I was a bit nervous about posting this one about feminism. It’s an update to a post I wrote three years ago and republished here recently the morning. It was written the morning after I stood on a chair at a Caitlin Moran gig in Bristol. Hundreds or women and men climbed up on to their seats and shouted ” I am a Feminist.” I wasn’t certain whether I should post it, not because I’m ashamed of being a Feminist – quite the opposite which – but because I wondered if readers would be interested it.
In the past few months we’ve seen long overdue naming and shaming of men in authority or power, abusing that power. The fact that in the generation above us (and to a degree my own) we have seen the systematic abuse and harassment of those who are vulnerable. It’s not just women or young girls either, young boys have also been subject to abhorrent, unacceptable (and criminal) behaviour. I want my son to know that it’s unacceptable – that we are all equal, can say no and have power over who touches us and how they make us feel.
This is why feminism is still important for boys and girls. The core message of equality and empowerment is important for everyone. Nobody’s future should be determined by whats in their pants and everyone has the right to say no to anyone putting their hands down them either. We also all have the right to choose our careers, clothing and attitudes based on our core being and not by our biological sex. Even at this young age though we are being constantly reminded of what’s to come with boys and girls toys and clothing in the aisles of shops (unless you have to operate the toy with your private parts, it’s just a toy by the way).
So why are many young women rejecting feminism? Not all, I would stress. I’m amazed at impressed by how socially aware many of your youngsters are becoming, but I still often hear, even among women my age I would add, a fervent declaration that they are not a feminist. Yes, I think you are, I want to say, you have a vagina. Who in their right mind would say that they think they are less worthy than the person sat next to them based on what’s in their knickers?
It’s as if people sometimes think that feminism has “fixed” everything and we are living in some sort of egalitarian nirvana (it’s not just gender I stress, there’s a whole load of issues we need to sort out as society). It reminds me of a recent trade union poster I saw recently. It asked, “What have trade unions done for me?” It’s a question that I hear from those unsupportive of unions. It’s normally bundled up with a bunch of other stuff about “one out, all out” and the bins not being collected in the General Strike (not that many of those complaining actually remember it).
The poster simply responded to the question with a list of all the benefits that trade unions have enabled workers to secure – sick pay, maternity leave, minimum wage – the list goes on. It’s the same with feminism. Not a feminist? What part of your rights would you like taken away – the right not to be raped in marriage? The right to demand equal pay for equal work? The right to vote? To own property?
Is it that for some, feminism is seeing as redundant solution to a problem that no longer exists? But it still does exist. While there is unequal pay, FGM and workplaces that make it prohibitive for dads to share more of the household responsibilities (to name but a few), we need feminism. We need it on our shoulder, nudging us to ask ourselves if a situation is unacceptable and what we can do to make it better. Because making things more equal benefits everyone.
I was part of a generation of girls who were born in the seventies and reached adolescence in the 80s, girls who still caught a whiff of the social and political movements that started with their parents. We were the generation of girls who were told that they had to go out and do something, yet at the same time had little more to shape us than a well loved collection of Aztec Camera (insert teen band of choice) albums, a second hand copy of The Female Eunuch and a vague idea that you should try and get into university.
We didn’t have social media to rightly or wrongly inform our views. In many ways that’s wonderful, but a lack of direct access to role models also left many of us isolated and floundering around like a whale on a beach of expectation and teenage anger.
Is it easier for young women now though? I’m not sure it is. In many ways I think not. I’m just grateful that at least in the mainstream media and press we have writers like Moran, Lenah Dunham and Grace Dent. They’re accessible and funny and even better I don’t agree with everything all the time. Sometimes thing’s don’t resonate with me and that’s brilliant – I don’t want any one person to shape my views. You need to disagree with people sometimes.
This image contains a mug which was gifted. Click on the image to order your own. I received no further payment for this.
So, hoorah for Moran and all the other wonderful women speaking out for us and the generations to come. Feminism hasn’t been redefined, it’s been clarified. In the words of Moran’s How to Build a Girl tour merchandise – The Rules of Feminism are 1. Men and Women are equal, 2. Don’t be a dick, 3. That’s it.
Isn’t that what it’s about?