Feminism – dump the word but do not foresake the message!

JK_hig_res_colour_-_Copy-199x300As a foodie and huge fan of the graceful, feminine and smart Mary Berry, I cannot tell you how disappointed and surprised I was at her comments on feminism this week. She said ‘ I think feminism is a dirty word and I don’t want women’s rights. I love to have men around and I suppose if you are a feminist you get on and do it yourself so I am not one,’ Arrgh! For an educated woman and one of the few women on TV over 45 her comments made me want to scream! And I did! Do I need to list all the benefits Mary has and takes for granted because of feminism? Do I, Do I ????

Now is not the time to turn our backs on feminism. Whether you like the word or not, please do not get distracted by a word or an old fashioned, militant definition. All feminists are not tub thumping, bra burning, dungaree wearing men haters. I for one, love men, I just don’t want to be one, nor do I want to be subservient to one.

It breaks my heart to hear educated, successful women disrespect feminism saying ’It is not for me, or ‘I would never be one now’ or ‘we don’t need it any more’ Really?

Try telling that to the 70 million girls around the world who are crying out for an education, or the millions of women around the world sexually assaulted, abused and violated every day, or the thousands of girls trafficked into the multi billion dollar sex industry every month.

Or closer to home?

Talk to any group of teenage girls in any school, in any town and try and keep your jaw from dropping as they enlighten you on their world which includes sexting, starving, cutting, binge drinking, bullying, body hatred, depression, reality TV, porn, cosmetic surgery and the rest.

Our girls need feminism now more than ever. We need the next generation to know they are valued for their mind not simply how ‘hot’ they are.

If the word feminism does not work for you then re frame it but don’t give up on the message of equality, freedom to choose and empowerment. Not now.

And contrary to the myth that young girls don’t get feminism, they do, they just don’t understand the word. They want to have the same opportunities as the boys, they want to be taken seriously, as opposed to being seen as sex objects. On two areas that were fundamental wins for feminism, contraception and equal pay, they find it hard to image how we lived without them, so the cause did something right eh?

I urge you to stick with feminism for a while longer. We have unfinished business and until we can walk down the street safe, are valued for more than our looks, are allowed to age gracefully, are recognised as leaders whether we have kids or not and have a more equal say in how we are governed, we cannot and should not take our foot off the pedal.

And personally, I subscribe to Caitlin Moran’s definition of feminism ‘If you put you’re had down your pants and you can feel a vagina and you care about what happens to it, bingo you are a feminist!’

Jane Kenyon is a regular contributor to the 3rdimagazine. www.jane-kenyon.com

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