Monday, 8 April 2013

The F-word: why is feminism still a dirty word?

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I've been a little bit dismayed recently about the number of successful women who have renounced feminism.

First, we had Katy Perry speaking at an awards ceremony where she said "I'm not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women."

Then, we had Queen BeyoncĂ© who was reluctant to accept the feminist label. “That word [feminist] can be very extreme,” she said in an interview with Vogue UK, before acknowledging: “I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality..." (So that makes you a feminist Bey, plain and simple.)

And now we have the Patron Saint of Baking, Mary Berry, rejecting feminism. When asked if she was a feminist she said ‘I don’t like that at all. I respect them [men], I don’t like shouting.’  She added: ‘Feminism is a dirty word. You’ve got to persuade them [men] gently..."

This sort of thing makes me despair, it really does. I could go on and give you a list of names, famous and not so famous but all successful women in their own field.

But why do so many women reject feminism?

Let's just clear up a couple of things first. Feminism is not about hating men or about wanting to be like a man. Feminism is not about being a lesbian, or rejecting feminine clothes or make-up or - God forbid - heels.

For me, it means wanting everyone to be treated equally.

It's about saying I work just as hard as a man and would like to have the same pay and conditions thank you.

It's wanting our daughters to be treated fairly, and not be overlooked for jobs or opportunities because of their gender.

It's about denouncing violence against women and, crucially, not blaming them for it.

But mainly, it's about choice. A woman should be able to choose how to live her life.  To go out to work or stay at home with the children without their credibilty or worth being questioned.  The role of a stay-at-home mum should be considered as important as her husband's;  it matters not a jot who looks after the children and who goes out to work but what does matter is that the division of labour is valued equally.

As I said, it's simply asking for the same treatment for everyone regardless of gender or appearance.

To say you are not a feminist, and yet want any of these things, is to trample on the history of women who paved the way for the rest of us.

So, my question is this: why is feminism still such a dirty word?