about this, because there are so many women who are, quite frankly, wheeled out to speak on behalf of prostituted women, who define themselves as “sex workers,” but who are, in fact, running the business of profiting from other women’s abuse, and who are as unrepresentative of prostituted people as you could possibly imagine. 

But the left rather uncritically, in the main, accepts the view that prostitution is about women’s empowerment and women’s choice.

DJ: So do I have a somewhat romantic view of the left, 100 years ago, or would it be accurate to say that the left has gotten much worse? Was there sort of a little bit of a golden age of the left, where the left did see prostitution as exploitative of women?

JB: I think there was never a golden age, but I do think it was a lot better. I certainly think that we have now gone into a postmodern neoliberal era where it’s now seen as progressive, and therefore leftist, to embrace ideology such as an innate sense of gender, or a kind of gender essentialism, as we’ve seen with some of the transgender ideology put forward, where there is a leftist response to feminist critiques of radical Islam, which is to adopt a knee-jerk position of “Oh, this is just racism, this is Islamophobia,” and shut down feminists and other progressive people who talk about religious fundamentalism as terribly bad for women and girls, and the rest of the world. And we certainly have now embraced a neoliberal view of sex and of the human body. So, for example, it’s not just prostitution that is idealized and, I suppose, sanitized by the left. It’s also what I would call the mining of poor women’s bodies, the bodies of the most disenfranchised women in the world, for the benefit of the rich. Breast milk is sold in Cambodia. It’s taken from the bodies of extremely poor, desperate women, and sold to wealthy white women or gay couples who have surrogate children, for their own convenience. 

Speaking of surrogacy; womb trafficking, the renting of poor and desperate women’s wombs for the benefit and convenience of rich westerners, is now seen as a choice. It’s seen as something that is a human right for, for example gay male couples, to use the womb of a desperate woman to produce a baby that is nothing more than a fashion accessory in many instances. So we certainly are seeing a neoliberal approach amongst much of the left, that supports the selling and renting and brokering of female body parts and bodily functions. 

DJ: So what I hear you saying is that prostitution in this case is not separated from the larger notion of male/social access to the body parts and the bodily excretions of women. 

JB: That’s right. And I can’t understand why, when the progressive left has always traditionally had a strong critique of capitalizing on desperation and poverty, on commodifying the human body. Why it makes that exception when it’s about women’s body parts being rented, brokered and sold. 

DJ: You have used the term “neoliberal” a couple of times. Can you define “neoliberal” as you mean it, so we can all know that we’re using the same word. 

JB: Well, in the sense that I’m talking about neoliberalism at the moment, it’s where it relates to a kind of free market capitalism that has gone completely out of control. So it’s laissez faire economic liberalism on speed. It is the lack of a critique of the exploitative capitalism that affects the poorest and the most desperate people. And where it applies to prostitution; the way that I can describe prostitution is that interface between extreme capitalism and extreme patriarchy. And the acceptance of the sex trade, and the emphasis here on trade, by the left, is to adopt a neoliberal approach to this, which flies in the face of leftist or Marxist, if you like, notions of exploitation of workers.

And then of course when you get some of the left, particularly left men, who tie themselves in knots trying to place prostitution within a workerist world view, it gets more ridiculous, because of course the inside of a woman’s body cannot be a workplace, cannot be a place of work. And it’s impossible to regulate this form of so-called work. And you can’t ever afford women so-called worker’s rights when this is about paid sexual abuse; how, of course, the sex trade survivors define prostitution. 

DJ: Okay, I’m going to throw out a couple of the arguments that we hear fairly often. One is: You’re talking about desperately poor women, you say, but I have seen women, for example, on Facebook, making the argument that “Hey, this is a great way for me to make a living. I made a ton of money and paid off my college debt in two months.” That is, unfortunately, something I’ve heard and I’m sure you have heard too. How do you respond to that one?

