Poking about in the archives, I unearthed the second episode of Vanessa Engle’s excellent documentary series, Lefties. Titled Angry Wimmin, the film traces the rise of radical feminism in a grim Britain of the 1970s. As a record of social history it’s interesting stuff. The revolutionary politics of shoes, for instance, is quaintly entertaining, and the subsequent, post-revolutionary fear of being caught shaving armpits or wearing lipstick may also amuse. Around 6 minutes in, there’s a section on “political lesbianism,” i.e. lesbianism as an ideological duty, irrespective of desire. One of the figures interviewed is Julie Bindel, a Guardian commentator whose subtleties of mind include a belief that “[get] men off the streets” is “a fabulous slogan” and “all women know that if we have not been raped, we are lucky.” In the first clip below, Ms Bindel airs the following reminiscence:
What I could never understand – and I did resent – was [heterosexual feminists] going home to men at night. It just seemed such a contradiction. And often I would get very angry when I would challenge them about this, and they would say, “Well, that’s just the way I am. I just don’t fancy women.” Having no understanding at all of the fact that sexuality is a social construct and that we all make choices depending on the way we want to live and the world we want to see.
What’s striking is Bindel’s adamance. It’s not even open to debate. This, presumably, is how she still sees the world. Sexuality simply is a social construct - it’s a fact - and all human beings can reconfigure their desires in accord with ideology. Though the basis for this claim remains somewhat mysterious. Former activist Lisa Power recalls her own, rather different, experience of sexuality by decree:
It was a bit of a pain because there were all these women who suddenly wanted to be lesbians, but they didn’t actually terribly want to sleep with women. But they sort of felt they ought to, to pay their dues.
Here’s part 1:
Part 2 includes utopian separatism, “penile imperialism” and the “problem” of male children:
Some women felt that they didn’t want to have kids if those kids were going to be boy kids. And that they’d be afraid of raising sons and having those sons grow up into an abusive, destructive patriarchal world… That they then had to relinquish control of their children and see their children become men in a society like this. So some women didn’t want to have male children for the best of motives.
Pornography, protests and graffiti are the subjects of part 3:
It was a fantastic bit of graffiti and everybody had it up on their walls. And then we found out that a man had done the graffiti. We were just like, “Right, that’s it.” We were basically going to go round and brick his house ‘til we found out he lived with women and children [laughs] … then of course we couldn’t do it, yeah.
In part 4, the revolution goes mainstream. Cue gravy trains, victim hierarchies and passive-aggressive leverage:
Identity politics were used by some people as a way to shut others up, or for them to gain power. This will always happen… and it was not in the end positive.
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