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Posts tagged ‘patriarchy’

Whitechapel: Murder, Masculinity and Mental Health

Whitechapel: Murder, Masculinity and Mental Health

Warning: this contains some spoilers for all four series of Whitechapel, although I’ve tried to avoid any major plot twists and I haven’t named any of the killers.

I watched Series 1 – 4 of Whitechapel quite recently. I’m four years late to the party, so all the fanfiction, forums and fan phenomena are long dead. Nonetheless, I’m glad I sat down and watched each series consecutively, because it enabled me to spot certain recurring themes and to watch character arcs develop.

For the uninitiated, Whitechapel is a British crime drama, which aired on ITV from 2009 to 2013 and consists of four series. The first two series focus on modern “copycat killers” replicating historical crimes. From Series 3 onwards, the focus shifts slightly – rather than the crimes being directly lifted from history, the team use historical accounts in order to help them solve each case. It was described in The Times thus: “It is all in the worst possible taste and bloody good fun.” It stars Rupert Penry-Jones as DI Joseph Chandler, Phil Davis as DS Ray Miles and Steve Pemberton as Edward Buchan, an author and “Ripperologist” (expert on Jack The Ripper).

I was initially put off by the lack of female characters in Whitechapel – the women in Series 1 with the most screentime are the ones who end up brutally murdered, aside from the pathologist Dr Caroline Llewellyn. The killer in the first series finds his inspiration in Jack The Ripper, and the modern murders are clearly sexually motivated. It can be difficult to pull off a narrative like that without vindicating the sexual element and objectifying the women involved, but Whitechapel handles it very well in my opinion. Having watched the later series, I found that this motif of women being mutilated was ditched by the narrative. Although representation did steadily improve with the introduction of DC Meg Riley, DI Mina Norroy and Morgan Lamb in Series 3, I don’t actually mind the lack of women so much, mostly because I think Whitechapel just happens to be better at handling themes of masculinity.

You could accuse me of reading too deeply into it and analysing something that’s not there, but Whitechapel showcases the broadening spectrum of masculinity in our modern society, as well as depicting toxic masculinity and its abusive, repressive nature. This is crucial, especially as we live in a society in which the biggest killer of men between the ages of 18 and 50 is suicide. The series neatly covers that spectrum, with each of the main male characters representing a facet of masculinity. All of its main characters inhabit their roles as men in varying ways, and it’s both interesting and poignant that the series never condemns any of them for it.

On one end of the spectrum, we have DC Emerson Kent, who is the baby of the team (all of the other officers play a parental role for him to some extent). I like to think of Kent as representing a kind of “new” masculinity – a masculinity characterised by openness, acceptance and emotion. In Series 1, DS Miles convinces Chandler – whose confidence is wavering – that he’s strong enough to remain with the team. He discusses how everyone on the team has a different way of coping, and he mentions to Chandler that Kent copes with emotionally challenging cases by having a good cry in the toilets or out on the car park. We see this onscreen in Series 2, Episode 2. It’s heartbreaking and a moment of character development for Kent in terms of how we as viewers react to him, but more interesting is how the other characters respond. Edward Buchan sees him and tells Chandler. They don’t laugh, they don’t mock him; it’s just accepted that that’s what he does.  Edward Buchan is another example of this. In S3, Ed is struggling to cope with the weight of expectation in his new role as police researcher. As Chandler relies on him to find historical precedents for the crimes, Ed often finds himself under pressure to hunt down the right case file in his newly-constructed archive. He has to learn to deal with the fact that he can’t save everyone – he feels enormously guilty for having unwittingly aided The Ripper in Series 1 and for discovering the truth too late in Series 3, resulting in the deaths of two young women. We see him seeking counselling with Morgan Lamb in Series 3 and he asks Chandler for advice too. Ed is a great example of a man who isn’t afraid to admit when he feels vulnerable.

DS Ray Miles is more emblematic of what we might consider “traditional” masculinity. He’s a father figure for the team, especially for DI Chandler, although as a character he even subverts that successfully. There’s no doubt that he’s the patriarch of the team, but he’s a very nurturing character; he just appears gruff when expressing it. He takes his anger about his father’s absence (partially resolved in Series 2, Episode 3 when he discovers what really happened to his dad) and converts it into caring for others. Despite being a more traditional male, he never ridicules the others for their personal coping mechanisms and is happy to share his own with Chandler (he likes to sit by his fish pond and think, FYI).

