Being A Feminist Is Not About Preventing People From Having Fun

08/03/2011 10:35 | Updated 22 May 2015

Julie Burchill, International Women's Day

At 51 years and 15 stones, the prospect of pole-dancing is rarely uppermost in my mind. But over the past few weeks, seeing Annie Lennox in all her prissy, po-faced pomposity touting a bunch of TV shows to celebrate today's International Women's Day, I was sorely tempted to throw my principles to the wind and dangle upside down to the strains of some sleazy R&B jam, just for the sheer contrary hell of it.

Lennox was last seen lecturing young singing starlets on the evils of prancing around in one's scanties onstage: "Nowadays, women are so sexually explicit and they use this as a tool to get popular, and I find this very one-dimensional. Surely we have evolved further than that. I'm all for sexuality being free and liberal, but I feel so sad that's like a one-trick pony. It's a sad thing because people fought so hard to liberate us and to give us the vote and to give us equal opportunities, and it looks sometimes to me like we're really going backward."

Excuse me, but since when did a young woman choosing to show off the body God gave her contradict her right to vote? On the contrary, it is in countries where women are not permitted to show as much as an ankle that they have the least human rights. Under Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, women have even been cautioned by the morality police for laughing in public. How does Lennox, that seasoned propagandist for the Palestinian cause, justify her support for women with her support for the expansion of yet another Islamic state in the Middle East?

The Laughter Police have their sleeper agents here, though thankfully their powers are limited to carping at rather than physically arresting those who contravene their joyless agenda. Like their Hamas buddies they are hypocrites, who believe that people should do what they say, not what they themselves have done. That'll be the likes of Lennox and other celebrity feminists of her generation criticizing young women for acting like floozies while having had no problem at all with showing off their own bodies when they were young and fit. I've said it before but it bears repeating - for too many women, when the nipples go south the nose goes north.

Young women aren't stupid, and when my generation start up with the you're-not-going-out-dressed-like-that routine, they know that it's not really about them letting down the side at all. We went out looking much sluttier than that, as I recall, when we were young and fit. It's more than a little to do with envy - it's not altogether pleasant to be hurtling towards the grave while, all around you, gorgeous reminders of the way you were make the best of what their momma gave them. But the alternative to ageing is being dead, so I'd still say that we old birds are ahead of the game.

My friend Becka, a beautiful and super-bright young broad in her 20s, collects Playboy paraphernalia in order to irritate her much-loved mother, who as a feminist from an earlier generation sees those ears as twins emblems of evil. But feminists of my age have to realize that young women's natural desire to have fun physically isn't some anti-feminist false consciousness that we have to nag them out of. So far as I recall, the plan was never to raise docile young clones of my generation who do what their elders approve of, even if those elders are women. Sisters, we are not the Laughter Police - or the pole-dancing police either. If we don't demonstrate that being a feminist is not about preventing people from having fun, then we deserve to have the next generation reject us.

So kids, continue to be young, be foolish and be happy, as the old song says, and as for my generation - lighten up! We had our years of being young and gorgeous, as the young and gorgeous will soon be as old and ruined as we are - if they have enough fun on the way. And in my book bunny ears beat a burqua any day.

Julie Burchill is a renowned journalist who has contributed to The Times, The Guardian and The Sun among other publications - she currently writes a weekly column for The Independent. She is also the author of several successful books including Not In My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy and Sugar Rush.


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