Feminism. It is a word which means different things to different people.

According to definition Feminism is:

  1. noun
  2. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
  3. (sometimes initial capital letter)an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
  4. Older Use. feminine character.

(Dictionary.com)

The word only came into use at the start of the 19th Century with suffrage and then the rise of the women liberation movement, lead by Simone de Beauvoire, but only became used frequently in the 1970’s with the rise of modern feminists like Germaine Greer.

Women were treated as second class citizens for centuries but at during the late 19th and early 20th Century they began to fight back.

The suffragettes risked everything for the right to vote and to be seen as more equal in the eyes of the law. Their children were taken away from them, they lost all their material security. They were tortured, beaten and ostracised for their actions and beliefs. But they never gave up.

Last week there was a wonderful programme on the BBC, “Suffragettes with Lucy Worsley”. It was part dramatic re-enactment and part documentary. It was beautifully made. I have read and watched quite a lot about the Suffragettes over the years but every time I discover something new or I’m reminded of something I had forgotten.

Every time I think about it, I wonder whether I would have been brave enough to risk losing my children and my home for the right to vote. I wonder whether I would have been brave enough to face the beatings, the arrests, the tube feeding… for the right to put a cross on a piece of paper.

It is so much more than that though, it is the start of equality. The small snowball that escalated and eventually gave us the right to financial independence, the right to have a say in our own future, the right to equal education, equal job opportunities…

Don’t worry, I’m not deluded enough to think that we have fully achieved equality, and of course there are parts of the world where women are far from equal, but suffrage started the change.

What is modern feminism?

During my lifetime feminism has managed to get itself a bad name in some circles. It has been used to describe men hating aggressive women who don’t want equality buy supremacy. It may not be what the word actually means but many people still have that image when the word is used. Because of that many women struggle to identify themselves as feminists.

I believe that women are equal to men. Not better, not worse, but equal. I don’t however, believe that they are the same. I firmly believe that women have strengths and abilities and so do men. As a generalisation they are not the same skills and abilities but they are equally important and equally valuable to society.

When women are given the same opportunities as men they achieve incredible things. When women work together they are a real force to be reckoned with, even with all the restrictions the Suffragettes had to overcome.

When we support and encourage each other, men and women, so much can be achieved. When we fight against each other, everyone loses out.

“Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nice legs and a tan, and it does not mean you are a ‘bitch’ or ‘dyke’; it means you believe in equality.”

Kate Nash -Singer

This quote from Kate Nash sums up how I feel about feminism. I don’t often refer to myself as a feminist, but when used in its true meaning I would definitely identify with the definition. I love that over the last decade it has become a word which is also being used by men to identify themselves as supporters of equality of the sexes. Equality shouldn’t just be something women are supporting and working towards.

Should we still be fighting for equality in the 21st Century? Shouldn’t it just be a given? Why is it even a subject that needs discussion?

What are your views on modern feminism? I would love to know.

Do you think we need a new word, one without the negative connotations that “feminism” has now?

Feminism isn’t about not wearing make up, it isn’t about cutting your hair and drinking pints. It isn’t about training to be an engineer or not breast feeding your baby. It is about having the choice to do all those things without judgement. It is about supporting women with whatever their choices are. Whether they want to return to work after having a baby or stay at home and care for them until they leave home.

It is about the freedom to choose. True equality.


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