Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Why YOU are a Feminist... You are. Really.

"i'm defo on the women for themselves thing, just there is a man-eating, floor-length minge persona i'd rather not get attached to..."
This is my friend on feminism. Fair enough - I'm definitely not up for the "floor-length minge persona" either. In fact, I think it's safe to say that most people would eschew that image.
But so many young women attach feminism to mad, hairy-legged, bare-footed oldies...and you can't argue that it's a view that sprung from nothingness; it's partly the fault of the media that feminists are portrayed in such a way, but also partly because, frankly, my generation tended to experience feminism as something that was only actively "fought for" by extremely eccentric free-love types who refused to own mobiles and wouldn't eat eggs. THIS is why this group exists: we shave our legs; we eat dairy products; we don't wear crocs; we go to the pub; we're really rather normal North London types, as normal as anyone can be. Sometimes we like to take pictures with embarrassingly pretentious cameras, but everyone's a bit pretentious. What we are NOT is different to you. We'd get on. We would, I promise. We're a pretty decent lot, and we have fun.

If you think that women are entitled to the same things that men have, then you are a feminist. If you think that women are equal to men, then you are a feminist. If you think that it's unfair that women earn less than men (in Britain, an average 17% less) then you're a feminist. Basically, if you have any sort of moral compass, you're a feminist. Congrats - welcome to the club. We all belong, really.

What we, YouFem, want to do is to recreate the brand-image. We're feminists, but not feminists in the way in which they're commonly perceived by our peers. We are the young, modern feminists; we are YOU, but Feminist; FEM, for Feminism, Equality, Modernity. That's what we're selling, pure and simple. You can help us rewrite what equality means; it's a bit ridiculous that equality for women tends to be dismissed as something for hairy hippies, isn't it?

Here's some statistics to get you on our side. Prepare to be horrified and converted to our cause.* These are taken from a report compiled by the Women's Resource Centre - all information has been published within the last decade.
  • During 2001, a Maternity Alliance study found that asylum seekers and their babies survived in a support system that fell far short of meeting their most basic needs for adequate food and safe shelter. Already lonely, disorientated and grieving, half of the women also experienced neglect, disrespect and racism from the maternity services.
  • In 2006, female graduates earned, on average, 15% less than their male counterparts at the age of 24; with this gender pay gap widening with age (increasing to 40.5% for women graduates aged 41-45).
  • Because girls comprise just 17% of permanent exclusions, they have been largely overlooked in school exclusion prevention strategies and research. However, recorded permanent exclusions are a small proportion of the total number of girls excluded as many more are excluded either informally or for a fixed period. The remedial actions of many educational authorities are male based.
  •  In 2006 it was reported that the gender pay gap in the UK is one of the highest in Europe: women who work full-time earned 17% less per hour than men. Women working part-time earned 39% less per hour than men working full-time.
  • Men and women still follow very different career paths. Men are ten times more likely than women to be employed in skilled trades (19% compared with 2%) and are also more likely to be managers and senior officials. A fifth of women in employment do administrative or secretarial work compared with 4% of men. Women are also more likely than men to be employed in the personal services and in sales and customer services. 
  • It was reported in 2005, that even in the voluntary sector, which is generally perceived to lead the way in promoting equality, women earn 87% of men’s (full-time) wages with an average salary that lags more than £3,400 behind that of men.
  • A 2006 study identified that on average; women spent 180 minutes per day on housework; that’s 78% more time than men who spent only 101 minutes per day.

*I just spent bloody ages reading through the UN Statistics and Indicators of Women and Men, only to decide that it's too bitty and requires too much condensing to put into this piece now. If you want to have a look, there are some really horrifying statistics in there; look particularly at the Literacy Rates, the youth marriage rates, primary and secondary education figures, and economic activity. It's a slap in the face for anyone who doesn't believe that women are still significantly disadvantaged in most of the modern world.


  1. It's great to hear someone talking passionately about feminism but not so nice feel that my 'brand' of feminism is something to be satirised or condemned. I don't shave my legs and I don't often eat eggs but I go to the pub and I hate crocs and I have a boyfriend and I wear clothes bought from charity shops but also indulge in high street chains ... These details are entirely futile and do not distinguish me as an "unattractive" feminist but as a completely average human being.

    Feminists shouldn't be labelled and you shouldn't try to validate or justify it. Feminism is incredibly important and reassuring people that you shave your legs isn't going to change anyone's mind if they weren't open to changing it already. And if people don't listen to what I have to say because I have a few perfectly natural hairs on my legs then they aren't the kind of person I want on side anyway.

  2. I completely agree, Chloe, and I'd utterly side with you if I were trying to preach to the converted; but if modern feminism is going to attract swathes of interested young women (as we hope), we've got to shake off the 'ugly' image - the 'floor length minge' image. I probably should have expressed myself more sensitively: I wasn't intending to crusade against people who don't shave their legs, but rather against a common perception of Feminists as man-hating harpies. For being inarticulate, I apologise.

    Young women who are interested in feminism - by which I mean Equal Rights for Women - are precisely who we want to engage in debate, with a view to harnessing the passion and political influence of a particular age group. Social movements are obviously strongest when they're not internally divided; in view of this, in my piece I was seeking to draw young people away from feminism as they may perceive it, and towards a new brand of feminism that they can, themselves, mould.

    In any case, I'm very sorry to have offended you. You sound like precisely the kind of person we need on the team: sure of your opinions and of feminism, acting as a check-and-balance to my own rather strongly expressed views. We'd all love to hear more of you; if we can persuade you to come to a meeting, all the better for us.

    Chair of YouFem
    Harriet Hughes