Are Britain First really putting women first?

Gender equality – that’s what most of us want, right? At least, I would hope so, as you’re on a site that’s creating a space where girls and young women can feel comfortable reading about and discussing such issues.

I respect acts of ‘in your face’ feminism, on the whole. Sure, it’s brash and ballsy (excuse the phrasing). Some of it is downright annoying and makes me tut at its eccentricity – but that’s what you have to do to be heard. Emmeline Pankhurst, Gloria Steinem and Kathleen Hanna had their enemies, but they knew it was for a cause that had far greater importance than how many people were on their Christmas card list.

Some brash acts, however, merely pretend to have a feminist agenda, with the real subtext a far darker affair. The exact act I’m talking about is the latest ‘stand’ by Britain First, a “patriotic political party and street defence organisation” (so their website says) that urges people to “join forces with patriots” to “take our country back”. Leader Paul Goulding is a former BNP councillor, with their political officer Jim Dowson recently stating in a Channel Four interview that the party is carrying out a “holy war” on the UK’s streets. Members are regularly seen handing out Bibles as part of their ‘Christian Crusade’ campaign, many of which are given to Muslim worshippers.

Earlier this week, five members of Britain First stormed into Crayford mosque, dressed in bomber jackets and black flatcaps, demanding that the Imam “remove sexist, segregationist signs from outside their building” within seven days….”or we will”. The signs in question are separate entrances for men and women, with the majority of mosques accustomed to segregated worship. The ‘activists’ state: “We object to your signs that are outside, the signs for men and women… in this country we have equality”.

You can watch the video here

On the face of it, the act seems like a stand against religion’s institutionalised sexism – a direct challenge to the ingrained patriarchy that is inherent in all Abrahamic religions. However, if you watch the video, you will see that the party members tower over the frail Muslim Imam, asserting their demands in an aggressive and confrontational manner. Physical intimidation isn’t very Christian, is it?

Britain First are not women’s right campaigners, they’re a group intent on “taking our country back”, with this probably another string in their holy war bow against Islam. I’m all for challenging gender inequality and segregation – whether it’s religious or otherwise. But let’s do it peacefully, in a controlled and intelligent manner, not by barging into a place of worship and intimidating an old man while dressed like armed militia.

Sexism and patriarchy is a conversation that needs to keep rolling, on an international scale, encompassing all social structures, religions and walks of life. But guys (and girls), let’s keep it classy.

 

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