Julie Bindel (born 20 July 1962) is an English writer, feminist, and co-founder of the law-reform group Justice for Women, which opposes violence against women and helps women who have been prosecuted for killing violent male partners. She is the author of Straight Expectations (2014) and co-author, with Harriet Wistrich, of The Map of My Life: The Story of Emma Humphreys (2003).
Bindel is a visiting researcher at Lincoln University and former assistant director of the Research Centre on Violence, Abuse and Gender Relations at Leeds Metropolitan University. In 2010 she entered The Independent's "Pink List" as 89th of the top 101 most influential gay and lesbian people in Britain. She writes regularly for The Guardian.
While focusing on male violence against women, Bindel also writes about gender inequality in general, as well as stalking, religious fundamentalism, lesbian rights, opposition to the sex industry and human trafficking. She refers to herself as a political lesbian feminist.
Activism and research
Bindel cites Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, for her decision to campaign against sexual violence. Sutcliffe was convicted in 1981 of murdering 13 women in the period 1975–1980, when Bindel was a teenager in Leeds. She wrote: "I was angry, like many others, that the police only really seemed to step up the investigation when the first 'non-prostitute' was killed." She was also angered by the police's advice that women stay indoors, although many had jobs that required them to be out after dark. Bindel took part in feminist protests against the killings, including flyering mock-up police notices for men to stay off the streets for the safety of women.
Justice for Women
Together with her partner, Harriet Wistrich, a solicitor, Bindel co-founded Justice for Women (JFW) in 1990. JFW is a law-reform group that seeks to change law and policy that discriminates against women in cases involving male violence. The group was set up in response to the case of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, who was convicted of murdering her abusive husband in 1989. JFW has been involved in many miscarriage-of-justice cases since then, including those of Emma Humphreys and Sara Thornton.
Domestic violence and murder
Bindel's writing about violence against women in domestic and personal relationships has been a central feature of her work.
In 2008 an issue Bindel had campaigned on for over a decade became the focus of government legislation. Since the death of Emma Humphreys in 1998, Bindel had sought to have a law changed that protected men and penalised women. If men murdered a partner in the heat of the moment, an appeal to provocation was admissible in mitigation. Such an appeal was not practical for women trapped in violent relationships, because murders carried out in the context of ongoing subjection to violence tended not to occur in the heat of the moment, but would be often be calculated to provide an escape from violence.
Bindel's campaign sought to resist the mitigation men could appeal to when partners were murdered, and allow the sustained violence to which women could be subjected to act as a mitigating factor if they murdered their partner. Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, was of a similar mind on this issue, and legislation was proposed that would change the law to this effect.
Bindel's writing on cyberstalking has been cited by academics. In 2006 she argued that rape victims are re-victimized by being "identified, vilified and even criminalised." She wrote that, if she were raped, she would probably not report it.
Bindel's activism is reflected in her contribution to research and writing on feminist issues, violence against women, and prostitution. She was a researcher at Leeds Metropolitan University, where she served as the assistant director of the Research Centre on Violence, Abuse and Gender Relations, and at London Metropolitan University.
In an interview with Radfem Collective, Bindel advocated for the internment of all males, as well as the abolition of heterosexuality.
Bindel worked at Leeds Metropolitan University. She was first published by The Independent in 1998 concerning prostitution in the UK. The life and death of her friend Emma Humphreys in 1998 led her into journalism. Bindel had campaigned for Humphreys to be acquitted and released from prison following Humphreys' conviction for the murder of a violent pimp.
In 2001 she began writing for the Guardian, covering gay and lesbian issues, child protection, and violence against women. From October 2003, her contributions became more frequent, and she wrote about the main themes that concerned her: rape, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, men who murder women, men who murder partners, child protection, sex offenders, prostitution, gay and lesbian issues, broader LGBT issues including transsexualism and gender reassignment surgery, human trafficking, and lesbian issues. Her work is seen as controversial.
