The battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it

Suzanne Moore is delighted that Bono won a Woman of the Year award. Ok maybe delighted isn’t exactly the right word.

Bono’s peers have given him all sorts: from a knighthood (honorary knight commander of the British empire) to a Philadelphia liberty medal, but according to the doublethink of Glamour’s editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, giving awards to actual women at the actual women of the year ceremony “might be an outdated way of looking at things. There are so many men who really are doing wonderful things for women these days.”

Finally, men doing things for women! It’s what the struggle has been all about. Give that man a round of applause for “babysitting” his own children. A medal and a paper hat for any man who thinks things should be better for girls!

And not just any medal and paper hat, but a medal and paper hat with “For a woman” on it! Women have grabbed up all the awards for far too long, and it’s about damn time men started winning some of the awards for women of the Minute, Hour, Day, Week.

Bono has basically irritated everyone by hanging out with popes and presidents but maybe his heart is in the right place even if his taxes are not. Maybe he could be offered a daft award and do the right thing: decline to line up with the likes of US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles; or Nadia Murad, the Yazidi woman who got away from Isis; or Emily Doe, the student who was raped by Brock Turner and wrote a shattering letter about her experience. He could have politely declined but carried on his work on HIV, as so many of his colleagues do. He could have said that poverty is a key feminist issue and passed the prize on to one of the many brilliant female campaigners. But no, he said he is very grateful because this is a chance to say: “The battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it along with women.”

Oh that’s such an outdated way of looking at things, saying it should be along with women. Fuck no. The battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it period, all by themselves. Get the fucking stupid helpless incompetent talkative bitchy women out of it, and the battle for gender equality will be won in a week or less.

Bono is not alone in this patronising attitude. Most of the male voices on the left continue to see gender as some kind of afterthought and are not interested in the bodily politics of flesh and blood and women. The new UN ambassador for women is Wonder Woman, a bleedin’ cartoon. Everyone fell over themselves to celebrate Caitlyn Jenner’s womanhood, ignoring her dubious politics. The misogyny around Hillary Clinton is unmissable. The one bit of sexual politics that the “radicals” embrace is often a denial of biological difference. Yet some of the most hard-won campaigns have been around rape, FGM, sexual violence, childbirth and HIV, where women’s experience is absolutely embodied.

Alongside this strange disappearance of womenhood has been the rolling back of tokenism: the assumption that everything is already a level playing field. Where many used to feel a public discussion should involve more than just white men, we are back to a position where it is now permissible to have all-male panels and comedy shows.

It’s the up to date thing.

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