Is Feminism on the Change?

It’s an interesting time to be a feminist again. During the seventies there was a palpable air of excitement around issues of equality for women, when many of us were misled into thinking we had it all; then we realised the grim truth as women did not progress at the rate expected and true gender equality was eluding us, despite the legislation.

People were working around it and those of us who cried ‘foul’ and tried to pull back the wizard’s curtain were pilloried as hysterical, misguided, or lacking in humour (that last one particularly irked me as actually I am very funny-sometimes! I just couldn’t bring myself to laugh with the colleague who told me I had only got a post because the interviewer liked blondes – “It’s a joke, Jane!” Or be impressed when someone solemnly told me that pole dancing was a really good form of exercise…, although that was a bit funny but not in the way they intended!

Celebrity Abuse, BBC Femageism, Topless Women – advancing feminism?

Currently in the UK there is a wave of celebrity abuse stories breaking almost daily across the media. There is also an enthusiastic movement to encourage the removal of topless women from a national daily (and it would describe itself as a family) newspaper (see Is No More Page 3 Really Advancing Gender Equality?)

The BBC our national broadcaster is being regularly and openly chastised for its lack of older women presenters (see Miriam O’Reilly on Sexism at the BBC – Update!)

Discussions are breaking out all over the place about what it’s like to be a woman today and people are sharing not only their horrific tales of actual abuse (and much respect to them) but also their experiences of casual sexism and it’s eye opening stuff. Not to me, I have been hearing these tales for years, first in my work as a social worker with abused children and then in my work with senior women. The two things are different of course, but come from the same root: lack of respect and equality for women in a gender skewed society.

I hope it’s eye opening to those women and men who told me power is there for the taking if you really want it. Sorry, that didn’t wash with me because I didn’t want to behave like a man to get power or to forgo having children, both necessary if you wanted real success, although I am privileged to know a few women who did manage to reach the top and be true to themselves and their feminity. But they are the exceptions in every way.

I hope it’s eye opening to the politicians who will realise that creating some equalities legislation does not mean job done. You have to lead from the front and that means serious changes to Government and the machinery of government (See ‘Why David Cameron Just Doesn’t Get It‘ )

I hope it’s eye opening to senior figures in the world of work who design their businesses to help men succeed (albeit often unwittingly) who will take a look at policy, custom and practice and really get with the programme.

But most of all I hope it’s eye opening for young men and women who have an opportunity to change this.  I hope they take back the word feminism and use it without self consciousness. In fact, I hope the word feminism is no longer necessary and we just have equality, true gender equality.

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Posted on October 18th, 2012 by

6 Responses to “Is Feminism on the Change?”

  1. Ann Lewis says:

    I love this Jane. It’s nearly 40 years since the legislation first came in, and I’m heartened to see that this generation of young women are beginning to pick up the issues again. I agree with you that we were all duped into thinking we had it all. You only had to listen to Susanne Moore on the Today Programme yesterday to realise that sexism is still alive and well in the BBC.

    Before the legislation, I remember trying to buy something on what was then called ‘hire-purchase’, and being told that I couldn’t do that without my husband’s signature! (It was my own money I wanted to spend.) That was only 40 years ago. Don’t let’s slide backwards – there’s still a long way to go.

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Ann. You don’t have to go back 40 years, that is still happening! Only the other day I was told about a well known kitchen supplier whose salesman told the woman “It’s best if I come back when you’re husband is home”. Needless to say they didn’t get an appointment.

  2. Katherine says:

    Another fabulous piece Jane.

    Inequality is still rife – and even by women against women….I was banking a cheque into joint savings account on Monday and the teller (young woman) told me Mr Reed would need to come in, with his ID, for the new deposit book. My name is on the account! Madness in this day and age….

    • Jane says:

      Many thanks katherine. I think sometimes the inequalities have become so institutionalised that we have ceased to recognise them. I am hoping this wave of awreness will change that!

  3. Yes its great to feel empowered

  4. Damn I fell into the trap. There was I 20 years ago at a labour party meeting (the only one I ever went too)Standing up and making a speech about how there werent enough women in parliament due to sexism.They wanted me to become womens spokes person. I was so horrified I never went back!!

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