When Does the Equality Start?
by Angela Clifford
When are feminists going to start treating women as the equal of men? Activists recently identified a number of attitudes in society that they wish to alter. Two of these were that “Women are inferior to men”, and “Women cannot take a proper place in social and economic life” (Barry Knight, “Voluntary Action“, p204). But two recent incidents show that the feminist ideology is producing effects quite the opposite of what they seek to achieve.
In the Donnellan rape case, a young woman was asking a man to take responsibility for her actions while she made herself incapable; and in the Shadow Cabinet elections, feminist parliamentarians showed a pained reaction to the perfectly defensible voting behaviour of their fellow Party members.
In both instances feminists are seeking to apply double-standards. Instead of providing women with a view of society which would enable them to inter-relate with others to their own benefit and the advancement of their fellows, the feminists have encouraged self-indulgence and subjectivist introspection.
And, rather than assist women to develop their abilities, the feminists demand that the conditions of social life be altered to take account of any inadequacy. They demand a slanted playing field-with the women playing downhill all the time (the corollary, of course, is that the men are playing uphill). But athletes intent on winning in competitions do not seek out easy conditions to train in-quite the contrary.
The female parliamentarians who are so angry that three women have been elected to the Shadow Cabinet, instead of the prescribed four, must be asked, what are their priorities? Do they want to see a Labour Government – or is their real fight with the Labour Party itself in an arid search for gender equality?
The Parliamentary Labour Party voted on merit in those elections, and that is how it has to be if the Tories are to be beaten. The Tories are not selecting a quota of women to govern the country and put forward their policies. They appoint people strictly on merit-people who have scrambled up the greasy pole of politics.
What is the point of putting anything but the best up against them on the Labour side? And the Brian Waldens of this world are not going to give our women leaders an easier run when they put them through the mill on the television analysis programmes: the people who aspire to govern the country must be capable of coming out on top in these and other difficult situations-not for the sake of their own self-esteem, but for the sake of the Party which is needed in government.
There is a war for the hearts and the minds of the people being fought and it is incumbent on Labour to put out its best. Barbara Castle has been cited as a parliamentarian who formerly opposed quotas, but who has now come round to the idea. Perhaps that is so. But I know of no other woman politician on the Labour side with her political qualities.
Those skills were won in a bard school. She had to play up the bill. It is said that she only got on the parliamentary short list of her Constituency when the women members threatened to stop making the tea if she weren’t put on. Women nowadays find such opportunities easier to come by. But surely it is then up to each person to win further advancement by ability?
The plaintiff in the Donnellan Case, who comes from a well-off background, exhibits all the self-indulgence of a person who thinks the world must revolve around their whims. And the feminist lobby has created a situation in which the subjectivism of such people is confirmed and given social endorsement.
The very fact that such a feeble case went to the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, is a testimony to the cultural influence of the feminist lobby. The accused-a working class boy whose family circumstances are particularly difficult-was put through a traumatic ordeal for no good reason. It is worthy of note that he managed to pass his exams in that situation, while the girl has had to re-take them.
The feminists put forward the view that rape occurs when a woman withdraws her consent to sex, at whatever point that may be. This is an unreal and anti-social demand. It encourages the subjectivism of women. In the real world it is the woman who should be the decisive element in sexual matters-after all, she will bear the consequences if she is not.
She should have decided very early in an encounter how far it is to go – or at least she should have decided where it is not to go. It is not doing women any favour to demand their right to be indecisive until the very moment of ejaculation. The plaintiff in the Donnellan case went only slightly further than the feminists: she withdrew consent after the event. But the authorities were still willing to prosecute.
I would not go along with calling this lady a “victim”, as some feminists would like: they do not seem to understand the legal implications, nor be concerned about fair trials. It seems to me that, if a plaintiff is to be called a victim from the outset, we should drop the pretence of having a trial and just imprison accused men. And to call an unsuccessful plaintiff a victim is as bad. It falsifies the process of a trial. Society is either governed by the law or not. If it is, then the law must be objective and impartial.
If anyone was the ‘victim’ in this case, it was the defendant, who-judging by the reports-has been positively Griselda-like in the face of utterly capricious behaviour. The plaintiff declared that Austen Donnellan should not have had intercourse with her, because he knew she found him physically repulsive, and that she had confined their previous encounters to passionate kissing!
The prosecution in the Donnellan case argued that the plaintiff “was unable to consent to having sex or resist it after a heavy drinking session” (Sunday Times, 17.10.93). In other words, Austen Donnellan should have made the decision for the woman that she was too drunk to make an informed decision to have sex. But surely that is to treat this person as though she were a child? After all, she had drunk as much as she thought was good for her, and she was inviting him to bed.
If the prosecution had won its case, a woman would be put in the exact position of a child who sometimes wants things that are not good for it, but whom adults restrict for its own good. The next stage surely would be that barmen will be instructed not to serve women who have clearly had more than is good for them.
That is where the general drift of feminist ideology leads. The justification of feminine irresponsibility also leads to the idea that nothing a woman does or does not do contributes to the occurrence of a ‘rape'<-that it is totally and invariably the responsibility of the man. Judge Geoffrey Grigson fortunately insisted on retaining women in the adult world. When charging the jury he said-
“A considerable amount of alcohol can lead women to behave in a way that they would not otherwise do, that they come to regret and are loath to admit. A person who is drunk, and because she is drunk consents to an act which would not when sober, still consents.” (Irish Times 20.10.93. These words seem very apposite with regard to another recent court case in which a lady who had casual sex with a man she met in a pub then accused a colleague at work of rape: a cast-iron alibi did not save him from six days of intense police questioning; one wonders what would have happened if he had not been so fortunate, Sun, 27.10.1993.)
Those words of Judge Grigson are absolutely to the point. Women should not – for the sake of their own personal development – be allowed to establish a lesser standard of social behaviour and competence than men: not in social life and not in political life.
This article appeared in November 1993, in Issue 38 of Labour and Trade Union Review, now Labour Affairs. You can find more from the era at https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/very-old-issues-images/ and https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/very-old-issues-images/m-articles-by-topic/.