At the opposite end of the spectrum is where we find The Ripper (whose name I won’t reveal to avoid spoiling it for you!). He’s representative of toxic masculinity, or masculinity to the extreme. This is reflected in his absolute misogyny. Through him, women are objectified in the most extreme way possible. They become his tools, his paint palette, as he recreates the crimes of Jack The Ripper. They lose any autonomy – his mutilation of their bodies means (metaphorically speaking) that he owns them, he possesses them. It’s a pretty terrifying way to interpret it, but it’s not outlandish.

Aside from my own interpretations regarding masculinity in Whitechapel, it also deals openly with mental illness. DI Joseph Chandler, the protagonist, has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). What I really love about Whitechapel is how it approaches his mental health. It’s never dismissed as a quirk or manipulated as a plot device. It is just part of his reality and, as the stakes grow ever higher with each passing series, Joe’s compulsive behaviours become increasingly difficult for him to manage. He starts with compulsive handwashing in Series 1, but by Series 3 he changes his shirt several times a day in order to feel clean enough. I think the writers deal with it in a very frank manner – it’s upsetting to watch him break down or struggle with his compulsive behaviours (i.e. Series 2, Episode 2, when he can’t leave his office because he keeps flicking the lights on and off), but (speaking as a neurotypical person) I’d rather be made uncomfortable than have mental illness sugarcoated.

I think it’s necessary – if not essential – that the series has a mentally ill character who isn’t a “baddie”. The series has several killers who are either implied to be or are described as mentally ill, and it would have been easy for a series like Whitechapel to reinforce stereotypes about mentally ill people. We see it all the time in the “haunted asylum”/“mad axe murderer” additions to the horror genre. In reality, mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators.

In conclusion, Whitechapel is well worth a watch. It’s witty, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it doesn’t shy away from symbolism.

Dear Creep, A Year On

Dear Creep,

I never asked for an apology. After a year of silence, of growth, I would have been content to never, ever hear from you again. But you rolled in, like boys do, with an assumption and a guilt-trip.

I’m sorry. I miss you. We used to be so close.

We were not close; I was simply a self-shaped magnet. I was sixteen, I had never had a boyfriend and my self-esteem was 20,000 leagues under the sea. I was fragile. I just wanted someone to notice me.

In the space of that year, I learned to notice myself. Oh, I am glad to see her at last with my own two eyes. She is beautiful and worthy and self-sufficient and daring and spiritual and funny – all the things you wanted to give me because you did not think I had them within myself all along.

There were never any other girls, what are you talking about???

They were not other girls; they were my friends, my sisters, my comrades-in-arms. I let you pursue and intimidate them, because I would have had to let you go to push you away.

I am not angry because I am a woman scorned, for I was never your girl in the first place. I am angry because I let your toxic waste into the lakes of Artemis, where girls are my retinue and not my firing squad.

I tell you all this, in blue and white oblongs on a four-inch screen.

I was being nice, try it some time.

Why is it always a battle of the sexes with you?

An attitude like this is why guys don’t want to talk to you.

Grow up, yeah? People might take you seriously then.

I grew up. I am not a frightened girl anymore. There is no insecurity in my heart for your sake and the battle is the one you brought to my doorstep yourself. You forget that women are warriors and witches and wanderers, and I am all of these three and more besides.

Hate me from afar. But know this: no hatred is a match for the love I have for my own body and soul and identity, and for the bodies, souls and identities of the women I am proud to call my sisters.

Expect no apology for that.


Dolly

“To be bitter is to attribute intent and personality to the formless, infinite, unchanging and unchangeable void. We drift on a chartless, resistless sea. Let us sing when we can, and forget the rest…” – H.P. Lovecraft

Agathon and the Women: Effeminacy and Femininity

There is a definite prejudice towards men who use femininity as part of their palate; their emotional palate, their physical palate. Is that changing? I’m not talking frilly-laced pink things or Hello Kitty stuff. I’m talking about goddess energy, intuition and feelings. That is still under attack, and it has gotten worse.

– RuPaul

I want to talk to you about Agathon.

Agathon was an Athenian tragic poet and playwright, who lived from (roughly) 448BCE to 400BCE. None of his own works have survived in their entirety – we know of six titles and we have 31 textual fragments – although he appears as a character in Plato’s Symposium and in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae (Women at the Thesmophoria). Neither of these depictions are very flattering. He appears in the first act of Thesmophoriazusae. In the play, the tragedian Euripides is accused of misogyny, and the women of Athens have had it up to here with him. At the Thesmophoria, a women-only festival, they plot their revenge. Euripides plans to have Agathon – a man notorious for dressing as a woman and for his submissive sexual exploits – infiltrate the festival for him (although this doesn’t work out and Euripides’ relative Mnesilochus goes instead).

