Dominic Raab sparked outrage when he said he isn’t a feminist. So why do these hugely successful women say: it’s the chaps who claim they are that you need to worry about…
Eight years ago, he incurred the wrath of feminists by describing them as ‘obnoxious bigots’.
And earlier this week, Tory leadership contender Dominic Raab said while he championed equality, he was ‘probably not’ a feminist.
While some applauded his honesty, others felt his stance makes him unfit to be Prime Minister.
Here a panel of Mail writers give their views and ask whether men can — or should — be feminists.
Leave it out, chaps: Male feminist Benedict Cumberbatch sporting a shirt that says ‘This is what a feminist looks like’
Fellow male feminists Nick Clegg (left) and Ed Miliband (right). Here a panel of Mail writers give their views and ask whether men can — or should — be feminists
This is ONE fight best left to women
Bel Mooney is the Daily Mail’s advice columnist
Call me cynical, but I can’t help being suspicious of men who shout: ‘I’m a feminist — of course I am!’ from the rooftops.
I’d be wondering if they protest too much — and in private treat the women in their lives like doormats. I’ve witnessed this many times: successful men who spout all the right ideas, boast about their well-educated wives’ brains — then expect the women to do the bulk of domestic organisation and childcare.
I became a feminist in the late Sixties when Left-wing men were notorious for espousing allegedly right-on, progressive views (those heroic suffragettes, women’s global struggle, equal rights — you name it) while displaying the worst kind of sexism, especially when it came to sex itself.
Call me cynical, but I can’t help being suspicious of men who shout: ‘I’m a feminist — of course I am!’ from the rooftops, writes Bel Mooney
The editors of the notorious Oz Magazine, for example, claimed to be avant-garde and were widely admired by the ‘woke’ generation of the time — yet one issue featured Hell’s Angels, invited into the office to have sex with their women on the floor, while being photographed. Exploitative and vile.
These days, feminism is such a complicated area, riven with discord, as different groups of women slug it out (a sad spectacle but par for the course in this era of identity politics) that I think men are probably wise to keep out of it. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
If a bloke claimed to be feminist, I’d call him brave — even foolhardy. For in the current, fevered climate he’s likely to be set upon and brow-beaten by a Twitter mob demanding a precise definition.
Third wave feminist? Fourth wave? Whatever, he’ll risk angering somebody or other.
I’d prefer an enlightened modern man to state quietly that he absolutely believes in equality of the sexes but will respectfully leave the possession of the F-label to women.
As he returned in his overalls from making a treehouse for the grandchildren, I decided to ask my own husband if he was a feminist.
‘No’ he replied. Rather surprised, I asked why. ‘Wouldn’t it be called “appropriation” these days? That’s why I’d better leave all that to you.’ Precisely.
What bloke would want to join the flag wavers?
Edwina Currie is a writer and former Tory MP
I’ve never been a feminist. Not back in the 1960s when it was a fringe movement and definitely not now, when anyone challenging the prevailing virtues is howled down on social media. I admire Dominic Raab for having the gumption to say he wouldn’t class himself as a feminist either. I admired him even more — and wholeheartedly agreed with him — when in 2011 he called some feminists ‘obnoxious bigots’.
As a Thatcherite Tory I believe passionately that everyone, regardless of background, gender, colour or any other feature, should be encouraged to achieve their full potential and thus to make their contribution to society.
That’s meritocracy and that’s what Raab, rightfully, said he believes in.
I’ve never been a feminist. Not back in the 1960s when it was a fringe movement and definitely not now, when anyone challenging the prevailing virtues is howled down on social media, writes Edwina Currie
What feminism does is to split our population into separate groups. That is divisive and often dangerous.
Then it’s claimed that it’s the fault of one lot that the other lot doesn’t have exactly the same outcomes, which is frequently nonsense. Worse, many feminists seem to hate men, or to want to marginalise them, as with all-women parliamentary shortlists.
Why would those who claim to have experienced discrimination then want to practise it? There’s a name for that: hypocrisy. Can you blame some men for not wanting to stand alongside them?