JB: Well first of all, I – I’m going to respond to you, of course. But when I’m in debates and discussions about this, I never focus on the so-called right or lack of right of a woman to prostitute. I always look at whether or not men have the right to pay for sex, whether men have the right to buy and sell women. But when women say things like “You’re taking away my right to earn a lot of money, to pay for my kids to go to private school, to buy a second home,” whatever, I’ll just say: “Okay. So imagine if there is a woman. Imagine if she existed. She has had no damage whatsoever. No psychological damage, no physical damage. She hasn’t developed any addiction. Her children haven’t been taken away from her. She hasn’t been raped. She doesn’t have a sexually transmitted infection. She’s fine. Okay, great! Because that’s not my business or concern. She’s clearly unrepresentative of the vast majority of people in prostitution. And therefore, she doesn’t have a right to speak for those people. She only has a right to speak for herself.”

If we heard about a man who had sold his kidney in order to escape from certain death within a war zone or an area of famine, we would be looking not at his so-called good or bad experiences of selling that kidney. We would look towards criminalizing the surgeon who performed the operation, the broker that organized the sale, and the person that ordered the kidney. His experiences, good or bad – and let’s face it, we know that they’re not going to be good – would be irrelevant in the argument. They would not be seen as part of the political analysis. His individual good experience, or bad experience, would be seen as an individual person’s experience. He wouldn’t be, therefore, asked to speak for the organ sale industry as a poster boy, if he said that it was fine and dandy and it was great that he was able to get so much money to bring his family over to Europe. We would all condemn the organ trade, and we would say that there should be stigma upon those that profit from it.

DJ: My experience in, sort of, and again, I don’t mean to talk too much about Facebook, but my experience on posting, like, excerpts of my work or just comments in general about things, is that I can comment about a lot of things that people will ignore. But if I post something…like the other day I posted something about Stephen Hawking having paid to sexually exploit women. And if I post anything along those lines, I can guarantee that there is going to be a flood of males, especially, freaking out about how could I possibly say anything bad about this male, or how could I say – males will jump in to completely freak out. 

I’m just saying that and now you can take that wherever you want.

JB: It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the knights in shining armor, the men rushing to support and defend women, are never more active than when they are rushing to defend the sex trade and our so-called right to be exploited within it. Men tend not to rush to our aid when we’re talking about rapists who walk free, or clean got away with it. All of a sudden it’s more nuanced than that. “There are false accusations of rape,” these men will say. But whenever it’s supporting something like Slut Walk or pole dancing or stripping, or the sex trade in general; there they are, killing themselves to protect our right to be abused by them. So it’s just part of the men’s rights movement. That’s all it is. They pretend that they are doing this on our behalf. 

But when we’re talking about 1950’s America or the U.K., when there were calls for women to be kept at home, in the kitchen, to be breeding machines, to be married to men, and be in a subservient position, post-WW II, after women had actually finally got out of the home and been employed in real and important jobs; when there was a discussion about “Well, should women still be allowed to work?” all these men rushed to women’s defense, saying “No! They should be able to be housewives and raise their children, if that’s what they so wish.” 

So these men, in their droves, will only support us; in the main of course, there are some exceptions; when it benefits them. And the sex trade is a perfect example of this. 

DJ: So can you talk about the ascendancy of the pimp lobby and how that has really mainstreamed pimp ideology? I have interviewed Gail Dines before, and she did her sort of basic talk on porn and the harms of pornography, and was talking about, she often uses the phrase “body punishing.” And that’s all really important stuff, but there’s another thing I think’s really interesting, which is, you know, that she has the organization Stop Porn Culture, and I’m really interested also in porn culture and how it infuses every part of society, from advertising to  newspapers. So can you talk a little bit about how the pimp lobby has mainstreamed itself?

JB: Well, the pimp lobby has had a really good run. It has delivered a very persuasive, palatable message for a long time, which is that prostitution exists because there are some women who want to do it and can only do that to earn money, and that men need it. That a man who can’t get instant sexual access to a prostituted woman and use her orifices could well end up a dangerous man, who will go out and have to rape “real” women. This is how the mantra goes, and I think it keeps a particular world order. It relies on hierarchies, of course, of “deserving” and “undeserving” victims; of some women who are an underclass to other women, and that means that the women who aren’t prostituted feel a bit safer to know that they’re not the ones at the bottom of the pile. 