Agathon is mocked pretty ruthlessly throughout his appearance in the play, although you could argue that he gives as good as he gets; honestly, I wish he was in the play more. He’s heavily coded by the narrative as gay, he dresses as a woman (for writing purposes) and it’s implied that he works as a prostitute, but it’s the latter two of these qualities that seem to qualify him for mockery. Nobody would have had a problem with him being gay; the Greeks didn’t really have a concept of homosexual or heterosexual. You were either dominant (penetrator) or you were submissive (penetrated). Agathon falls into that second category – the category reserved for pubescent boys and women.

The reason I bring up Agathon (aside from his general brilliance) is because he exemplifies how masculinity and femininity intersected in ancient times, and there’s a lot we can learn from his portrayal about how the ancients – and how we – approach femininity and also what we might call effeminacy. Homophobia and sexism are both social justice issues. We don’t necessarily lump them in together or deal with them in the same way, but I often find that people who are passionate about fighting one of those causes feel some affinity for the other too. I also think many homophobic stereotypes and cliches which accompany depictions of gay men in media have their roots in misogyny and anti-femininity. That’s not to say the LGBT+ rights movement owes anything at all to feminists or to straight, cis women, but I do think there are some similarities to be acknowledged.

I’ve often argued that plenty of men’s issues are a direct result of our society’s demonisation of femininity. Men don’t have the opportunity to access domestic violence services and, even when they do, they don’t feel as though they can and still retain their masculinity. There’s a high suicide rate among young males, another result of constant social pressure to conform. This is when masculinity becomes toxic, something men have to labour under all their lives rather than something they settle into comfortably.

Perhaps this contributes to homophobia, particularly to femmephobia (discrimination towards feminine-presenting individuals, something that is perpetrated by gay men too, not just heterosexuals). Perhaps this insecurity manifests as resentment towards men who confidently, comfortably inhabit the space (a gap which is rapidly closing) between masculinity and femininity.

You might have seen an image that did the rounds on the internet recently, of a man wearing a “No fats, no fems” shirt.

no fats no fems

Yeah, okay, it’s a hella cute shirt. Yeah, it was meant to be ironic. But it highlights a massive problem in the gay community, this idea that “twinks” – feminine gay men – are letting the side down and giving in to stereotyping. In a way, it contributes to both homophobia and misogyny in one fell swoop. You can read a gay man’s perspective on “anti-campness” here, from Guardian columnist Owen Jones. In the article, Owen states: “This anti-camp hostility partly comes from a desire to conform to traditional gender roles, which gay men have already subverted whether they want to or not.” It’s all part of “internalised homophobia”, in which gay men (and gay women!) perpetuate harmful stereotypes out of fear and insecurity. However, this is steadily improving. I quoted RuPaul earlier. He’s a prime example; his series RuPaul’s Drag Race has been a smash hit with eight seasons (and two seasons of its spin-off All Stars) under its belt. As drag has entered the mainstream consciousness – via the accessible “talent show” format that RPDR employs – so has the idea that mixing masculine and feminine gender expression is totally acceptable.

On a broader level – beyond just the gay community – I think we’d solve a lot of men’s issues far more quickly if we stopped enforcing this idea that feelings = femininity = weakness. Even now, being called “a girl” is a grave insult for many boys and men.

Feminists have always had a complicated relationship with both masculinity and femininity. When feminists critique masculinity, generally what they mean is more along the lines of machismo – a word of Spanish origin that denotes hypersexual manhood, denigration of women and adherence to a strict set of “masculine” traits. Men also put up with some pretty hellish expectations regarding their bodies and their lives. I – and most other feminists I know – give a whoop and a cheer when a plus size man is hailed as a modelling icon or when the internet’s latest sweetheart is “unconventionally attractive” (whatever that even means).

Owen Jones – I know, him again! – also wrote a piece for New Statesman about masculinity. I used a quote from that particular post in my Quotes series. He wrote in that article: “…the point is this. Being a man is not static: it can change and be redefined.” I think that’s the crucial thing. The more we encourage people, especially young people, to see masculinity and femininity as fluid, the better our society as a whole will be. The pressure to conform to a rigid gender role can be so damaging and dehumanising, and it causes a massive disconnect between a young person’s inner identity and their outward expression. Imagine a world without that self-sabotage.

