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Hadley Freeman: 5 tips for being an awesome feminist

(118 Posts)
HannahMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 25-Apr-13 15:40:29

Shakespeare once wrote that 'the path of true feminism never did run smooth' (or something similar). So to help us on our way, Guardian columnist (and author of 'Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies') is sharing her 5 top tips for the woman of 2013.

"Not all women are feminists, and not all feminists are women, but one generalisation you can make about feminists is that they all aspire to awesomeness. That is because feminism is the fight for that most awesome of things: equality. Yet sometimes even this seemingly most straightforward of aims can become a little confused with well-intended but ultimately self-defeating gestures or simple confusions. But that's OK, nobody gets it right all of the time. Heck, even Germaine Greer went on Celebrity Big Brother once.

So in order to help keep you on the path of awesome feminism, here is a quick little guide to the matter:

1. Stop being so hard on yourself.

If feminism is about the fight for women's rights, then the most important woman whose rights you need to fight for are your own. So stop being so self-deprecating; stop beating yourself up for being too fat / ugly / forgetful; don't go on any ridiculous diets that sap you of your energy; don't be scared to speak up or to try things that you've always wanted to do; only talk to yourself in kind and encouraging tones. Give yourself a break, OK?

2. Don't be so hard on other women, either.

This doesn't mean you should always support women simply because of their gender (that is faux feminism), but be careful of holding women to higher standards than men. So many women do this unthinkingly, it's up to awesome feminists to break the habit.

3. Fight for women around the world to have access to contraception, sex education and abortion.

Yes, abortion is a sensitive subject but this is really a non-negotiable belief when it comes to feminism. Contrary to what liberal blogger Mehdi Hassan wrote last year in a much discussed article, you don't need to be pro-choice in order to be a leftie, but you do need to be pro-choice in order to be a feminist. Feminism is about enabling women to live to the most of their abilities and the most important factor in this is giving them control over their fertility. Abortion is not a pleasant procedure but it is a necessary one in a world in which people have sex and aren't always as careful as they should be. Moreover, women will still have abortions if they're not legal, just using more dangerous methods. There is no wiggle room here: awesome feminists need to fight this fight.

4. Motherhood is not a game of one-upmanship.

Motherhood is wonderful. Motherhood is tough. One thing motherhood is not is a competition. There is no 'right' age to have a baby, no 'best' way to give birth: only ways to work for individual women and individual children. There is no one way to be a woman and there is definitely no one way to be a mother. So don't talk in a way that insinuates the contrary and, if you hear anyone else talking that way, calmly and gently correct them. It's hard enough being a mother without mothers being hard on one another.

5. Please don't ever go on a reality TV show predicated on humiliating its contestants, especially if you were once my idol. (NB: that instruction is perhaps less generally applicable than the others as it is really directed at one person. But it remains true, nonetheless.)"

What do you think - do Hadley's rules of thumb match your own? Let us have your thoughts - or alternatives - here on the thread. And if you blog, don't forget to post your URLs here on the thread.

'Be Awesome: Modern Life For Modern Ladies' by Hadley Freeman is published by 4th Estate price £12.99.

Portofino Fri 26-Apr-13 18:54:32

As someone put it so succinctly up thread, the 5 tips are purely about changing your own behaviour, rather than influencing anything. A good START for being a feminist but long way to go. I just read a thread where the op is disappointed to be pg with a girl because she imagined climbing trees etc with her future son and is now faced (in her eyes) with a pink/princess future. How sad is that? I have not yet formulated a response. Things are THAT ingrained. I have a dd. she had a pink Barbie stage but is now more interested in science/animation/space and loves riding her bike and camping and cooking and stuff. She knows she can do anything (nearly) as long as she puts he effort in.

msrisotto Sat 27-Apr-13 07:21:22

* in my mind the child in the equation has greater need of protection than the adult. *
Your perspective is incredibly dangerous and actually caused Salvita's death in Ireland.

WadsCollop Sat 27-Apr-13 10:52:11

Nonsense. The child had no hope of survival. Of course she should have been given an abortion in that case.

WadsCollop Sat 27-Apr-13 10:53:12

Please understand, I am not advocating the banning of abortion. There is a vast gulf between that and saying that old gestation babies are real human beings.

seeker Sat 27-Apr-13 10:56:14

The number of late abortions for anything other than medical reasons is vanishingly small. Whatever the "pro-lifers" say.

BasilBabyEater Sat 27-Apr-13 11:11:15

So what if the child had had some hope of survival WadsCollop?

Would it have been OK to let Savita die in that case?