During her time at the Guardian, Bindel broadened her range of topics to include vegetarianism, Arsenal, Barbie, Sylvia Pankhurst memorial, Andrea Dworkin, Sheila Jeffreys, Louis Armstrong, and gender-neutral toilets.
Trafficking, prostitution and sex tourism
Bindel has written and worked on issues concerning prostitution since 1998, and this is reflected in her writing for The Guardian.
In 2008 Bindel co-wrote a report commissioned by the POPPY Project on British brothels, named Big Brothel. The report on 921 brothels found that penetrative sex was available from £15 to £250, with an average of £62, 2% of brothels offered unprotected penetrative sex for an extra £10 to £200 payment. The brothels operated as legitimate businesses across every borough in London; a number of the premises involved offered "very young girls", but denied any were under age, and many of the women were from Eastern Europe and South East Asia. Bindel wrote about the findings in her Guardian column, describing experiences such as those of a young woman having sex with twenty men a day, and discussed Harriet Harman's (UK Minister for Women and Equality) plans to make paying for sex illegal.
The report was criticised by 27 leading academics involved in sex work research, claiming that the report was carried out without formal academic ethical approval, without acknowledgement of existing sources, and co-written by a journalist with anti-prostitution views. The POPPY project responded that the report was one they produced independently, that the POPPY project was not an academic institution, and because significant media attention was usually lacking in this area of research it was important to provide a counterbalance to the positive media focus on the sex industry.
Bindel is critical of how difficult life is made for women who report rape, and how the investigative and legal process ends up with women being dealt with more like the offender than the victim, in an environment where some appear to think it is more important to safeguard the rights of men who might be accused maliciously. She responded to the difficulties of reporting and prosecuting rape by saying she would not report it herself:
We may as well forget about the criminal justice system and train groups of vigilantes to exact revenge and, hopefully, deter attacks. Because if I were raped, I would rather take my chances as a defendant in court, than as a complainant in a system that seems bent on proving that rape is a figment of malicious women's imagination."
Her writing on rape has appeared in newspapers in the Middle East and India, and her views have been reported by the BBC.
Bindel began writing about lesbian issues as a radical lesbian feminist before her entry into journalism; her time with The Guardian saw her interest on lesbian and feminist issues come to include gay issues, scientific theories about sexuality, the way gender roles are taught to children, the cosmetics industry, cosmetic surgery for women, the media portrayal of lesbian chic, and lesbian child-bearing.
In January 2009 she wrote about the radical lesbian feminism of the 1970s and 1980s, and her desire to return to those values. She cited the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group as a big influence on her. She concluded with an invitation to heterosexual women to adopt lesbianism, saying "Come on sisters, you know it makes sense. Stop pretending you think lesbianism is an exclusive members' club, and join the ranks. I promise that you will not regret it."
Bindel does not support same-sex marriage. She argues that it would be preferable to have governments and courts not concern themselves with any concept of "marriage" and instead only regulate civil partnerships for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
Bindel argues that "the idea that certain distinct behaviours are appropriate for males and females underlies feminist criticism of the phenomenon of 'transgenderism,'" and that "surgery is an attempt to keep gender stereotypes intact."
Her first published article on transsexualism, in December 2003, was the first coverage of "transsexual regret" in the UK. Bindel interviewed "Claudia," a post-operative transsexual who regretted her decision to have surgery and felt that the psychiatrist had not taken sufficient care in reaching a diagnosis of gender identity disorder. The General Medical Council later ruled against the psychiatrist. A month later, Bindel's wrote in the Guardian about a male-to-female transsexual who had complained to a human-rights tribunal in Vancouver because she had not been allowed to train as a rape counsellor. Bindel wrote: "I don't have a problem with men disposing of their genitals, but it does not make them women, in the same way that shoving a bit of vacuum hose down your 501s [jeans] does not make you a man." The newspaper received over 200 complaints. The transgender group Press for Change cited the article as an example of "discriminatory writing." Bindel apologized for the tone of the article.
