Feminist? Equalist? What do you call yourself in today’s society?


There has been a lot said in the media recently about feminism. Perhaps a topic that had started being overlooked, a slew of recent articles and polls have bought the movement to the forefront of people’s minds again – and it is interesting seeing the different interpretations out there, and to read the fascinating, in depth and (often) highly intelligent debate that remarkable men and women have published, just because.

What has particularly caught my attention, out of all the mellé of commentary and opinion, is an underlying trend towards a negative view of feminism. Now, I am an out and out feminist, I believe in pushing society further and further along the lines towards equality between men and women. However, I can understand the point – I have long said that I don’t think feminism has been marketed well and efficiently in recent years. As honourable and well-intentioned as a moral mission may be, marketing is still intrinsic to the cause – and I think the cause of feminism may be irrevocably damaged because of this.

What do I mean? Well, when feminism as an out-and-out movement first developed, it was quite extreme. With good reason – women were completely under-represented and rarely treated as equals, and to change this protest needed to be strong and effective. It needed to be big and bold, get noticed and make headlines. However, the protests and the indignation are easy to twist into something more negative – and whether through misrepresentation or a gradual over-exposure, feminist aims became linked to “man-hating”, to that “frumpy, lesbian image“. It seems likely that the general population will automatically think of the grumpy persona of Germaine Greer when they think of feminism (for all that she has interesting things to say, she does have an attitude about her!) and other popular feminism characters.

Despite the rise of accounts such as EverydaySexism, raising awareness of sexism as a still commonplace problem in modern society, a lot of the problems facing feminism may also be to do with a younger, “empowered” generation of women who simply don’t feel the cause is relevant to them. I could argue for hours why it is, but the point remains – they don’t feel discriminated against, often as not, and the underlying sexism still present simply isn’t perceived.  The battleground for feminism has changed, and in a way, this is brilliant – the world of today is nowhere near as bad for women as the world of yesteryear. Change has occurred. And as such, the old propaganda is no longer relevant.

It worked back then…

So, feminism has marketed itself badly, and ended up with a negative public perception. Many modern women see it as irrelevant. It seems like there is a brick wall against which a campaign with such good ambitions has come to a bra-burning, man-beating halt. The old feminism doesn’t know where to go from here.

So, perhaps, the focus needs to be pushed from women-bettering-women (to the perceived detriment of others), to a more modern and inclusive cause. Equalism, if you will. Not just fighting for women’s rights (because such an insular approach will only further the propagation of “us” and “them”), but fighting for equality. Gender equality – that is, not just equal pay for women and better respect, but fair custody rights for men, tackling issues to do with men and depression, or suicide. Equality across all issues, regardless of gender. Let’s be honest – it’s what feminism really stands for anyway, just repackaged. Removed from the market and relaunched.

I think this inclusive, modern approach would help rejuvenate opinions and perceptions – and I think pushing on with the title of “feminism” may be more effort than it’s worth.

What do you think? And does this even make sense?

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  • Naomi

    I think these are very interesting points to raise. I think one of the problems that feminism faces since some change has been achieved is that the focus has become blurred and the loud feminist characters have in some cases managed to alienate the more moderate, whilst ‘extreme’ feminists have discounted some women as feminists as they are seen as being too compromised i.e. you can’t wear make up and short skirts and be a feminist (this is a crude example). This is my ill informed view of the situation at least. I think that Kat Banyard is an interesting and quite effective feminist at the moment. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/oct/14/kat-banyard-feminist-pornography-equality?INTCMP=SRCH
    I do agree that it is important not to become too blinkered when approaching the problem on inequality. It must be seen within a wider context to have real meaning and this requires an awareness of issues from the point of view of men. I also think feminism should not be about attacking men but bringing them with us. We only deepen the problems of sexism if we alienate men. There is still a long way to go and I think the real challenge now is to change the attutudes that are ingrained into society which are not appartent to many as they are just accepted and tolerated as the norm.