And it also suits the, in many ways, women’s kind of need to think that there is a way we can control male sexuality. In reality, what feminists know is that men can control their own sexuality. It’s not in the slightest bit uncontrollable. That’s a myth. But if women think men will choose other women to rape, or that men can be actually kept in check by having access to prostituted women’s bodies, then everyone will be fine. 

So the pimp lobby presents itself as progressive, when in fact what it’s peddling is the most regressive position that you’ve ever heard. It peddles the notion that all men are potential rapists, which radical feminists are supposed to be the ones to have said, and we never did. It’s in fact the pimp lobby that says men have to have sex when they need it, when they want it, or they’ll become monsters. And it satisfies all kinds of what is seen as progressive agendas, that this is all about choice and agency of women who want to do this. So they masquerade as extremely liberated people simply offering another product. And the truth, of course, is known very well by prostituted people and by the johns who use them, and by those who broker the deals, in other words the pimps. But it’s only since sex trade survivors have been speaking out and speaking the truth and campaigning as experts against the sex trade that we’ve seen a little bit of insecurity from the sex industry spokespeople, from those who have controlled the narrative so far. 

DJ: Can you expand on those last two sentences a little bit? About the discomfort in the pimp industry that may be manifesting. 

JB: The pimps have led the agenda for a long time, and it has remained the dominant narrative.  And now there is a certain amount of insecurity creeping into what was an all-powerful lobby. Five years ago, ten years ago I certainly wouldn’t have been able to get a publisher for my book, which is a global critique of the sex trade, and I wouldn’t be able to have been invited to many countries to launch it. It would have just been seen as completely left field, because of course the dominant narrative that the pimps propagate for profit has been upheld and exacerbated by those within academia who see this pro-sex work position as progressive, and as cool, and as woke, and as a bit, kind of, chic. So we, those of us who are abolitionists, have been painted as the regressives, as the old-fashioned pearl clutchers, the anti-sex women and men who really don’t understand what true sexual liberation is. In other words, we’ve been gaslighted. It’s been an Orwellian process by which the truth becomes lies and lies become the truth. And we’re now trying to sort that out, because we have – for my book, I interviewed, at length, 50 sex trade survivors from around the world, who are telling the truth, and who are experts, and who know what the pimps and the johns are like and how they manipulate the truth to convince people out there who aren’t involved in the sex trade at all, to convince them that this is something that is regular work and is not harmful. 

DJ: So I want to be clear that I am not asking about your sex life, but let’s address this question, because I get this too all the time and it makes me laugh out loud sometimes when we are accused of being against the exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation of women both, regular exploitation and commercial exploitation; because we’re against that, we are accused of being somehow frigid or as you said, pearl clutching. I don’t have any pearls to clutch. But how do you respond to the notion that the fact that you are against the sexual exploitation of women means you must not like sex? 

JB: Well, you know, this is something that girls grow up hearing almost immediately when they start mixing with boys. So when I was at school, if I didn’t respond happily to sexual harassment or a sexual assault or a sexual innuendo, it was because I was frigid. Or I must be a lesbian. There was something wrong with me. So in other words, if you don’t like sexual assault or sexual aggression that means you don’t like sex, because in the minds of those accusing us of this, they can’t separate harassment, aggression, assault, and sex. It’s how men have been socialized throughout boyhood to respond sexually under patriarchy. So of course those pro-feminist men, feminist allies, who refuse to accept that sex has to be about punishment and abuse of women and girls are also called sissies and faggots and just somehow not real men, which is what the “faggot” slur is and the “sissy” slur is. 

