Saturday, 8 March 2014

Some thoughts for International Women's Day

Yesterday in The Independent there was an article about Lily Allen and how she feels we don't need the word feminism anymore.

I call baloney. Her position is one of privilege, and while in 'developed' states like the UK there may seem like there is no need for feminism as we have always known it (more on that in a moment), there is an awful lot of the world where feminism is yet to have its day.

I do agree that the debate needs to change. Too often us white, middle class women in developed nations try to impose our own paradigm on other countries. What works in Europe is probably not really going to work in Africa. But... there are certain basic principles that no matter how you frame it, cannot be ignored and still need to be fought for.

For example, the right to education. While education for both genders is a given in 'developed' nations (by the way, I write developed like that because what counts as developed is open to interpretation, but in this case I use it to mean countries where the standard of living for all is assumed to be relatively high), and an accepted principle in many others, the reality is that many girls are unable to attend school. This may be because the school charges fees and the family can only afford to send one child, so send the male child. This might be because they are expected to stay at home and look after their siblings. It might simply be because they just can't.

Sexual and reproductive health is another area of great inequality. Poverty has many roots and a wide variety of solutions, one of which is the ability to control when reproduction happens. For this to happen, women need to be able to make choices about their reproductive and sexual health, the same way we have in the developed world.

I could go on and on. But it isn't just about the 'developing' world. Even in 'developed' countries, women still face prejudice, violence, discrimination and abuse, simply because of their gender. Sometimes I think it is getting worse, not better, but then I remember that what is actually happening is that the internet is giving a very public platform for those who do those things.

Feminism might have become a dirty word, and oh yes there is a severe level of internal fighting amongst feminists of different schools. But being different is ok. Women are not a homogeneous block of society, and it is our differences, just like with other people, that make us great. But we need to work together to create a better society for everyone, not just women.

Happy International Women's Day. 


  1. I don't know what Lily Allan meant by her comment, but I do think that the word feminism could be replaced by the term humanism, and perhaps should be because as you point out, the internal fighting within different schools of feminism is putting people off. One now feels compelled to explain which sort of feminist one is. I always describe myself as a humanist, which in my opinion includes feminism because humanism is about equality for all. As a humanist I don't care more or less about anyone because of gender; I care about all. But as a humanist I may well also look around the world and say, well the human beings suffering the most inequality are female and something must be done about it.

  2. I take your point, but in British English at any rate, Humanists are a loosely organised non-religious group who act as celebrants and campaign for non-religious equality - I'm not sure whether they operate outside of the UK!

    I tend to refer to myself as a feminist - the way I see it there is still too much work to be done to level the playing field to be an equalist. I do tend to fall into the liberal school of feminism myself, as with most of my political leanings, which is a much more equalist school of feminism, that simply argues for the equal rights of women. But I'd still call myself a feminist, and I consider my (male) partner to be a feminist too, because he believes in the equal treatment of women.
    I get quite disgruntled at the radicals who turned the term into something that came to mean that women should be more equal than men - some of the literature I read on radical and post modernist feminism at university gave me nightmares!

    1. Yes,Humanist organisations exist in Canada and probably in the US too. From what I have read about them they do social activism type things and their aim is to promote the idea that you don't have to be a theist to do good things for society, or to promote equality and tolerance. In my opinion, and I am most definitely an atheist and anti-theist, religion frequently fails to promote equality. If I call myself a humanist with a lower case h instead of a Humanist, I am referring to my ethical and philosophical stance as opposed to any group affiliation. I do agree with your take on feminism. I don't see how anyone (with perhaps the exception of some types of religious fundamentalists) can not be feminists in that sense. I dropped out of Women's Studies classes at university in the eighties, because it was all too radical.


I love to read your comments, please leave them below!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...