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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.

Takver Fri 26-Apr-13 08:20:02

The form of the message is pretty 'lite', I agree, and I think really it is aimed at teenagers / those with minimal or no experience of feminism (and nothing wrong with that).

However, when she was interviewed about the book on Women's hour she was talking about anorexia and domestic abuse, so not ignoring serious issues.

TBH my first reaction on seeing the title and some of the stuff in the media was 'trivial crap', but having read / listened to her a bit more I would be interested to read it.

senua Fri 26-Apr-13 08:21:54

Why is point 4 about 'motherhood'? Why isn't it about 'parenthood'?

Takver Fri 26-Apr-13 08:22:02

Actually, thinking about it, that WH is a bit of a blur in my mind as I was doing 3 other things while listening to it, they definitely were discussing domestic abuse, but maybe HF wasn't part of that section? I think she was, though.

Takver Fri 26-Apr-13 08:22:37

senua - because it is a book aimed at women?

senua Fri 26-Apr-13 08:28:46

True. The book is called "Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies". Will she bringing out a book for Modern Gentlemen, too?hmm

senua Fri 26-Apr-13 08:34:09

Sorry. It doesn't work. I've re-read it. The intro says that she is talking about "the path of awesome feminism". She talks about equality.

And then talks about motherhood, not parenthood.


seeker Fri 26-Apr-13 08:37:06

It is actually OK to talk about motherhood, you know............!

seeker Fri 26-Apr-13 08:39:21

And I think the title is intended to be amusingly ironic........

senua Fri 26-Apr-13 08:39:27


Why is it OK to talk about motherhood and not mention fatherhood. Oh, that's right: it's because only women do parenting ...

LandOfCross Fri 26-Apr-13 08:52:35

Because I am not pro-choice and struggle with abortion, I am kicked out of feminism?


Trill Fri 26-Apr-13 09:06:57

I don't think that anyone can say to anyone else "you can't be a feminist if you XXX"

Unless it's "you don't think that people should be treated equally, valued equally, and given equal opportunities, regardless of their gender".

senua Fri 26-Apr-13 09:11:00

I do wonder if we ought to bin feminism. There is too much baggage, to many misunderstandings and preconceptions.
Is there such a thing as equalism that neatly covers gender, race, etc, etc? Can I be an equalist?

WilsonFrickett Fri 26-Apr-13 09:23:18

"Do you have to always include trafficking, abuse, fgm etc, to validate what you write about things affecting women?"

No, I don't suppose you do. But when you're attempting to paint a picture of modern feminism I think you have to at least signal that while we sit in our comfortable world, protected by all sorts of legislation (and yes, I know things are far from perfect) other women in other parts of the world don't have basic human rights because they are women. Without this context it's just talking about people like us and, for me, feminism has a broader context.

seeker Fri 26-Apr-13 09:34:50

"Can I be an equalist?"

Yes you can. Equalism is a thing.

But it's not the same as feminism.

Talking about motherhood in a book about feminism is not denying that men are parents too. Motherhood is a specific thing. So is fatherhood. Fine to talk about both or either.

WilsonFrickett Fri 26-Apr-13 09:35:39

Also note that none of the points above have anything to do with wider society. It's all about women correcting their own behaviour.

WadsCollop Fri 26-Apr-13 10:04:00

What LandOfCross said.

YoniMatopoeia Fri 26-Apr-13 10:04:37

Y y Wilson

You have just articulated my unease for me. Thank you.

seeker Fri 26-Apr-13 10:09:46

"I don't think that anyone can say to anyone else "you can't be a feminist if you XXX"

Unless it's "you don't think that people should be treated equally, valued equally, and given equal opportunities, regardless of their gender".

Well, not telling a woman she has to carry and give birth to a baby when she doesn't want to comes under "treating equally" to me!

The important thing to remember about abortion is it's not about telling anyone she has to have an abortion. It's about not telling someone she can't.

msrisotto Fri 26-Apr-13 11:46:51

What Seeker said.

I don't suppose there are many situations in which one could say 'if you think x then you can't be a feminist' but in my opinion, if you are anti choice, I don't want you in the feminist club because you are a part of the problem.

WadsCollop Fri 26-Apr-13 11:57:32

It's not really up to you though, msrisotto, is it? Nor is it a club.

seeker Fri 26-Apr-13 11:59:36

"If you don't think that people have the right to self determination you can't be a feminist"

Does that cover it?

BasilBabyEater Fri 26-Apr-13 12:01:41

Of course you can't be a feminist if you think certain things.

For example, if you believe that men have a built-in superiority, that they have a "masculine authority" which women should submit to and that that is the natural order, then you can call yourself a feminist of course - and lots of loons do - but of course you're not a feminist.

Feminism has become one of those words that is bandied around by anyone who wants to not be identified as a doormat, but isn't really a feminist either IMO. Call yourself a feminist if you want while embracing beliefs that are anti-feminist, but don't expect other feminists to believe you.

WadsCollop Fri 26-Apr-13 12:06:59

But even with a subject so difficult as abortion, there are shades, aren't there?

I don't believe that every woman should have the right to abortion whenever she chooses - I think we have to take into account a great number of factors before we can say whether abortion is morally sound or not. I know it is rare, but abortion as contraception does happen, and in the case of later pregnancies, the right of the woman to autonomy has to be balanced with the right of the unborn child.

That, of course, brings into question a whole different issue - the stage at which a child has rights, or becomes a person.

msrisotto Fri 26-Apr-13 12:09:35

lol no it's not up to me nor is it a club...lets not take ourselves too seriously!

LandOfCross Fri 26-Apr-13 12:10:20

BasilBabyEater I am a feminist and I am opposed to abortion.
You don't have to like it, believe it or accept it because I respect your right to have your own beliefs smile.

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