Really, we should see gender as a painter’s palette. Blend. Experiment. Why use just one colour for the masterpiece that is your life?

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Thesmophoriazusae, spoken by Agathon. He has a lot of good dialogue in the play, but, after studying the play for my AS Level, this line stuck with me. I think it’s apt for what I do.

What you write depends so much on what you are.

People I mentioned/cited:

Owen Jones, How To Be A Man, New Statesman (x)

Owen Jones, What Alan Carr Taught Me About Gay Men’s HomophobiaThe Guardian (x)

RuPaul, RuPaul speaks about society and the state of drag as performance artWikiNews (x)

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 6, Section 2 (x)

A little more about Agathon:

Agathon is credited with being an innovator in the world of Greek tragedy. Athenian plays were almost always based upon mythology, although they occasionally had their origins in history. Agathon is thought to have been the first playwright to have written an entirely original play, Anthos (“Flower”). The reason we know about him – aside from his roles in Symposium and Thesmophoriazusae – is because he won at the Lenaean Festival in 417BC. Greek playwrights competed at these festivals, showcasing their latest works, and it was a great honour to be awarded first place. I was especially surprised to learn that, as, in Thesmophoriazusae, Aristophanes depicts him as being an incompetent writer.

For more about him, go here, here and here. You can find PDFs of Thesmophoriazusae online, although a published translation is generally a better bet (we used this edition at college).

Women and the Left

Alternative title: I’ve Got Tits And I’m In Your Trade Union.

I saw a comic earlier on Facebook, by an artist called Suzy X, which perfectly encapsulated something I’ve been pondering for a while.

6008918971_06a74b3240

If you’re a fan of Vice or its sister site Broadly, you might have seen the article they published on the “brocialism” phenomenon (x). Essentially, a brocialist is a man with right-on leftist politics but a dodgy set of morals when it comes to women. It might sound silly and, to be fair, I laughed at the article while reading it.

I stopped laughing when I realised that it was all too familiar. It’s often difficult for people who are fighting a cause – such as resisting class-based oppression – to recognise oppressive actions in themselves and their activism. As they focus on one area of privilege, they may lose sight of others. We see this in “white feminism”, which erases the nuanced experiences of women of colour and fails to address intersectionality. If you bring up issues of intersectionality in certain circles, you may be accused of pandering to “identity politics”. In this same way, leftists who also happen to be feminists, like myself, get a lot of flack for “dividing” the movement.

Obviously class is an important indicator of social privilege – I’m not suggesting that we should abandon it altogether – but women and DFAB people have an important role to play within the left. In fact, I’m of the opinion that class should be incorporated more into feminism. Women’s experiences, particularly if they are wives and mothers with families to support, are intimately connected with working-class issues or disadvantages associated with a low income background. For example, as shown in a study by UNESCO in Ethiopia and others by UNICEF in Eastern and Southern Africa, poverty is the main barrier to girls’ and women’s education. Girls are traditionally entrusted with domestic tasks such as fetching water. If the only source of water is far away and requires a time-consuming journey, this results in more girls being late to or absent from school. There is also a stark lack of “gender-sensitive” teaching; therefore, girls grow into women who don’t know how to protect themselves from STDs. UNICEF have stated: “Educated girls can better protect themselves against HIV, trafficking and abuse. Educating a girl also means that as a woman, she is empowered and more likely to participate in development efforts and in political and economic decision-making. Women who went to school usually manage to increase the household income.” When women are educated and empowered, it holds benefits for their families and even for whole communities.

An example closer to home (at least for me!) is the impact de-industrialisation has had on family life for working-class people, right here in the UK. Historically, men from predominantly working-class have participated in “skilled” work, i.e. they learned a trade or took on a job manufacturing a specific material/product. In my area, our main industry throughout the nineteenth century and much of the early twentieth century was chain-making. However, in the latter part of the 20th century, our industries and the communities that had grown around them suffered. There are lots of reasons for this, but the actions of Margaret Thatcher and the war her government waged on trade unions were primarily responsible. For people outside the UK, you probably won’t be aware of the major turmoil that occurred during Thatcher’s stint as Prime Minister, when thousands of miners (mining being a job rooted in the working class) participated in strikes during the 70s and 80s. In an article for New Statesman, Owen Jones specifically linked de-industrialisation with the changing status of masculinity in our society: “…what it means to be a man is in a state of flux. Deindustrialisation, undoubtedly, is a fundamental reason. Britain’s economy has been increasingly emptied of skilled industrial jobs. Take manufacturing: while 5.6 million people worked in the sector in 1982, only 2.6 million did last year.” When men lost their jobs as a result of mass de-industrialisation under Thatcher and the legacy of privatisation that followed her, it placed greater pressure on women to provide for their families, and areas of England, Scotland and Wales remain poverty-stricken. You’ll find that the poorest areas are those that historically thrived due to industry.

