Today is the centennial of that happy day when British women finally won the vote. Women over the age of 30, that is, who owned property – only ten years later would we be granted the vote on the same terms as men. A century on, and the most common current phrase used about feminism by its enemies (apart from the flagrantly insane claim that it’s ‘gone too far’) is that ‘X has set feminism back 100 years!’ This can be anything from Kim Kardashian showing off her bum to women having the nerve to complain about unappetising male colleagues taking joyless liberties with them in the workplace; both of these, for some reason I have yet to comprehend, makes both Kim and the complainers ‘traitors to feminism’. How so? To those of us not suffering from that singularly strange psychological defect which makes people frightened by the idea of female equality, the first is just one woman choosing to make money from showing off her bum, and the second just women refusing to let superannuated masturbators get their jollies on the job.
Feminism has never been a monolith; neither has the fight for black civil rights or the struggle for socialism, both of which were similarly composed of different strands – pacifists and Black Panthers, Methodists and Marxists. But it is only feminism whose enemies delight in pointing out its divisions. Tellingly, no one ever says of the perpetrators of black-on-black knife-crime or of Jay Z when he cheated on Beyonce ‘These men are traitors to black pride, and have set the quest for black civil rights back a century!’
Luckily, feminism is big and tough and can stand all sorts of challenges, the most recent and surprising one being that the Left, which we always assumed was a comrade in the struggle, has turned out to be more virulently misogynistic than the Right. Jeremy Corbyn may recently have fingered Mary Wollstonecraft as his all-time hero, but talk is cheap; not only have the Conservatives had two female leaders while Labour have achieved the grand total of a dick-swinging zero, but as the Labour MP Jess Phillips said to me a few years back ’People on the Left are champions of equality until they see that some of their power is being taken away from them – whereas the Tories willingly gave it over.’ The tendency of some silly left-wing women to suck up to various groups who mean us harm is regrettable – and of course the cowardly cultural cringe of certain Western feminists in the face of Islamofascism is one of the great shames of our age. That women on allegedly feminist marches and on Swedish diplomatic visits to Iran will put on the hijab while brave women all over the Islamic world are facing imprisonment, torture and death for removing theirs will, by future generations, be seen as akin to collaboration with the Nazis.
But because I’m not a doom-monger, I’m not going to claim that feminism is being set back even a decade, let alone a century, by any of this – it’s just individual women acting like ass-hats in pussy-hats. We don’t have to agree about everything because right from the start, feminism was broad enough to incorporate different views. The suffragists were nice and the suffragettes nasty in pursuit of votes for women. The only thing we need to agree on is that a culture which gives one group fewer rights than another group is a culture not worthy of the name.
We’ve come a long way, baby, and we didn’t make the journey to be told what constitutes feminism by chicks with dicks and humbugs in hijabs. Historically, the role of women has been to hold up a mirror which reflects men back at twice their actual size – that the mirror now reflects back a large number of deformed dullards who can’t get over the fact that women can have genitalia and brains at the same time will be their eventual undoing, not ours. At least – and at last – we can see clearly now.