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Politics no image

Published on October 22nd, 2012 | by Zaynab Lulat
Image © [caption id="attachment_11259" align="alignnone" width="566"] A feminist protest at RAF Greenham Common air base in the 1980s: Relevant then, still relevant now. ©PA/PA Archive[/caption] According to a recent online poll of 1300 people on the social website netmums, which has the highest demographic of British women, one in seven did not consider themselves a feminist. According to the poll 17% thought feminism had gone ‘too far’. These are only two of the staggering figures-which later appeared in the week’s papers. Why do women not consider themselves feminists? Many view the term feminism as unitary, and one of aggression- where women dislike men, this is ‘one box fits all’ notion of the term. Some also view it as a ‘dead’ movement; women have come a long way, with 70% of younger women saying too much was expected of them now. All these concerns have deep roots in the changing nature of society- however can feminism be brushed aside so easily? Recently there have been a number of issues to hit the headlines, first was the nomorepage3 campaign, then Health Sectary Jeremy Hunt reopened the debate on abortion after comments supporting a reduction on the time limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 12 weeks, in the United States there was controversy surrounding the issue of abortion, with the possibility that a Republican government would try and curb abortion entirely . Then Julia Gillard spoke out against the leader of the opposition Tony Abbott on the issue of misogyny.  The recent cabinet reshuffle saw the government take criticism for the lack of women. On the current presidential elections Mitt Romney has been criticised for his ‘binders full of women’ gaffe, which is a telling sign for his overall view of women, and further still there was the public shaming of Katherine Fenton, who asked a question on what would be done to even the pay gap between men and women- and was then publically humiliated online because of this. What do all of these issues have in common? The way that women have been viewed, treated or misrepresented. All of these events happen on a very public basis subject to questioning and criticism but are eventually replaced by other controversies; this is how the news and issue cycle works. All of these issues may not seem directly related to the everyday woman or man- however the way the social and political situations unwind reflects on society. Social media has taken on the new wave of feminism to heart, with the project such as everyday sexism demonstrating that voices still need to be heard. In a 2011 survey, it was found that women were paid 83p for every pound a male counterpart made, this may be seen as a small amount- however in the long term the amount will add up. Not only this, but it begs the question why is this the case? When Katherine Fenton raised the of the gender pay gap she was subjected to an online humiliation campaign- why? - Because she decided to raise a very reasonable question, and one that affects many women. She was deemed unfit to have an opinion or to question-why?- because anonymous ‘research’ was done on her where they found she talks about sex, partying and drinking on social networking forums. According to some spectators this makes her unfit to have an opinion. If it was male counterpart, the truth is that nothing would have been ‘unearthed’ on them, and their lifestyle choice would not be made a spectacle of in order to undermine a political question or argument. The idea of feminism being a dead concept, or one of aggression and marginalization is a narrow view of a much larger movement. If you believe in equal rights and fair treatment for women does this make you a feminist? The short answer would be yes. Supporting social and political equality doesn’t have to be considered as emasculating, nor does it mean that a woman has to forsake the things she likes- it is a movement on many levels that says you should be who you want to be regardless of how you choose to live your life. Projects such as everyday sexism show the deep rooted nature of sexism in society, from women being harassed via grope, catcall and much worse rape, to women being discriminated against in the workplace and home. It demonstrates that sexism is still a widely accepted. However if you hold firm a belief in equality then feminism is very much alive for men and women of all backgrounds.

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The relevance of feminism

A feminist protest at RAF Greenham Common air base in the 1980s: Relevant then, still relevant now. ©PA/PA Archive

According to a recent online poll of 1300 people on the social website netmums, which has the highest demographic of British women, one in seven did not consider themselves a feminist. According to the poll 17% thought feminism had gone ‘too far’. These are only two of the staggering figures-which later appeared in the week’s papers. Why do women not consider themselves feminists? Many view the term feminism as unitary, and one of aggression- where women dislike men, this is ‘one box fits all’ notion of the term. Some also view it as a ‘dead’ movement; women have come a long way, with 70% of younger women saying too much was expected of them now. All these concerns have deep roots in the changing nature of society- however can feminism be brushed aside so easily?

Recently there have been a number of issues to hit the headlines, first was the nomorepage3 campaign, then Health Sectary Jeremy Hunt reopened the debate on abortion after comments supporting a reduction on the time limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 12 weeks, in the United States there was controversy surrounding the issue of abortion, with the possibility that a Republican government would try and curb abortion entirely . Then Julia Gillard spoke out against the leader of the opposition Tony Abbott on the issue of misogyny.  The recent cabinet reshuffle saw the government take criticism for the lack of women. On the current presidential elections Mitt Romney has been criticised for his ‘binders full of women’ gaffe, which is a telling sign for his overall view of women, and further still there was the public shaming of Katherine Fenton, who asked a question on what would be done to even the pay gap between men and women- and was then publically humiliated online because of this.

What do all of these issues have in common? The way that women have been viewed, treated or misrepresented. All of these events happen on a very public basis subject to questioning and criticism but are eventually replaced by other controversies; this is how the news and issue cycle works. All of these issues may not seem directly related to the everyday woman or man- however the way the social and political situations unwind reflects on society. Social media has taken on the new wave of feminism to heart, with the project such as everyday sexism demonstrating that voices still need to be heard.

In a 2011 survey, it was found that women were paid 83p for every pound a male counterpart made, this may be seen as a small amount- however in the long term the amount will add up. Not only this, but it begs the question why is this the case? When Katherine Fenton raised the of the gender pay gap she was subjected to an online humiliation campaign- why? – Because she decided to raise a very reasonable question, and one that affects many women. She was deemed unfit to have an opinion or to question-why?- because anonymous ‘research’ was done on her where they found she talks about sex, partying and drinking on social networking forums. According to some spectators this makes her unfit to have an opinion. If it was male counterpart, the truth is that nothing would have been ‘unearthed’ on them, and their lifestyle choice would not be made a spectacle of in order to undermine a political question or argument.

The idea of feminism being a dead concept, or one of aggression and marginalization is a narrow view of a much larger movement. If you believe in equal rights and fair treatment for women does this make you a feminist? The short answer would be yes. Supporting social and political equality doesn’t have to be considered as emasculating, nor does it mean that a woman has to forsake the things she likes- it is a movement on many levels that says you should be who you want to be regardless of how you choose to live your life.

Projects such as everyday sexism show the deep rooted nature of sexism in society, from women being harassed via grope, catcall and much worse rape, to women being discriminated against in the workplace and home. It demonstrates that sexism is still a widely accepted. However if you hold firm a belief in equality then feminism is very much alive for men and women of all backgrounds.

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About the Author

Zaynab Lulat

Zaynab graduated in 2010 with a BA Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her degree focused on international politics with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. Her final year projects were based on identity politics and terrorism. Since graduating she has taken an interest in UK Politics, her writing varies from national to international politics and culture. She is a keen traveller, having backpacked solo around Asia and Central America. She also volunteered with an NGO working on disaster relief in India. She believes that social media gives young people a better platform for expressing opinions and understanding new ideas, and helps more people become involved with the world around them.



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