Joanna Williams, Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars. Emerald Publishing, 2017

When I was a youngish academic reviewing a book of legal essays, I remember being nonplussed by a leading-edge feminist writer who, in the middle of some dense and abstract prose, criticised a previous (fairly eminent) author she disagreed with on the basis that he seemed to have got stuck in an empiricist time-warp. At the time this struck me as odd: in normal intellectual life, the reasoning ‘if my theory doesn’t fit the facts, there must be something wrong with the facts’ doesn’t sound very promising. But then I wondered if there was some deep feminist insight I’d missed, and concentrated my criticism on other matters.

If Joanna Williams’s splendid book Women vs Feminism has done one thing, it is to give me confidence and persuade me that I was right first time. As she points out, it was a feature of the so-called second-wave feminism of the 1970s, to which the writer in question belonged, that its adherents did indeed claim the right to reject traditional knowledge structures, including empiricism, as simply a reflection of a male-dominated hierarchy. It followed that any properly liberated woman who knew her Horkheimer from her Habermas was, in her own terms, entirely entitled to disregard any mismatch between theories and old-fashioned evidence. Of course, the difficulty is obvious: as soon as one moves away from discussing things at least against a background of verifiable facts, then argument of any sort becomes impossible. But for some kinds of feminists that’s no difficulty at all; indeed, it is an inestimable advantage. Once you can claim for yourself the right to reject as patriarchal constructs all the fact-based intellectual premises we are used to, or that women think differently from, and better than, men, they can never be refuted: which, of course, makes it all the easier to demand that their point of view be accepted as entirely valid by government and civil society.

The joy of reading Joanna Williams’s writing is that you quickly realise that she represents a rare combination. She knows her feminism theory inside out, from Mary Wollstonecraft to the mysteries of intersectionality theory, not to mention the problems of how to construct a feminist theory in these days of gender fluidity and the right to self-declare as almost anything; she believes in old-fashioned equality; and yet she also sees immediately where contemporary feminism becomes misguided and pernicious. For example, it is now easy to forget that women actually have the upper hand in much of the medical and legal world; that much the same goes for students in most schools and universities; and that, properly looked at, the ‘gender pay gap’ trumpeted by activists and academic bodies who should know better, such as the universities’ silly and costly Equality Challenge Unit, shows no evidence whatever of male prejudice or structural female disadvantage. Again, Williams brings out the embarrassing fact that for feminism to show it still has a worthwhile role, its proponents are constantly having to find new ways of making women feel unhappy, put upon and victimised, and to seek out ever more novel and convoluted forms of perceived oppression. More seriously, a feature of this is that with every passing year feminism is itself becoming more withdrawn into itself and less attractive to the average woman in the street. It is increasingly showing itself as po-faced, prudish (witness #MeToo), and authoritarian (indeed sometimes violent: remember the TERF wars of 2017?). At the same time it resorting to ever more trivial matters to make its point: the lack of pictures of women on banknotes, the design and colour of baby clothes, song lyrics, and so on and so forth. The brouhaha over Sleeping Beauty and the shock horror of its supposed support for sex-pestery by embodying a stolen, non-consensual kiss unfortunately came too late for inclusion: but it serves to illustrate all too well the sorry state to which contemporary feminism has reduced both itself and the females it claims to champion.


  1. ‘its proponents are constantly having to find new ways of making women feel unhappy, put upon and victimised’,
    Because if ever the mythical ‘equality’ is achieved then several thousand people will be out of their comfy state funded jobs.

    That is all anyone needs to know about Feminism

    • One of the great ills of modern society is the deference paid by governments to vociferous, unelected pundits and their posses, often taxpayer funded or subsidised, and the presumption that the silent majority can be disregarded.

      • That is so true. One slight glimmer of hope is that funding is often channeled via the EU, so the poor bloody taxpayer has little say over it. Perhaps that might change.

        • Too many people are so terrified of hysterics screaming “racist”, “sexist” or whatever to oppose them. Possuible replies-what if I am? Or If I am,who made me one?

          • I’m with you on the second part of your comment. The first sounds like an apology — and I refuse to apologise for something I haven’t done.

            Merry Christmas.

          • Too apologetic. Tell them to get lost and take their neurosis to a therapist. I’m sick of hearing apologies for remarks or actions no sensible person can regard as offensive

    • Summed up by this comment I copied from the Spectator a couple of years ago:

      “All the vested interest “charity” groups which make good money out of their crusades must extend the parameters of their disapproval. None of them are ever going to say “Job done”, close down the office and go to the job centre.”

      Credits to originator: Lady Beki Jane

      • The recently-departed Jerry Pournelle had it right with his Iron Law of Bureaucracies– in capsule form, “The cynics drive out the idealists, and then set up a self-perpetuation machine.”

  2. Men and boys actively dropping out and already the police have been shocked at the disdain by young men at high school. It seems they don;t want to be disposable anymore…..mission accomplished!

    • police have been shocked at the disdain by young men at high school.

      Could you explain what you mean? (I don’t live in Britain.)

  3. With regard to the stolen non-consensual kiss in Sleeping Beaty, did the mad woman who raised this also complain about Beauty and the Beast where the roles are reversed and it is the woman who steals a non-consensual kiss ?
    No, and I wonder why not.