I still ask questions like: why do women leaders not make it to the top of professions where women are employed in large numbers, as in teaching and the universities?
Why are women still so little interested in scientific and engineering careers?
But to blame ‘the patriarchy’ for all that, as many feminists do so loudly and aggressively, and to shoot down objectors, is to destroy objectivity and candour. To feminist campaigners, a woman is only a success if her career paths ape those of men, as CEO of a big company, for example.
To me that’s bizarre. This scenario downgrades the choices millions of women make at a key stage in their lives, in favour of that extraordinary experience, motherhood.
Perhaps, as a father, Mr Raab knows that women’s lives are fulfilling in ways feminist campaigners don’t appreciate.
So when they wave their flags and proclaim, ‘we are all feminists now’ you’ll still find a few of us brave enough to say: ‘Not me, sister.’
Be a feminist – just don’t expect THANKS
Julie Burchill is a writer, author and broadcaster
Of course a man can be a feminist —as easily as a white person can believe in ethnic equality or a heterosexual can support gay marriage.
Whenever I hear a man say he’s not a feminist — as Dominic Raab did — I always imagine that he must be inadequate in some way.
Imagine if someone said they didn’t believe in equal rights for people of colour, or for homosexuals. But Raab added, confusingly, that he believes in ‘equality and meritocracy…I’m all for working women making the very best of their potential — that’s really important to me.’
Of course a man can be a feminist —as easily as a white person can believe in ethnic equality or a heterosexual can support gay marriage, writes Julie Burchill
How does this make him not a feminist? Considering that he commented in 2011 that some feminists were ‘obnoxious bigots’, I can’t help thinking that he’s one of those misguided souls whose knowledge of feminist theory begins and ends with ‘The Worm That Turned’.
That was the infamous Two Ronnies running joke in which a jack-booted Diana Dors and her leather-clad State Police took a lascivious delight in reducing men to the status of put-upon parlour maids. But, contrarily (that’s women for you) I can’t be cross at Mr Raab because I’m also suspicious of men who make a big song and dance about being feminists.
We’ve all met those right-on men ‘brocialists’ who pretend to be feminists in order to creep up on gullible young women, plying them with cheap booze while quoting from ‘The Female Eunuch’.
I’ve known of men who hit their wives and call themselves feminists and men who stupefy themselves on pornography and call themselves feminists. It was Peter Stringfellow, the owner of a lapdancing club, who famously said: ‘Of course I’m a feminist, my whole life has been around the beauty of women.’
My advice to men is, yes, be a feminist, but don’t push yourself to the front, don’t expect shows of gratitude from the oppressed and especially don’t expect sexual favours because of it.
Male feminists in general do need to pipe down and just help with the heavy lifting if they want us to trust them.
It’s another way for men to feel superior
Virginia Ironside is a journalist, author and agony aunt
Thank goodness for Dominic Raab. If there’s anything that sets my hackles rising more than being called a feminist — and I’m not, and never have been — it’s some man claiming he’s one, too.
I believe in equality but I don’t feel terribly oppressed, thank you very much, and I come from a long line of powerful women.
I’m acutely aware there are female populations across the globe who are still horrifically treated. But men suffer oppression and persecution, too, lest we forget. Men make up around 35 per cent of domestic abuse victims every year, for example.
Thank goodness for Dominic Raab. If there’s anything that sets my hackles rising more than being called a feminist — and I’m not, and never have been — it’s some man claiming he’s one, too, writes Virginia Ironside
Yet, everywhere I look, crowds of smug ‘woke’ gentlemen seem to be stumbling over themselves to proclaim themselves a flag-waving ‘feminist’.
Just the other day, while attempting to have a pleasant drink, I found myself seated next to a man who proudly announced himself a feminist ‘like you’.
Perhaps he simply meant to confer his support for equal rights for all. And who isn’t on board with that? But any man who loudly declares himself a ‘feminist’ falls into three types — none of them good.
First of all, we have the ‘frightened rabbits.’ They’re so terrified of female rage that they feel the need to signal as subtly as an air traffic controller that they’re NOT one of those boorish Y-chromosome tyrants.
