Women can’t be told anything anymore for fear of offence

It’s nonsense that ‘fragile’ women are besieged by relentless male backlash

I’m thinking of starting a movement called the Dissident Feminists.

It’s a term coined by one of the greatest female minds of our time, philosopher, academic and author Camille Paglia.

Paglia uses it to describe the strong force of pro-active, positive and powerful women who do not want to be linked to a cause that has been hijacked by radicals, diverged from equality into identity politics and grievance feminism.

Women who no longer relate to modern feminist ideology, and who believe the movement is now regressive, not progressive.


We, who see it as patronising and victimising of women, and who want to stand up and break away from the increasing illogic, saying: “Not in my name.”

You don’t hear from us, the dissident feminists.

We tend to be too busy getting on with life in the real world, to have time for “trivial bullshit”, as Somalian women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali described it.

The worst of it is, feminism used to be great. We were all equal; the “war of the sexes” an outdated term.

Free of men

All the major battles had been fought and won, meaning women could have careers and families and relationships, completely free of men. Personally, there’s nothing I would resist more than living a life dependent on a man.

We had the pragmatism to understand and accept that biologically, men and women are different and so this led to different life choices, on occasion.

If we chose to say, stay at home with children, doing what many would reasonably regard as the most important job in the world, raising and influencing the next generation, that didn’t mean we were lesser than the man racing up the corporate ladder. The key word was: choice.

We didn’t need patronising quotas, effectively a leg-up in a modern world where we can do it on our own. We wanted an equal playing field, not an advantage. There are so many quotas now, for everything from politics to the arts, you could be forgiven for thinking that being a woman was a disability.

At this stage, we’ve come so far, we should be doing victory parades in the street, in the same way the gay community celebrate their progress with Pride.

But winning was not enough. Seemingly for want of a crusade, today’s feminists regularly pick fights with men, reopening old (anachronistic) wounds. Feminism was never meant to be about emasculation.

Stories about quotas

The media happily feeds into this narrative. Pick up any newspaper today and you’ll find no end of stories about quotas, the gender pay gap, new government initiatives to ensure females are protected from the slightest offence. As if we are incapable of standing up for ourselves.

Why the consensus that women here are oppressed by men? We aren’t. If anything is offensive, it’s the nonsense conviction that us “fragile” women are besieged by a relentless male backlash.

Influential singer Kate Bush reminded us we have the option of dismissing sexism, instead of getting worked up in the face of ignorance.

“There’s a force of women who believe we should have equal opportunities, be able to work, be treated nicely without any threat and not necessarily be: “We hate men. Off with his balls.

“What really has power is women just getting on with it and doing it, and doing it well. The majority of women feel the same. You’ve just got to get in there and work. Male chauvinism is just a gesture. Men who are sure of themselves have no need to put women down.”

Margaret Atwood, whose 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale has been adopted as the radical feminist's bible, dissociated herself somewhat with the movement when asked if she was a feminist.

“Tell me what you mean by that word and then we can talk. Do we mean all men should be pushed off a cliff? Do we mean women are always right? Give me a break. I’m sorry, but no.”

Paglia believes it has moved so far away from its original aim, it has eaten itself, stating: “Feminism is moribund.”

There are plenty of countries in the world – Afghanistan, the Congo, Saudi Arabia – where women are persecuted horrifically, and suffer unimaginable violence.

In the West, we respect and support the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. We have anti-discrimination legislation in Ireland outlawing gender-prejudice in work and business.

The most harmful of it all is the resultant pussy-footed approach to women that means we can’t be told anything anymore, in a culture where fear of offence is prioritised above overall welfare.

Like how a pharmaceutical company saying it didn’t want to incentivise the high-hormone morning-after pill – called an emergency contraceptive for a reason – was castigated for “moralising” to women.

I’m a dissident feminist. Who’s with me?

Larissa Nolan is a journalist and commentator