Q & A with Julie Bindel
Katie Price or Margaret Thatcher?
Katie Price, she hasn’t decimated an entire community of working class people or an entire union system.
Soho or Shoreditch?
Doc Martins or Crocs?
Vegan sausage or spotted dick?
Spotted Dick, definitely.
Facelift or laser hair removal?
Laser hair removal
Mini skirt or High heels?
You’ve notoriously described lesbianism as a choice. Many people I’ve spoken to are very unhappy when they first realize their sexual orientation is gay or lesbian, what would you say to them?
I would ask if they also thought that there is such a thing as a bisexual gene, a criminal gene, an I love yellow more than pink gene….
When I say it’s a choice I don’t mean it’s a choice like which washing powder you use, it’s a difficult choice, for some women in particular it’s an impossible choice.
You have in the past said that all feminists should be lesbians, why is that?
Radical feminism was premised on a critique of masculinity of men as a social class, it doesn’t say, and never has said that men are inherently bad and that women are inherently good. That would be the antithesis to feminism because it would be saying that men can’t change and that women are not responsible for anything. If you’re a radical feminist and you don’t even think about lesbianism as an alternative possibility then I think you’re not particularly using your imagination.
You say oppose transgender surgery because as a feminist you believe that gender is socially and not biologically constructed, how then can you describe yourself as a lesbian, which is a gender based sexual orientation?
The reason why I oppose the diagnosis of transexualism is that there is no such thing as an essential man or an essential woman. The idea that you can actually use surgery to make you become something that is a social construct is ridiculous. For example there are white people who feel they have a black identity or gentiles who feel they have a Jewish identity. If they then affected the stereotypical appearance and behavior of a black person or Jewish person and went along to a social grouping fighting their oppression they wouldn’t be accepted. They would be told they hadn’t had the life experience of being black or being Jewish under racism or anti-Semitism. No one who is political and fighting against racism would accept that white person blacking themself up and saying ‘this is me I am really black I was born in the wrong skin’. Race is a social construct too, its all a social construct, in that case how can there be a male brain and a female brain? How can you be born predisposed to liking pink and Barbie dolls when what feminists say is that is imposed upon us? The last thing that we want therefore is people born male turning that completely on its head and saying ‘oh yes there is something inherent about being female where we like pink and we like Barbie dolls and we want to teeter around on high heels’. It flies in the face of feminist notion that feminized behavior and masculinized behavior is a social construct.
You’ve been accused of perpetuating negative stereotypes of lesbians as man hating & militant, do you agree with that?
I think any radical movement is accused of, I don’t know, hating white people, hating men, or being militant. People on the left are accused of being too stroppy. It’s the price you pay for being radical. I don’t believe in a kind of watered down feminism that appeases men and implicates everyone. For a radical movement to work you’ve got to upset a few people, not on purpose but just because you’re challenging them. The oppressor never ever gives up their power; you have to take it from them. I don’t mean it by force, I mean just by shaking them and saying ‘you are the problem, you and your group of allies are the problem’ I don’t want to appease you and I don’t want to metaphorically suck your dick, I just want to tell you that you’re the problem.
Are you, in any way, a gender essentialist?
Gender essentialism is saying that there is such a thing as a male brain and a female brain and that your born liking girly things or male things, gender essentialism is the enemy to me, because what that would mean is that I am forever stuck in a feminized role as a woman. My entire life’s work has been about dismantling gender, I want to see an end to gender not a reinforcement of it. That’s what I think surgeons and psychiatrists who profit from the transgender industry are doing. My argument has never been with individual transgender people. I have exactly the same understanding of the oppression of difference in terms of how transgender people face it as I do lesbians, gay men, people of colour. But the industry is pissing on feminism. The normalization of transexuality and surgical solutions is silencing those many people who have gone to a psychiatrist with problems that they want to solve, in the way that many of us want our distress to be solved; we want to be ourselves freely. To be put under the surgeon’s knife, for some of those people, has been a total disaster, and they’re silenced, it’s a very vocal and at times very, very aggressive lobby that allows one view and no dissent from that.
Do you know anyone who is a successfully changed their gender?
I know people who have had gender reassignment surgery who are perfectly happy with the results of it. What some will say is that it hasn’t ever made them feel like a woman or a man. Its maybe corrected something that they dislike about their bodies. Now if you think about women in general and many men, very few of us are happy with our bodies. If you think about the surgery that women have, if you think about the rise in cosmetic surgery, quite radical cosmetic surgery, is the surgeon’s knife really a solution to what’s a social problem? If so then you can extend the argument to those that say they are body dysmorphic, that they wish to have a limb removed because they’ve never felt that their left leg belongs to them. The choice is ours, we can either have a surgical solution to these issues or we can actually look at why we insist upon real men and real women, when I would dispute the notion of either.