So this is something that we’re very, very familiar with. When it comes to those slurs when we critique the sex trade, I mean there are pornographers and pimps and sex workers’ rights activists, as they call themselves, on social media, mainly Twitter, that have said the most appalling things about what should be done to me, and of course other feminists and our allies.  Because we criticize men’s use of women, women’s bodies, for commercial exploitation. I mean literally rape fantasies. Horrific sadistic brutal sexual punishment has been suggested for women like me who say men shouldn’t buy and sell the inside of women’s bodies. So were it not so horrific and vile, you could laugh at this. It’s so clear what they’re doing. It’s so clear that they’re trying to shame women out of critiquing what men do with their penises when it hurts women. 

DJ: So the fact that they’re trying to shame you, or terrorize you, into silence brings up the next question I wanted to talk about, which is deplatforming. It’s really striking to me that these days it is not uncommon for universities to deplatform as proponents of hate speech those who object to the commercialized sexual exploitation of women. I don’t know what even to ask because it just seems so absurd to me, but it’s happening fairly often, that they get deplatformed as “SWERFS” or as somehow hating women who are sexually exploited.

JB: It’s crazy, isn’t it? I suppose the only example that I can think of that tells its own story was, I think it was about three years ago, I was invited by some of the lecturers to a big university here in England, to debate a pornographer about whether or not pornography harms women. And I actually happened to meet this pornographer, that I’d seen before this event, on the train. We were both met at the same time by our hosts, and we were walked through the University campus together. This pornographer is a man who has accepted awards for producing porn, such as exploitedafricans dot com. Pornography that’s based on women coming from Africa to Europe and being raped by white men upon their arrival and being grateful for that. He was also given an award for a genre of porn from a very real case here in the U.K., of a taxi driver called John Worboys who is thought to have raped about 500 women, in the back of his cab. Police didn’t believe the women and it was only when they linked several of the cases that he was apprehended at all. 

And this man was given free rein to walk through the campus. I was screamed at and heckled by students calling me whorephobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, because I; along with many other feminists who were born into, under Muslim law; critique the wearing of the full-face veil. And they were absolutely vile. They were trying to block me going into the lecture hall. They had tried to get the lecturers to cancel my appearance. They disrupted the talk. They were screaming at me afterwards, holding up their banners and placards, telling me I was hateful, a bigot, similar to Hitler. Wouldn’t speak to me when I asked them to engage. And the pornographer was just left completely alone. And I thought, this is an absolutely topsy-turvy world we’re living in. It’s feminism that is now seen as bigoted and fascist. And this is clearly because the men’s rights movement has gained a lot of ground lately by supporting the crazy notion that gender is innate, and that some people are born in the wrong bodies and need surgery to correct what is effectively being unhappy with the enforced stereotypical gender roles imposed upon us. The men’s rights movement has had a massive shot in the arm from transgender ideology, and by supporting the very vocal pro-sex work lobby.

So they’re just men’s rights activists. And they’re bringing a lot of students with them who don’t know any better, because they’re being discouraged from debate, because they’re scared to speak out and say “Why are you no-platforming a feminist who spent her life campaigning against sexual violence?” They literally are bullied out of questioning this, let alone challenging it. 

DJ: So I don’t know that it is possible to really have the discussion you and I are having right now without talking about – we can talk about this in terms of hatred of women, we can talk about this in terms of men’s perceived entitlement to the bodies of women. We can talk about this in terms of aggrieved entitlement. I guess what I’m trying to say is that all of the atrocities that you’re describing don’t emerge in a vacuum. They emerge in the context of a larger culture of contempt for women. 

JB: Of course. This is about male entitlement and male hatred. And the transgender ideology, and the pro-sex work ideology, and the pro-Islamofascist ideology – and make no mistake, I consider orthodox Catholicism and orthodox Judaism to be religious fundamentalism also, but they’re not defended by the so-called progressive left. But these ideologies that leftist men have signed up to have merely given them an opportunity to scream, at feminists like myself who they are threatened by; “Transphobe,” “Whorephobe,” “Islamophobe”; and still to be seen as progressive, still to be seen as on the right side of history. There is one particular leftist man here in the U.K. who is a columnist for a liberal newspaper, who, you know, you scratch the surface of some men who present themselves as great feminist allies, and what you find is a rabid misogynist. And this is what this man is. He has used his so-called support of the most extreme transgender ideology, by which I mean “Some lesbians have a penis” -type crazy ideology, to give him the opportunity to stand alongside other men that hate us and scream at us that we are transphobes, and one of his favorite phrases is “You are on the wrong side of history.” 