When Bindel was nominated in 2008 for Stonewall's "Journalist of the year" award, there was a picket of the awards ceremony. In an article written after the protest, Bindel talked about her frustration with being in a movement that insisted she accept trans people, yet resulted in her being criticised whenever she spoke on trans issues. She said that as a longtime active member of the lesbian community she felt uncomfortable with the increasing inclusion of sexuality and gender-variant communities into the expanding LGBT "rainbow alliance": "The mantra now at 'gay' meetings is a tongue-twisting LGBTQQI. It is all a bit of an unholy alliance. We have been put in a room together and told to play nicely."
Child protection and sex offenders
Bindel has written about child protection issues, the way sex offenders are dealt with and biological theories about what drives sex offenders.
- (2014). Straight Expectations. London: Guardian Books.
- (2003), with Harriet Wistrich. The Map of My Life: The Story of Emma Humphreys, Astraia Press.
- Lesbian feminism
- (1996). "Neither an Ism nor a Chasm," in Lynne Harne, Elaine Miller (eds.), All the Rage: Reasserting Radical Lesbian Feminism, London: Women's Press.
- Domestic violence
- Bindel, J. "Women Overcoming Violence and Abuse: Information Pack on Topics Covered at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Women's Citizenship," Research Paper No. 15, Research Centre on Violence, Abuse and Gender Relations, Leeds Metropolitan University, 1996
- Bindel, J & Fleming, J. Women Overcoming Violence and Abuse: Information Pack on Topics Covered at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Women's Citizenship. University of Bradford, Violence, Abuse & Gender Relations Research Unit, 1996
- Bindel, J. "Violence, Abuse & Women's Citizenship: An International Conference, Brighton, UK, 10–15 November 1996" Press Pack, Leeds Metropolitan University Research Centre on Violence, Abuse and Gender Relations, Leeds Metropolitan University; Published by Research Centre on Violence, Abuse and Gender Relations, 1996
- Kelly, L; Bindel, J; Burton, S; Butterworth, D; Cook, K; Regan, L. Domestic Violence Matters: An Evaluation of a Development Project, Home Office Information and Publications Group, 1996
- Sex work
- Bindel, J. Profitable Exploits: Lap Dancing in the UK, London, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit of London Metropolitan University, 2004
- Bindel, J & Kelly, L. A Critical Examination of Responses to Prostitution in Four Countries: Victoria, Australia; Ireland; the Netherlands; and Sweden, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit of London Metropolitan University, 2003
- Bindel, J. 'Flushing the Johns' Trouble and Strife, No. 38, 1998, 35–36
- Bindel, J. 'Press for Change'; A guide for journalists reporting on the prostitution and trafficking of women, CATW, 2006
- Bindel, J; Atkins, H. Big Brothel – a survey of the off-street sex industry in London, POPPY Project, 2008
- Griffin, G. Feminist activism in the 1990s, Taylor & Francis, 1995, 65–78. ISBN 0-7484-0290-X
- Plante, R. F. Sexualities in context: a social perspective; Westview Press, 2006; ISBN 0-8133-4293-7
- Kinnell, H. Violence and Sex Work in Britain, Willan Publishing, 2008; ISBN 1-84392-350-5
- Gupta, R. From homebreakers to jailbreakers: Southall Black Sisters; Zed Books, 2003; ISBN 1-84277-441-7
- Marsh, I & Melville, G. Crime, Justice and the Media; Taylor & Francis, 2009, ISBN 0-415-44490-X
- Anderson, I & Doherty, K. Accounting for Rape Psychology, Feminism and Discourse Analysis in the Study of Sexual Violence; Routledge, 2006; ISBN 0-203-08754-2
- Jeffreys, S. The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade, Taylor & Francis, 2008; ISBN 0-415-41233-1