Women’s issues are for everyone now, not just feminists

A true campaign for equal rights must cross boundaries

24 October 2015

9:00 AM

24 October 2015

9:00 AM

Like all right-thinking lefty men who came of age in the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s, I always thought of myself as a feminist. But now, thanks to Meryl Streep, I’ve been liberated from the label. Last week I heard her on the radio promoting her new film Suffragette. Asked why the story of the suffragettes hadn’t been made into a film before now, she said that in Hollywood the men with the power to get films made didn’t see this subject as anything to do with them. ‘It wasn’t their fight,’ said Streep. But now things were changing. ‘Increasingly we think that women’s issues and women rights are men’s issues,’ she said. ‘But it belongs to all of us to right this imbalance.’

Last year the actress Emma Watson in her address to the United Nations General Assembly made the same case. ‘Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend you a formal invitation,’ she said. ‘Gender equality is your issue, too.’

Thanks Emma! Cheers Meryl! I would like to take this opportunity to accept. And a lot of men will too. But I don’t think most self-styled feminists will be too happy about your invitation. For if all those ‘women’s issues’ that feminists have always considered belonged to them now belong equally to men, where does that leave feminism and the idea of being a feminist? I’ll tell you: in the dustbin of history.

You can’t, on the one hand, maintain a distinctly female/gender-based view of certain issues and at the same time argue that those issues should be the concern of everyone. Put simply: we all believe in equality now, for everyone. We’re not just feminists, we’re humanists.

You don’t have to call yourself a feminist to believe in equal pay for women. It has become the common wisdom of the age because feminism has won the battle of ideas. When I was growing up in the 1970s it was not uncommon to hear some rabid reactionary — male or female — talk about a woman’s place being in the home and her function in life limited to raising children. Nobody in the West now makes a serious intellectual, moral or religious case for denying women their civil rights.

Even Hollywood — that bastion of blatant sexism — is showing signs of change. Who says? Well, Meryl Streep for one. She said in that interview that when she made The French Lieutenant’s Woman — this was in 1981 — the only women involved were in hair and make-up. ‘It was an all-male enterprise,’ she noted. But when she came to make The Iron Lady (in 2011), ‘It was half and half.’

On the day after the London premiere of Suffragette, the Thelma and Louise star Geena Davis — who lobbies on behalf of women’s equality in the American film and television industry — told a gathering at the BFI in London that Hollywood is on the point of making ‘historic’ improvements in the number of female characters in films within ten years.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that any possible post-feminist wave of common-sense unisex activism is undermined by the fact that, though women have won the battle of ideas and enjoyed unprecedented equality, a bitter battle of the sexes is still going on.

It’s reached a new intellectual low. Social media promised to be a platform for new ideas and new voices. It has become the playground of bullying and puerile insult — at least when it comes to men and women. We don’t debate each other, we denounce each other. Men for their sexism, women for their feminism. Or the way they look. Gone are the days when Norman Mailer and Germaine Greer did intellectual battle over feminism, men and women, sex — you name it — in front of an audience in a town hall in New York. Now we have the Twitter hashtag ‘#killallwhitemen’. You can’t dumb down more than that.

Check out the sad and silly spectacle of modern ‘feminists’ actually protesting at the opening of Suffragette. Some women complained about government funding for victims of domestic abuse being cut. Others said never mind them, it’s lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered who are the true victims of these cuts. Other women complained that ‘women of colour’ were not adequately represented in the film. And on it went. So much for female solidarity! They were engaged in a competition of ‘Who has the greatest grievance?’

That protest was exactly the kind of women-only activism that makes headlines and noise and achieves nothing of substance. It shows that the label ‘feminist’ and the world view of feminism has served its historical function. Feminism has much to be proud of. But now it’s an impediment to progress. Old-school feminists have a vested interest in not changing. There’s a whole self-entrenched industry of feminist academics, journalists, publishers, novelists, film makers, artists, activists and politicians whose livelihood — as well as their sense of identity — would be threatened if the causes of feminism became the cause of all.

I guess men will just have to join the fight. Women’s issues are far too important for everyone to be left to the feminists.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Cosmo Landesman has a dating column in the Sunday Times and was a co-founder, with Toby Young, of the Modern Review.

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Show comments
  • MaggieL

    How does this article square with the pleasure Cosmo Landesman takes in being a dirty old man?

  • Cyril Sneer

    What about men issues?

    No that’s right you don’t give a sh t about that. You’re not a feminist, you’re a sexist.

    • Mr. E


  • Anon

    Feminism isnt about equality, and it havent been since the late 80s.
    When they start caring about gender differences in suicide-rates, equal punishment for crimes, heavily biased divorce courts, substance-abuse, alcoholism, college dropouts, homeless population, depression and mental illnesses, they can start arguing they are.
    But until then, I will quite simply just flip the finger at any insulated moron who comes along to preach pseudo-scientific rhetorics about institutionalized systems of oppression.

    • Mr. E

      Absolutely. When they are willing to let MEN have an opportunity to voice their issues, then things will be starting to change. As long as Feminism is all about women, there is nothing equal about it.

  • Richard Eldritch


  • jim

    Penis envy.

    • Mr. E

      Anything that pisses off a Feminist is gold in my book.

