I wonder how many readers of this blog heard last week’s Any Questions (BBC Radio 4, 8pm, Friday 8th Feb 2013). The panel for the evening included feminist Julie Bindel. Ms Bindel describes herself as a ‘radical feminist, not the fun kind but an out and out proud lesbian.’ As the topic of ‘gay marriage’ is hot in the news at the moment, I listened carefully to her comments. Ms Bindel began by saying that ‘those who are opposed to equal marriage are either ‘homophobic, bigoted or are on nodding terms with bigots’ and commented that being against gay marriage is ‘gross discrimination’.
After several such negative comments, she rather surprisingly went on to denigrate marriage, saying that she is ‘very critical of marriage and its patriarchal trappings.’ She went on; ‘Why lesbians and gay men are so desperate to enter into a system that has its roots in inequality I do not know. In the 1960s and ’70s, feminists blew open this myth that marriage was a great institution and kept families and communities together, because we saw that it was about old fashioned property ownership; we saw women rushing to the domestic violence refuges, and also talking about their children being sexually abused; about their unhappiness about the extra-marital affairs, et cetera, et cetera.’ She later talked of marriage as a ‘heterosexual mistake’ and continued; ‘Now that we can, let’s start fighting to abolish marriage and give civil partnerships to everybody, including heterosexuals.’ Although quite a few in the audience applauded, I was confused. It seems to me that Ms Bindel wants gay people to have the right to be married, but once that right is won, she would like to see marriage abolished.
Ms Bindel’s words reminded me of parts of the the Gay Liberation Front Manifesto (1978) which describes a family as consisting of ‘the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models.’ This document later says; ‘… we are not in fact being idealistic to aim at abolishing the family and the cultural distinctions between men and women. True, these have been with us throughout history, yet humanity is at last in a position where we can progress beyond this.’
For me (and millions of Christians world-wide) such ideas seem – to put it mildly – misguided. It is not the institution of marriage which is at fault (though heaven knows, there are unhappy marriages), but the sinfulness of human beings. Does Ms Bindel really believe that if marriage were to cease, cruelty to women and children (and homosexuals) would end? Has she not noticed that far fewer people today get married than used to, yet stories of unfaithfulness, violence, bullying and cruelty continue to fill our newspapers? And conversely, is she not aware that millions now and throughout our history have lived happy, fulfilled lives in loving family relationships?
When I feel that I’m being accused of homophobia and bigotry, I can feel quite depressed and distressed; and such pronouncements from the media seem to increase by the week. Ms Bindel’s accusations had the same effect on me, and no doubt, millions of others who uphold traditional marriage, love their families and feel no particular hatred towards anyone. Will she care about causing any such feelings? Of course not. We’re the bigots, not her!