The risk of a return to restrictions on what women wear, where they walk and how they express themselves could be something even the most well-meaning of feminists have overlooked
Not only does orthodox feminism need a strong opposition voice to counter many of its outlandish claims, but its silence over the recent Cologne style sex attacks for fear of clashing head on with uber-liberal ideals has left no group to voice concern about an even more insidious counter ideology: Pre-feminism.
Like many other conservative women, I used to ignore feminist issues believing them to be just for left-wingers. But to take a completely anti stance to women’s issues with what is happening today is no longer the answer now we live in a multicultural society. This is a world in which women have no say over who they marry, or whether they work or stay at home. Or a hundred other freedoms which young Western women today take for granted, like wearing stylish clothes or going window shopping.
I was born and brought up in the Middle East, a child of ex-pat British parents. During school holidays on a family outing to Kuwait City, I was intentionally separated from my parents and brother by a small group of Arab men and ‘man handled’ as it was referred to in those days. Completely blocked in, within seconds the crowd had swelled in mobbish proportions, and it was some terrifying minutes before I was able to break free.
My father’s reaction to this was that I had brought it all on myself because of what I was wearing. In a country where girls were considered of marriageable age by age 10, a mini skirt was for home only. It was fair enough. Even at fourteen, I should have known better. But this was 1967 and we were living in a Muslim country. It’s now 2016 and these types of things are now taking place in Europe.
If the left wing of politics is tied up in knots over sexual assaults, the far right are not believed particularly when migrants are involved. But these problems over women began long before ‘the Jungle’ in Calais or the Syrian refugee crisis.
An Asian Muslim friend of mine who grew up in Rochdale confided that girls she schooled with twenty five years ago, who couldn’t wait to cut their hair and wear western dress, now willingly adopt the niqab, even against their parents’ wishes. Why? Because it is cool. That would be fine if it didn’t mean that alongside them Western girls with Peter Jones court shoes and loose hair appear `naked’ in comparison, according to some men. The rising level of women being made to feel uncomfortable in the streets or accosted on buses and tubes is just one indicator of a growing type of intimidation which often goes unreported and needs addressing by conservative women because no one else is likely to do so.
British Muslim graduates lured into becoming Jihadi brides because they see that as more glamorous and romantic than Western life is puzzling. But the first UK female Sharia law judge actually condoning polygamy is as chilling as the so-called FemiNazis who stalk the internet and office corridors looking for innocent male victims.
The growth of pre-feminism has probably been around since the 1970s when egalitarian feminists began rejecting gestures such as having doors opened for them as sexist. Self-centred and short sighted, it took no account of the reasons for why these subtle traditions were practiced in the first place and what might indeed come along to replace them.
The past year should be a cause for concern. Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion of Women-only railway carriages, segregation in University lectures and the advice given out in Germany following the attacks to not look ‘too cheerful in the streets’ is no answer.
We have to be more assertive about what liberalism means in today’s UK, what’s worked for us since the Suffragettes but also what hasn’t. Like it or not, that means a form of feminism albeit a more moderate and conservative form. The last thing we want to do is throw the best bits away and revert to the past.