Women are not just passive victims in class war. Our foremothers have fought to find a voice and a platform within the left, which is why it angers me so much that we should have to reaffirm our place in the movement. In 1930s Spain, the anarchist organisation Las Mujeres Libres fought to empower working-class women.  The women of the Spanish anarchist movement felt marginalised. They were laughed at when they tried to contribute during meetings and this made women hesitant to speak up. This angered Mujeres Libres because the movement was supposed to oppose and ultimately abolish all forms of oppression and social hierarchy. They put an emphasis on a “double struggle”, in which they could pursue both women’s liberation and social revolution. In order to give working-class women the best opportunities to participate, they organised childcare services and schools. They also developed literacy courses, social studies classes and medical training. I love the story of Mujeres Libres, purely because of how brilliant they were at meeting the specific needs of the working women they supported. The scenario was similar for Clara Zetkin, a German socialist activist and an advocate for women’s rights. She too held the opinion that women were not allowed to participate equally within the left. She presided over the Women’s Office of the Social Democratic party from 1907 onwards and she founded International Women’s Day in 1911, although she had been involved with the women’s movement in Germany since 1874. Becoming a cultural icon in the former German Democratic Republic, streets and parks bearing her name can still be found there.

And the women of the left are still fighting. Even within feminism, there are leftist movements: socialist feminism, Marxist feminism, labor/labour feminism. There is even a movement called transnational feminism, exploring how capitalism and the patriarchy intersect in order to exploit women.

I refer to The Left a lot in this article, although I don’t mean to suggest that everyone with a left-wing viewpoint is part of some homogeneous mass. What I generally mean when I use the term The Left is leftist activism and the platforms where this takes place. When I say “women struggle to find a platform in the left”, I mean that very few of today’s prominent socialist thinkers are women. That’s a problem. We’re not lacking in vocal socialist women because women don’t understand politics, nor is it because women are politically apathetic. In fact, we’re not lacking socialist women at all. Speaking as a feminist, I know what it’s like to get shouted down, on the internet and in real life. Therefore, I can confidently say that the issue is that so many men continue to exclude women from conversations about class or refuse to acknowledge sexist bias in their own actions.

This is not to suggest that we are somehow worse than the right (FYI: that’s not the case). But it is more hypocritical of us if we’re seeking equality of the classes whilst remaining blind to other struggles.

On Feminist Art

Sorry I’ve been so inactive! I’ve been focusing on college work, mostly. However, during the summer holidays, I’ve tried to branch out in terms of the feminist material I’m reading and creating. I’ve followed lots of great feminist artists on Instagram (like Paloma Smith/@octoplum), as well as some zine-makers and writers. I really like the DIY vibe I get from most feminist art, the idea that these are women making incredible things with the most ordinary of tools.

Art has been an integral part of feminism for a long time, starting with the original feminist art movement in the 1960s. For me, it marks how feminism has expanded from the realm of academia. It’s not something contained in statistics and studies and essays; it’s real, tangible and present in the lives and imaginations of women. There’s something inherently radical about the act of expression through creation, the very making of art that has come from your own heart and your own brain.

I’d definitely like to try my hand at producing a zine (there’s a “how-to” from Rookie magazine here), but for now I thought I’d stick to something simple and familiar. I was in a creative writing club at school and since then I haven’t had much chance to do any writing. I thought I’d have a go at something similar to the “found poetry” or the “cut up” techniques. I’m not sure my version strictly fits into either genre, but I enjoyed making them and I’m pleased with the results. It’s very therapeutic and cheap – all you need are scissors, glue and a few unwanted magazines and newspapers – but it can be quite time-consuming, especially as I’m pretty picky and I kept rearranging the lines!

FYI: these are my intellectual property, so please don’t nick them or share them without crediting me!