Next up are the self-flagellating fellows who essentially despise themselves simply for being (by virtue of biology) members of the misogynistic overlord class.
Last — and certainly the least — we have the slimy wretches who declare themselves feminists simply (rather deviously, in fact) to prop up male superiority.
By proclaiming they want to look after and support us, they actually perpetuate the myth of female vulnerability and weakness.
Well, to all those male ‘feminists’ out there, we don’t need your ‘protection’. Give it a rest, we can look after ourselves.
Men act like they are scoring points
Julie Bindel is a writer, feminist and co-founder of Justice for Women
So, Dominic Raab has told us something every feminist on the planet already knew, that he most definitely is not one.
How do I know? Simple: Raab is a man. When I first met men, back in the early 1980s, who were insisting that they were feminists, I would tell them that it takes more than being able to knit and to show their emotions. Feminism is action, and challenging the status quo.
Men cannot be feminists, but they can be feminist allies.
Raab says he is a ‘champion of equality and meritocracy’ which is great. However, feminism is not about ‘equality’, but liberation.
So, Dominic Raab has told us something every feminist on the planet already knew, that he most definitely is not one, writes Julie Bindel
Imagine half the House of Commons being female. The men would still shout louder, get more attention and wield more power. The job of feminism is to do away with patriarchy, so that men no longer feel entitled to behave in the way they have for millennia.
Equality would simply mean that women could behave as appallingly as men often do.
We need to change male behaviour in order to be truly liberated.
Being a feminist means recognising that males are privileged from birth, and females are afforded a lower status.
I know only a handful of men who would choose to give up that privilege without a fight, so, in order to appear ‘woke’, some men merely masquerade as feminist in order to score points.
The last thing feminists want to do is to alienate men who may wish to support our cause, but we certainly don’t want them taking over either. Feminism is the only movement on earth that prioritises women and girls.
If we were to tell men that they can become feminist because they support our aims, they will soon be swooping down in superhero costumes, trying with one hand to rescue us, and taking the funding and the credit with the other. Feminism exists because men have long refused to give up the throne.
…And a woman who says we should all be feminists
Libby Purves is a broadcaster and writer
At best it was a daft answer, at worst a feeble attempt to placate the ever-shrinking proportion of sad old harrumphers in his party.
When asked: ‘Are you a feminist?’ the sensible answer would have been: ‘Yes. Isn’t everyone? Next question please — something on policy, perhaps?’
Rabb’s statement that he ‘probably wouldn’t’ call himself a feminist follows his remark about some feminists being ‘obnoxious bigots’ and men getting a raw deal.
The raw-deal line was plain silly — since it is depressingly clear who holds the most power, money and freedoms. As for the ‘obnoxious bigots’, it is true that some enthusiastic feminism has gone over the top into vicious nonsense.
At best it was a daft answer, at worst a feeble attempt to placate the ever-shrinking proportion of sad old harrumphers in his party, writes Libby Purves
But I defy you to find me any point of view which hasn’t attracted its share of bigots and extremists. There are religious, political, Brexit, Remainer and animal rights ones. What we’re talking about is a freak of temperament, not exclusive to any opinion.
I will no more pay attention to the radical American feminist Valerie Solanas saying men are ‘machines’ not even animals, than I will to Sir Bufton-Tufton saying the little ladies, God bless ’em, should stay at home.
Or to religious nuts prophesying damnation for gays.
Mr Raab’s feeble grasp of reality was obvious in his excuse about having a working wife and his desire to help ‘working women to make the most of their potential’.
Feminism is not just about women becoming CEOs, or even a ‘meritocracy’. It is a wider respect for fairness in welfare, social structures, health.
It is considering women’s needs even when they are not out there in power suits ‘making the most of their potential’ but raising children or being carers.
It is acknowledging two things: that women and girls are as diverse as men with as many abilities, and secondly that there are physical differences. In a world that needs women as much as men, feminism is not a cult or an eccentricity.
It’s plain common sense — for men and women.
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