DJ: Given a choice between being on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of biology or justice, I think I’ll take biology and justice, frankly.

JB: Right. I’m with you on that. 

DJ: I’ve long been thinking that one of the most brilliant parts of the left-wing form of misogyny, and trans ideology, and also pimp ideology, queer theory, is that they allow lefty men to feel self-righteous as they accuse women of being bigots. 

JB: Completely.

DJ: That’s an extraordinary rhetorical accomplishment. We can imagine a late 19th century US ideology that would allow white people in Alabama to call those who are opposing Jim Crow laws the bigots. It’s a stunning reversal. 

JB: Absolutely. I completely agree. And it is something that has become such a truism; that those younger people who aren’t as confident as we are in challenging things, because we have to be; will just get swept along with this nonsense and won’t dare question. And if they do, they’re called bigots. They’re called fascists. They’re told they’re on the wrong side of history, when every instinct in their body is telling them that the sex trade is abusive to women. That religious fundamentalism is never good for progress. And that it’s impossible to argue that some women have penises, and that sex is not a biological fact. They really get bullied out of questioning, let alone standing up and saying “You are wrong, and I don’t like the way you’re treating these second-wave feminists,” without whom you would not be able to have any rights, as a gay person, to walk down the street holding the hand of your same-sex partner, or demand that you get maternity leave, or be able to report your husband for rape, to the police. 

There’s just this notion that second-wave feminists – and this is an ideological battle, not a generational one – this vilification of second-wave feminists, some older, some younger – it’s just this horrendous witch-hunt mentality, and vicious misogyny. 

DJ: We’ve got maybe ten minutes left. In a couple minutes I want to ask you for some sort of political wind down, but in the meantime I would like to ask you a personal question, which is how do you, personally, deal with that hatred? And I’m asking for myself, because I get it too. And I’m asking for the people you’ve mentioned many times, young people who might be being bullied into either silence or expressing perspectives that don’t make any sense.

We are social creatures, and that sort of hatred that was aimed at you, that sort of jeering, and it’s been aimed at me too, is meant to silence us. How do you persevere, how do you not let that get to you, how do you persevere in the face of it? And how do you continue to do constructive work?

JB: Well, it does get to me. It does have an effect. It does take its toll. But when we decide we are going to be campaigners for change, when it’s a life or death situation, whether it’s trying to overthrow apartheid in South Africa, for example; patriarchy where women are being tortured, killed, and left on a rubbish heap. When it’s about saving the planet from destruction. We know that this is a very hard fight and that our enemies will come after us hard. And that of course happens with feminists. It happens with the kind of activism you have done. It happens when you support feminists in our work. We often get kicked hard for just standing up for other activists whose priorities might be a little different from our own. 

But the way that I cope with it is because I’ve had, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve got a media platform, I’ve got a good and successful career, I’ve got a reputation as a feminist that extends beyond the U.K. where I live. I have a big friendship network, an extremely supportive partner and other family members. And I’m part of a movement, which means we protect each other. My heart breaks when I think about young activists doing the work that you’re doing, or doing the work that I’m doing, and coming into this without the kind of support network that we have, or the safety nets that we might have just managed to put in place for ourselves. Most activists I know are not privileged or wealthy, not cushioned from the harm that doing this work can bring about. Obviously, or we wouldn’t be doing this work. It’s the idea that we somehow cope with it in a way that just means it’s water off a duck’s back. I don’t believe anyone that tells me that. I really don’t. It’s meant to demean us, it’s meant to destroy us. The one thing that I can say is it won’t destroy us because we wouldn’t come into this work and be doing it for as long as we have, if we were to be destroyed it would have happened by now.