    • Among the attractive women for whom this website was created are there any looking to steal a non-consensual kiss this Christmas?

      If so I promise not to object too strongly – cross my heart and hope to die!

    • Please Sir, as a twenty something, a young canteen lady kissed me on the cheek. It was totally unexpected. Nothing came of it, I was posted out a few hours later, never to return.
      Should I inform the ploddery? It was some 40 years ago, surely Saunders would be enthusiastic? Would there be any compensation and how much? Can I have anonymity?

      • I need advice too. The butcher (yes an independent shop!) greeted me with “Good morning sweetheart.” Have I been abused? Should I agonise, complain or take legal action? Do I need therapy? I am deeply troubled… please advise.

  4. Another article at the Conservative Woman website today advocated shorter degree courses. I made a comment on it querying the value of gender studies courses but after reading this article by Andrew Tettenborn I realise that I was completely wrong.

    Would anyone want to be operated on by a surgeon who rejected traditional knowledge structures or fly in a plane designed by an engineer who did the same? Gender studies and other PC courses have a vital function in filtering out people who reject objective reality thereby keeping them out of fields where they could cause catastrophic damage.

    In this way PC departments in universities play a role similar to that the sewage system does in public health.

    • Going by the fair few I’ve met over the years, social sciences grads don’t in general have much mathematical ability and in all cases, zero practical. Although engineering and science courses have been dumbed down since ‘my day’, I can’t imagine many who’d have been drawn to social sciences actually having the required smarts to qualify in a STEM field. So our buildings, transportation, and energy supply are safe. *crosses fingers*

    • I don’t mind them being filtered out. I do object to them taking up well paid sinecures in the public sector or with charidees

  5. And while the manufactured grievances of feminists continue to receive more and more attention, more and more eyes are opened to the reality of feminism.

    And all the while, the unheeded but real crime of paternity fraud waits patiently for its day in the spotlight. DNA evidence never dies. You can shout about your “causes” for as long as you like but sooner or later the truth will out.

    At least 4% of fathers are victims of paternity fraud. We can trace this crime irrefutably even after hundreds of years. To all the feminists out there; it doesn’t matter how long you keep running. The truth will catch up with you in the end.

  6. Tettenborn and Williams make the unanswerable point that Big Feminism is still ruthlessly bombing an enemy that was obliterated decades ago. Susan Faludi once said that men had been “stiffed” by the Sixties revolution. She was so right. Protected by the pill and the legalisation of abortion, women traded a relaxation of sexual access for admission to the male-dominated world of politics and work. Now that they’ve won, but won’t admit it, all the old female controls over sex are being reimposed on their terms exclusively. Hillary said her defeat by Trump was a victory for misogyny. It wasn’t, but it was the perfect pretence to claim that the war needed to be redoubled. The editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press has just been fired for sexual harassment without ever having been accused of harassing anybody. One thinks of Rubashov lying awake every night in readiness for the faceless monster’s knock at his door that he knows must come. How do men begin to get to grips with an enemy to whom nature has programmed them to surrender in advance? Every annual university intake of 17- and 18-year-old girls is a mass recruitment to the cause of permanent female victimhood. Feminisms’ theorists are in the academy and the media but the foot soldiers who will reliably fight for unfettered abortion are students who have never themselves been pregnant, have no intention of getting pregnant and whose only responsibility in their young lives has ever been to get out of bed in the morning. The War On Women is the only war in history which has been fought with only one combatant side.

    • Or is it that men, once all powerful, are no longer quite so powerful and are starting to realise that they have to conduct themselves with something live civilised values? Of course, this is a recent event, so perhaps it seems like women have all the power when, in fact, all that’s being asked is that they share it. Generations of women coming though will expect this to be the case and, for people who are older, they will have to adapt, die or reconcile themselves to lengthy time in prison.

      • Men have never been truly all powerful as the parable of Adam’s corruption by Eve was intended to show. Men’s power has been over affairs; women’s power has been over men from Livia to Clementine Churchill. Which power has been the more decisive in the history of humanity or have the two kinds of power been necessarily complementary until the feminist revolution? It’s probable that no one exerted a greater and more restraining influence over Churchill’s actions during the war than Clemmie. She was a great deal more successful than Alanbrooke. Women have retained this moral (and let’s face it, sexual) ascendancy over men since becoming full actors in the world of work which is a prime source of the current dissonance.

        • If you want to know about men’s power over women, just walk behind a lone female down an alleyway at night. She’ll be scared to death, and with good reason. As Germaine Greer said, men fear that women laugh at them and women fear that men will kill them. The rest is a sideshow.

          • Abortion without the fathers knowledge is a “side show”. And so is paternity fraud. And there are no male victims of domestic violence. And no unqueal spending on healthcare. And no problems caused by MGM. And who cares how many men die in coal mines?

            Turn a blind eye to the homeless men as you step over them. The family courts are totally fair. And its only right that an anonymous woman can destroy the life of a man with a single accusation.

            There are no significant men’s rights issues. Repeat what you are told to think. There are no significant men’s rights issues.

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