The Sudden and Curious Death of Feminism
I have a confession to make; I am a feminist. While this might have gained me respect from my peers twenty or even ten years ago, at the moment everyone just seems to think it’s a bit of a joke. Yes, I’m about as far away from the warped stereotype of the militant unshaven feminist campaigner as Kate Middleton is from Jodie Marsh. I live with 5 boys who nickname me “mum” because of all the cooking and cleaning I do, and when many people first meet me they assume that my ambition in life is to become a primary school teacher. But their amusement seems not to come from the fact that I, apparently the most unlikely of candidates should consider myself a feminist, but that anybody should at all.
Recently a friend of mine, let’s call her M, had a seminar where the tutor asked her exclusively female class how many of them considered themselves to be feminists; only my friend, M, raised her hand. There ensued a heated class discussion where many of the young women were either making jibes about lesbianism or remaining openly hostile even to the idea of feminism. The discussion ended when M screeched at the class that every woman should consider herself a feminist until women no longer face any discrimination. Although this is only one example in one university it seems to worrying to me in a climate where the pay gap between men and women is rising and speaks of a wider societal issue, in an age where it’s becoming more acceptable for a girl to want to become a glamour model than the CEO of a business, or even a primary school teacher.
Natasha Walter writes convincingly in her book Living Dolls: the return of sexism about the dangers of returning to a society where gender roles are very narrowly defined, as well as discussing the pervasive ‘lad’ culture which makes rape a legitimate target for a bit of innocent banter. I’m not saying that we should start lynching every leery man who gropes girls in clubs or pounce on the next friend who uses the phrase “I would” but I do think that we should start to question why we accept and often join in with the kind of behaviour that makes respect for women nearly as much of a joke as feminism.