It’s up to you to interpret these, but the two short ones on the top right were specifically about feminism and how it’s perceived. The top left was inspired by all the writers I love right now who are fighting for social justice with the pen, not the sword. The bottom left was meant to be more evocative of the disconnect between the polished exterior of British society and the colonialism and corruption we like to gloss over. The bottom right is about the area I’m from, the Black Country, which you can learn more about here if you’re not local!

You can read more about feminist zines and self-publishing here.

#LoveForLeslieJ

Leslie Jones has been forced off Twitter, and the reason for it has made me – and will probably make you – very angry indeed.

As you may be aware, Leslie Jones has recently come to prominence since starring in the new all-female installment of the Ghostbusters franchise. You might recall the backlash after the film was announced, with most people arguing that the film would “ruin” the original for them and that it was a blatant attempt to pander to a more PC audience.

I’ve always supported the “girl Ghostbusters”, because I think the film is undoubtedly a force for good. It showcases the talents of four immensely funny actresses and it has the potential to inspire so many little girls. I love the whole concept of it. My best friend (who has ambitions of becoming a film director) went to see it and utterly adored it, which is saying something because she is incredibly picky about the media she’s willing to watch.

But since the film’s release, the abuse directed at the cast and crew has only intensified, mostly targeted at Leslie. Milo Yiannopoulos – a man notorious for inciting his mob of fans to hurl abuse at those who displease him – kickstarted a seemingly endless wave of trolling and racist harassment. People have photoshopped tweets, ostensibly from Leslie, with anti-Semitic slurs in them, in order to make it appear that she is abusing Yiannopoulos. When she reacted to such misrepresentation, she was condemned as “too sensitive”. It all became too much for Leslie, who has sadly left Twitter – possibly for good. It genuinely upset me; she tweeted that the onslaught of online abuse was a “personal nightmare”. I can’t imagine what it must feel like.

The bigotry directed at her was vile, but it is nothing compared to the surge of love and support that has emerged in its wake. I myself have used the hashtag #LoveForLeslieJ, and you’re welcome to do so as well if you want to show your support. A second hashtag, #BanNero, has also developed as an attempt to have Milo Yiannopoulos permanently banned from Twitter. He’s already had his blue tick, the mark of verification, taken from him, but it’s not enough. Yiannopoulos is a professional troll. That’s what he does, and we as Internet users shouldn’t put up with it.

Yiannopoulos often espouses his belief in a right to “free speech” – in his case, his right to spread bigotry and hatred. However, his actions and those of the people who take their inspiration from him have denied Leslie Jones her platform and her voice. It’s indicative of a growing online trend of attempts to silence women, especially women of colour.

The Guardian have already published an article about these events.

Much love to Leslie, a talented, funny, smart woman. And what’s more: she’s strong too. I have no doubt that she’ll beat the haters.

“Lefties: Angry Wimmin” – BBC

I just watched the documentary Lefties: Angry Wimmin (BBC, 2006), exploring the world of the revolutionary feminists of the 1970s and 1980s. This episode is from a three-part series about left-wing politics, and it’s a fascinating look at the “boom”, if you like, of radical feminism.

I think it’s important we look back at the work that these women did. Some of it might seem shocking – it certainly shocked me! I knew that some lesbian/separatist feminists advocated for “political lesbianism” and for the excision of men from women’s social circles, but I never realised how many women actually put it into practice. Please consider it in its social and historical context, though; these women were living in a dramatically different society to the one we live in now. Feminists of my generation don’t push for the abolition of heterosexuality because we don’t need to – these ladies paved the way for us and made the statement that desperately needed to be made at the time. At that point in time, we had only just begun describing the unequal social hierarchy as patriarchy, and its looming presence in their lives forced the revolutionary feminists into much more radical activism.

I particularly appreciated the inclusion of Linda Bellos, especially the frank discussion about how mainstream white feminism treated her. That highlighted what third-wave feminists and intersectional feminists have always asserted: that second-wave feminism wasn’t very inclusive. The dismissive attitudes of the white, cis, able-bodied feminists who were interviewed demonstrates just how reluctant they were to address issues of accessibility and discrimination within their own movement. The repercussions of that lack of insight into diversity is something with which we are still dealing today.

I also found it pretty startling that these women – some of whom, like Julie Bindel, are lesbians – seemed to believe that homosexuality is a choice. One could accuse them almost of appropriating and misrepresenting the gay rights movement. I understand why they opted for “political lesbianism”, but really, this kind of rhetoric just played into the hands of homophobes. For years, the LGBTQ+ community has fought to assert that sexualities are not arbitrarily “chosen”.