Trill Sat 27-Apr-13 11:54:07

I would prefer 100 late abortions for "bad reasons" than have one woman who needed an abortion refused one. People who request abortions after 12 weeks are often those who are most vulnerable - they are young or unwell so they didn't know they were pregnant, or they are in vulnerable social situations (abusive relationships, scared of telling their parents, in denial because of what they have been taught about girls like that, etc).

I think it's a shame that this thread has become just about abortion.

I quite like Hadley Freeman's writing in general. I do feel a bit that this is a little bit like Caitlin Moran's book and wonder if the motivation was I have something to say or more I could do that. One of my friends stopped reading Caitlin Moran's book simply because she didn't like the shouty style, so it certainly doesn't hurt to have a variety of easy-reading books that say "hey young people, feminism is relevant to you".

WadsCollop Sat 27-Apr-13 13:49:51

That's fine that you would prefer that. But I wouldn't. And I am a feminist, regardless of what these somewhat half-arsed 'tips' say.

BasilBabyEater Sat 27-Apr-13 14:06:24

Yes I agree with that Trill.

I suppose my one reservation is that every generation, a little spate of "feminism-lite" books come out, the ones that won't frighten the horses and won't upset anyone (especially men, we really mustn't ever upset them ever, about anything) and we never get further than the fem-lite stage because even tiny little changes (let alone changing society so that it's designed equally for men as well as women) are met with enormous backlash.

But I suppose feminism-lite is better than no feminism at all. <sigh>

BasilBabyEater Sat 27-Apr-13 14:07:16

And you haven't said whether it would hve been OK to let Savita die if there'd been a chance of her child surviving WC.

WadsCollop Sat 27-Apr-13 14:55:31

I think it should have been her choice, absolutely. I imagine she would, in that case, have weighed up all the facts and emotions herself. I'm not sure what I would do in that situation personally. It depends on so many things.

I'm not talking about situations of life or death for the mother. I'm talking about straightforward unwanted pregnancy. Again, there are so many factors and so many shades of grey, I really don't think it's a simple yes/no thing in any of these scenarios. I really am not advocating a ban on abortion at all, and absolutely agree that it would be a horrifically retrograde and damaging step to remove access to abortion. However, I would think the age at which a 'choice' abortion (as opposed to medical emergency etc.) ought, perhaps, to be lower than it currently is, and I cannot support or even fathom the notion that abortion should be granted at any stage for any reason.

The Savita case is simple in my mind. Viable life trumps unviable life. It is when we try to weigh up the value of two viable lives, then insist that we place greater importance on one than the other that I struggle.

MizK Sat 27-Apr-13 21:58:26

Not touching the abortion debate with a 50ft pole, although weirdly enough I drove past a group of anti abortion protesters holding their little signs today. It rained heavily a few minutes later, and I wasn't displeased to think of them dripping sadly onto their little pieces of card.

Anyway, the book. I'm looking forward to it. Hadley Freeman is a really entertaining writer and named both Miss Piggy and Jessica Mitford as being in her 10 favourite women. Sold.

My daughter is 13, and I welcome any book that might help her feel that it's OK to be who she is, that maybe she doesn't need to conform to the Kardashian/Victoria's Secret ideal of gloss that is currently in fashion. (Trust me, I know of many a bright, sparky girl that actually feels she must look immaculate at all times in order to uphold this weird standard).

I don't see any problem with her leaving out wider issues, because this seems to be a light hearted take on everyday women and their lives. In any case, sex trafficking etc is something that men need to be educated about far more urgently than women IMO.

Trill Sat 27-Apr-13 22:54:08

WC in case you hadn't noticed I was defending the idea that someone could be both pro-feminist and anti-abortion.

I then went on to state my personal views.

It seems that even if I state "this is not my personal view" or "this is what I would prefer" someone will try to complain about it.

msrisotto Sun 28-Apr-13 07:31:46

But the fact is that because of anti abortion laws, Savita died and this is what happens with restricted abortions.

seeker Sun 28-Apr-13 09:17:47

The late abortion argument is a bit of a red herring- there are only a tiny number of them for anything except the most tragic medical reasons. And there would be fewer if education and information was better.

But...but....but....I really don't think you can get past the fact that it is profoundly anti feminist to tell a woman what she can and can't do with her own body. However difficult and unpalatable that is.

Selba Sun 28-Apr-13 10:01:24

The dig at Germaine Greer somewhat undermines point 2

seeker Sun 28-Apr-13 10:47:33

The GermainenGreernthingndoes underline the fact that just because a woman does something it doesn't hm wake it a feminist thing to do, though.

seeker Sun 28-Apr-13 10:48:49

Bizarre typos in that last post, sorry!

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