But we have to recognize the toll it takes on our health, on our mental health and our physical health. On our income and even on our friendship network. Because a lot of people can’t be as brave as we are, or they become – they make a choice to not stand up and fight when the going gets too tough. So I think we need to start talking about the real toll that it has on us and not have that British stiff upper lip, and not actually pretend that we are these warriors that are made of metal and steel, because we’re not. 

DJ: Thank you for that. That was all very moving to me. 

Something that helps me to keep going when I am getting yelled at or having people call me vile names is that I think that I still have a choice. That I can do this work or I can not. Of course, character-wise I don’t have a choice, but leave that aside. That things could be worse. I could be someone who is on the streets and who is actively being sex trafficked. Or I could be a coal miner in China. Or I could be a stevedore in Mumbai. When I think about it like that, I think; yeah, this really hurts but things could be a lot worse. I could be that person who is selling his kidney to get out of the country. And that helps me.

JB: Yeah. That’s how I do it. 

DJ: And another thing I want to mention in passing is that we always hear that pornography is so liberating, and pornography is so wonderful, but I’m sure we’ve both noticed that whenever someone who is pro-porn or one of the pimp lobbyists attempts to attack us, one of the things they quite often do is throw pornographic images at us. They pornify us. Like you said about the rape fantasies that are thrown at you. So even the people who are throwing these understand that this pornography is demeaning. 

JB: Oh, they know. They’re fueled by an absolute disdain for human dignity. For women’s dignity, and for the dignity of any of us, including male allies, who call them out on what they’re really about. These people – you know, I don’t believe in the notion of evil. I’m a complete secularist. I do not believe anyone is born with a criminal or a bad gene. I believe in the social construction of character, of gender, of every single societal issue of that nature. But some of these people, the only way that I can describe them is as monsters. They have become monsters. They have dehumanized those of us that they see as their enemies to the point of where they literally wish to see us dead. They have become dehumanized themselves. And they have no remorse, no shame, no conscience. And we honestly have to accept that. These are very, very bad people. 

And then of course they become heroes to those that aren’t monsters, that are misguided, or that just find it easy to follow the ideology that Trump would actually support, if only they would admit it. So that is the selling, and buying, of the human body, including the kidneys and organs of men and children. That they support religious fundamentalism doing the most appalling things because these leaders are seen as somehow worthy of respect. That they support the notion of transgenderism because it’s more palatable to them than homosexuality.

So these people need to look at how their ideological belief system is very similar to that of Trump and his entourage. And we need to shame them out of perpetuating this ideology by calling it what it really is. It’s closer to fascism and totalitarianism than we would ever imagine in our wildest dreams ever becoming.

DJ: So that would be a fabulous ending, but I’m going to ask one more question, which is: So you have eloquently spoken against the pimp lobby and expressed the harms that prostitution does to women. Can you talk about what sort of solutions, for just a couple of minutes, what sort of solutions you propose to help women to not be put into these positions?

JB: Sex trade survivors are finding more support and more platforms around the world than ever before. The women I interviewed for my book, and the women I work with as feminist colleagues looking to a world without prostitution, are now opening doors around the world. We now have more countries that have adopted the so-called Nordic Model of criminalizing the johns and decriminalizing those who are prostituted than we do states that have legalized or decriminalized their sex trade. We will win. We will absolutely gather more momentum and more support. So I think, in terms of a solution as to what we can do to dismantle violence against women, and a big part of that is the commercial sex trade, is to pull in as many allies as we can, and try to persuade these people who think that a good response to the sex trade is to support women selling and buying bodies, and for men to have the right to do that. That we say this is not a progressive way to behave in the world and see the world, and to try to imagine a world without prostitution, in a way that we can imagine a world without child poverty or without racism. 

DJ: My guest today has been Julie Bindel. This is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. 

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