  • Feminister


  • cartimandua

    It always has Cosmo. If women’s careers are trashed by having children men end up having little to no parent time.
    By all means let men and women stand up against misogynistic culture. Going to campaign against the
    health ruining “covering” and hijabs?
    Internationally the treatment of women leads to overpopulation, resource depletion, mass migrations, and conflicts.
    That very much affects you too. Have to be clear though that not all cultures are “valid”.

  • TheOneTruePepe

    Uh, you do know that Feminists fought for men as well right? You know when Feminists first started fighting for their right to vote, men who were poor couldn’t vote as well, right? Feminists fought for men and women. Now, in this generator and Era, 2015, Feminists are hanging on to dead claims like the Wage Gap and False Rape Statistics. If anything, Feminists of today are a waste of space.

    • Rob

      “Uh, you do know that Feminists fought for men as well right? You know
      when Feminists first started fighting for their right to vote, men who
      were poor couldn’t vote as well, right? Feminists fought for men and

      no they didn’t. the clue is inthe word feminism.
      Feminists didn’t even fight for the vote for all women either, they wanted it only for women who own property or were part of the upper class. the paln for universal sufferage had already been in the background for many years but was delayed because of the demand ( by guess) that only women of upper class should get the vote.If you are in the USA you will find that your right to vote comes with the clause of involuntary conscription whenever the govt chooses ( unless you are a woman that these). Not heard a peep out of feminism to correct that right?

      the same feminists( sufferagettes) who were campaigning for the involuntary conscription of men( who also couldn’t vote) to fight in WW1 and to add to the insult the white feather campaign by the sufferagettes.

    • Mr. E


  • jmshigham

    What utter bollox. Feminism has been the single greatest cause of the misery to women’s lives in that they now have expectations they cannot meet and of course, it has blighted men.

  • Rob


    seems your collegue has a different view( and a more balanced one as well)

  • LoveMeIamALiberal

    Any article that does not recognise that equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are not the same thing hasn’t addressed the subject properly.

    • WalterFuques

      Go on…

      • LoveMeIamALiberal

        Why thank you. Two things to kick off:

        1. Intelligence. Every study of male/female intelligence has found that average intelligence is near identical (average male intelligence comes out very slightly higher but the gap is too small to draw any conclusions), but the spread of intelligence around the average is very different: female IQ scores are more closely concentrated around the average, so there are fewer women with very high or very low IQ scores. So the pool of men available to perform high intellect, high paying jobs is greater. That doesn’t mean there aren’t highly intelligent women, just that there are more men in that category (balanced out by more men with low IQ).

        2. Motherhood. The average pay for childless women is the same as for men. Mothers earn less, because most choose to opt out of full time work to look after their children and thus re-enter the labour market several years behind men and childless women. This is their choice; the Government’s recent happiness survey showed stay at home mothers to be happier than most groups of people including women working full time. Mothers place less importance on work in their lives because motherhood is a different experience from fatherhood; feminists are confused by this because feminism has no coherent theory of motherhood.

        So there you are, equality of opportunity does not necessarily lead to equality of outcome and inequality of outcome is not necessarily evidence of inequality of opportunity. Aren’t you glad you asked?

        • cartimandua

          You do realize that when women lose out because of children men do too? 40% of marriages fail and what do you think happens if womens jobs are not supported?

          • LoveMeIamALiberal

            ‘when women lose out because of children’. Mothers don’t see looking after their children as ‘losing out’. Marriage failure rate amongst couples with children is much lower than 40%. ‘Not supported’ – by whom?

  • Tamerlane

    Once these things become an industry it’s virtually impossible to get rid of them – feminism, environmentalism, human rights blahdy blahdy blah. Too much money in it for the ‘fight’ ever to be ‘won’.

  • Mr. E

    “Women’s issues are for everyone now, not just feminists”

    Bullsh*t. Feminism is all about WOMEN, not in the least about EQUALITY.

  • Precambrian

    People who believe in equality are not called feminists. They are called egalitarians.


    It’s about time that there was true gender equality…… Men have been discriminated against for years.

  • LoyalCatholic

    You will note that none of these feminists or others blathering about for “equal rights” want to cut down on the number of other groups based on political party affiliation…ideology…religion….etc.

    Did you know that Catholics and Christians only make about 55 cents on the dollar for every dollar earned by a Jew ? You don’t hear about that from the liberal media….guess why ?

    Checked out the ‘diversity’ in Hollywood…..upper ranks of Wall Street…..big law firms…..Technology and Internet companies….Silicon Valley….sports ?

    No focus on ‘diversity’ there….gee…..wonder why.

  • Stephen

    You shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that every decent,
    right-thinking person should be obsessed with achieving a more equal society.

    The equality that most feminists argue for cannot be achieved
    without same-ness. And if, like me, you believe
    that differences in the sexes are more than just a social construct, it makes a
    “truly equal” society unachievable, if it was ever desirable.

  • Yiannis

    Any man that wastes his time on women’s issues like these is not a real man – let them continue to whinge – their emptions always get the better of them. And fools like PC call me Dave waste so much time on gender quotas, equality and dodgy marriage which is not marriage. Besides, the majority of feminists are ugly and were not loved enough by their fathers

  • BarryMayor

    Feminism is about advancing the interests of privileged white women.

    82% of Americans are NOT Feminists: http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2015/04/09/82-percent-of-americans-dont-consider-themselves-feminists-poll-shows/

    How Feminism Continues to Fail Women of Color: http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/8/how-feminism-continues-to-fail-women-of-color.html