Russell Brand’s ‘love of a good woman’ is not what feminism needs

By Ellie Mae O’Hagan

'If Russell Brand wants a revolution against inequality he needs to understand his own part in it.'

On Thursday night, with all the solemnity of a foreign correspondent announcing a ceasefire, the Facebook account for the No More Page 3 campaign posted: “Twitter. Tonight.” And here was a photograph of Russell Brand holding a “No More Page 3” T-shirt and tweeting: “And finally, through the love of a good woman, teenage, sexist me was slain.” The reaction on Twitter was ecstatic. Dozens of feminists – including the No More Page 3 account itself – sent messages of congratulations to Russell Brand for renouncing sexism.

Hmm. Is that how feminism works now? A man announces he’s not a sexist and we all applaud? I ask because I have a slight problem with Brand’s apparent motivation for giving up sexism: “the love of a good woman”. The trope of a man being redeemed by a woman’s virtue is as old as the hills. It may be superficially complimentary to the woman in question, but ultimately it holds her up as a Madonna figure who is not permitted the complications and imperfections that men are. In effect, it suggests that the woman is not human, which – as every feminist knows – is the basis for all sexism. It also suggests that ending the man’s sexism is the woman’s job: if she doesn’t work hard enough at being perfect, he might just revert to his old ways.