A feminist? Not me!
A recent survey found that a large majority of women don’t consider themselves feminists.
The survey in question was carried out by Netmums, which is apparently Britain’s largest women’s website.
The results were a bit perturbing.
To sum up, only one in seven women described herself as a feminist, and one in five said feminism was old fashioned and ‘not relevant’ to today’s generation.
Almost a third thought that feminism (of the ‘traditional radical’ variety), was ‘too aggressive’ towards men and 24 per cent thought that ‘feminist’ was no longer a positive label for women.
I’m sorry, did the last 100 years only happen to other people?
Maybe there is a lack of clarity as to what feminism actually means. Feminism, to many, is a fluid concept, one which addresses any imbalance in equality between men and women.
It doesn’t have to be about burning bras and hating men (‘ie ‘too aggressive’). It doesn’t have to be militant or in any way ‘negative’.
And not relevant to this generation? If only.
Women of Netmums, don’t you know that feminism is about gender parity, about equality? Equality of opportunity is something that we should be taking for granted by now, not still fighting tooth and nail for.
If you are one of those surveyed who thinks feminism is no longer relevant to this generation, then perhaps you should stop reading now. If, instead, you have an interest in reality, read on.
The statistics about women’s place in society are still, frankly, shocking.
Let’s start with the workplace where thousands upon thousands of women are still ‘missing in action’.
In a report published last year by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, figures showed that the progress of women to positions of authority in Britain has been tortuously slow and that there were more than 5,000 women missing from the most senior posts in the public and private sectors.
The report, ‘Sex and Power’, showed that, in 2011, women represented only 12.5 per cent of directors of FTSE 100 companies, 9.1 per cent of national newspaper editors (which is now even less), and 12.9 per cent of senior members of the judiciary to name but a few.
It’s not for lack of talent, believe me – women are now graduating from university in increasing numbers and achieve better degree results than men. But despite level pegging with men in their twenties, they are not entering management ranks at the same rate, and many remain trapped in the layer below senior management.
The results of this report indicated that it will take another 70 years to achieve an equal number of women directors in the FTSE 100 and another 45 years to achieve an equal number of women in the senior judiciary.
It will take another 14 general elections – that is, up to 70 years ‑ to achieve an equal number of women MPs in the UK Parliament, in a society where 51 percent of the population are women.
And let’s face it, it’s probably not going to the male members of the species who fix this.
I hate to labour the point (no, I don’t) but there is inequality everywhere.
It’s 2012, and there is still a persistent pay gap. The 2011 survey of hours and earnings from the Office of National Statistics found that median gross weekly earnings for full-time male workers was £539. For women? £445. So last year, British women were paid 83p for every pound their male counterparts earned.
This is commonly known as the ‘gender pay gap’. That’s women being paid less than men. Still. Today.
And according to research carried out by the Association of Accounting Technicians, mothers who leave their jobs to have children earn nearly £10,000 less when they return to work. Because of inflexibility of conditions, six in ten ended up doing jobs unrelated to their previous positions, and three quarters felt that they have more potential than their job allows.
Remember, we still live in a society where topless women being used for titivation is totally acceptable. We can’t have nudity on television before the watershed, but a 12 year old can go and buy The Sun any day of the week. It stinks of hypocrisy, and make no mistake, the decision to allow page three to continue is not one that is being made by women.
Let’s be perfectly clear. Feminism is not about hating men. Feminism, as British suffragist and journalist Rebecca West said, is the radical notion that women are people.
It’s also about what we are willing to put up with and what we allow to happen in our (your!) society.
As a small example, David Cameron is looking for new would-be police and crime commissioners (PCCs) in 41 police forces in England and Wales.
One such person who is feted as a strong candidate for such a position, is Godfrey Bloom, the outspoken UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.
His views have outraged women (and yes, feminists). He once claimed to have visited brothels while working in Hong Kong and suggested that he represents Yorkshire women who “always have dinner on the table when you get home”.
Hands up if you don’t find that offensive Netmums? Remember, this is a guy who could end up in charge of a police force.
Most importantly, however, is how this can possibly be irrelevant to today’s generation?
Why, in objecting to this continued disaggregation of women from economic equality, from positions of responsibility and from society, is it bad to call yourself a feminist?
I subscribe to the Gloria Steinem school of thought that says “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
In my more ‘radical’ moments, when I think of things like page three, I’m more of the Timothy Leary bent – ‘Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition’
But let’s not go too far . . . we wouldn’t want to upset anyone, would we?