For as long as I can remember I have considered myself a Feminist, and really not understood it when women say they aren’t. As Caitlin Moran says in her book How to be a Woman
So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.
a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.”
Of course that excludes men who consider themselves feminist and who can be very strong allies, but it does highlight how many young women do not associate themselves with feminism at all. As a teacher (I was teaching Theatre Studies and English Lit, these sort of things just come up, especially if you are studying Playhouse Creatures) I found out that many of the girls I taught though that it really was a dirty word and they did not think it was relevant to them. Caitlin’s definition works in this case of getting through the simplicity of why all women should consider themselves feminist.
I have read a lot of feminist books, and I used to read most of the key modern feminist blogs – Feministing, The F Word, Jezabel etc. But I stopped a few years ago. Why? Because it felt like it had all been said before, we were just going around in circles and things had got a lot worse, not better in my time. I am only in my mid 30s, I am not that old. I do follow a lot on Twitter and so I keep up with the latest campaigns that way.
Have you seen @everydaysexism? Wow, now that is a depressing feed to come through on Twitter and I sometimes have to stop reading it. Why? Because of the sheer hatred that women seem to face, that rape threats and sexual harassment are a normal part of every day living for a young woman. A book has just been released and I will be getting this soon, and steeling myself for a difficult and challenging read.
In my virtual teetering pile of ebooks which I had bought and not got around to reading was Kira Cochrane’s All The Rebel Women. I really enjoyed this book, it puts a lot of emphasis on the everyday focus of modern Feminism in the UK (as well as a lot of debate as to if this is or isn’t the fourth wave -the conclusion: it doesn’t really matter), how it is about campaigning and making a difference. For a lot of these campaigns social media has bought Feminism in reach of everyone (well, checking ones’ privilege – those with access to the internet) and it has made it easier to get the message out. Feminism in the past has definitley suffered from being too academic. However social media has also made it a lot easier for the backlash to happen.
Caroline Criado-Perez who campaigned for a woman to be features on the English banknotes received death and rape threats. And that is just one of many, many examples.
When did that become acceptable?
I realise that the internet has given people a veil of anonymity, but have people always been so nasty as to send death and rape threats as an everyday response to something they don’t like? I would hope we as a civilisation have gone beyond that.
All The Rebel Women has rekindled my hope in the feminist movement of the UK and I am proud that young women out there are harnessing the power of social media to change things. But it does feel like they are having to retread old ground, that we have gone backwards. I can only hope that they have the power to change this and to make great strides forward. And of course I count myself as part of that ‘they’ too.