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The future of feminism: Rosie Boycott and the Vagenda(8 Posts)
We've asked Rosie Boycott, founder of Spare Rib magazine and first female editor of the Independent, and Holly and Rhiannon, the twentysomething Vagenda bloggers, to blog about what feminism means today. Read these two different generations of women having their say on future of the feminist movement, Page 3, why Hilary Clinton is better off without Bill, and Playboy bunny tails.
Do you think this generation of women is keeping feminism alive? What's the future of gender equality? And can you be a Page 3 girl and a feminist?
I think we still have a long way to go. Female students are outperforming boys at school, yet they fall behind in the workplace in terms of pay and positions. I love the Vagenda bloggers' work, but I think that the focus on the media's portrayal of women - and women's appearance - might mean that we lose sight of the real, clear issues: pay, position, pregnancy care, childcare, social status, sexual choice etc. This generation still has a lot to fight for.
I know this is a side issue, but when you mentioned page 3 I was thinking of a more balanced approach where it alternated female/male/lesbian/gay* on sequential days - and it occurred to me that it's unfair that women can't bare their chests in public by choice in the way that a man (even with man boobs) is allowed...
* also disabled and assorted races, obviously!
I've defined myself as a feminist as long as I can remember (at least since primary school, when I fought - and won! - a battle about girls as well as boys being allowed to make pencil cases in sewing class instead of "useless but decorative" samplers). For this reason, I sometimes wonder whether, at 36, I'm out of touch with how integrated feminism is into everyday life (by this I don't mean feminist achievements, which are obviously all around us, but ongoing, active feminism - I see it but then I also hunt it out more than a non-feminist might).
I do feel some discomfort about placing feminists of different generations alongside one another as though there's necessarily the potential for conflict (sorry, Mumsnet - it's a knee-jerk reaction in me!). Younger feminists have sometimes been on the receiving end of resentment and/or disapproval from the grande dames of earlier "waves" (not Rosie Boycott - but Doris Lessing, Germaine Greer and others have all taken the time to have a pop). I worry that younger feminists are seen as having it easy because certain battles have been "won" - perhaps now we've been left with even trickier ground, though. Challenging discriminatory legislation can sometimes be easier than challenging ideas of representation.
Personally, I don't believe there is any distinction to be made between "real" feminist issues and "cosmetic" ones (to be honest, I'm increasingly bothered by the "fluffy" issues of media representation and body image, perhaps more so than by anything else, because these have a massive influence on women's self-belief and their standing when it comes to asking for anything more concrete). I think once you start deciding what is and what isn't "important" feminism, you've already played down the need for absolute equality. All of it matters.
As for whether a page 3 girl can be a feminist - I think we all make compromises, although posing on page 3 is perhaps one of the more obvious ones! As long as she's passing on the money to good, feminist causes... Although to give a proper response to the question, no, I couldn't be a feminist and a page 3 girl. My breasts are down to my ankles these days
I'm trying to imagine a feminist page 3 girl - levelled stare and giving the finger?
I think it's interesting that 'feminism' has come to mean so many things to so many people. It runs a gamut from "feminism is about making a living from having breasts" to "feminism is the right to expect to be treated exactly as a man is".
When a movement is about a specific right (the right to vote, the right to a working wage etc) then it's pretty easy to see what the 'ism' is all about. Contemporary feminism seems to be a melange of competing ideas and I find it increasingly hard to grasp what I'm supposed to make of it as a bloke.
I think, like the poster above, Vagenda's obsession with media portrayal of women's bodies and sexuality seems (oddly) to just confirm part of the media's portrayal of women being obsessed by their bodies and sexuality!
as a man I'm obsessed with women's bodies, sexuality and personalities [note increasing complexity], and also with my own, and presumably women are entitled to do the same! However you parse it, your body is the first thing that people see.
I've pondered for many years on the issue of feminism and what it really means to me. Basically I feel it means that women should be able to have choices in life that don't differentiate them from men and be equally remunerated for the same jobs. That can mean choices in career and also choices in motherhood (and that is where we are obviously different biologically from men). I feel those choices should be equal to men and women i.e. a man can equally do a traditionally female career as well as vice versa. I also feel that nowadays women who want to be non-working mothers are viewed as letting the side down and are viewed as non-entities - surely that view is not a pro-choice attitude either (and that often comes from other women!). I agree about the current sexualisation of our society and this is something that I am extremely concerned about as the mother of a daughter and the "pinkification" of girls. My husband noted that he feels that the male world is also over-sexxualised now with pumped up images of men on Men's Health and the pressure on men to look like that or one of the guys from TOWIE!
We have much to thank our feminist fore-mothers for. They pushed and raised the issue of equal rights. They often had to take extreme action in order to do so. I think of the Suffragetes every time a voting card comes through my door and take my vote seriously because many women died to give me that vote. Modern feminism needs to reflect modern life and take stock of where we are now. It's appalling that so many rapes are not punished - but that is also the same for men who are raped or experience domestic violence.
I think what I'm saying is that "sexism" of any kind, female or male, should be tackled in our modern-thinking society.