THE BLOG

The Week That Was: The F Word

05/05/2013 01:30 BST | Updated 04/07/2013 10:12 BST

No, not Farage. I think the Ukip party leader has had his fair share of headlines this past week.

That other F word: feminism.

For a word that's been around a good long time, it's gotten a whole lot of airtime over the past seven days.

I can get quite heated on the topic. (I'm a woman who picked her university based on the fact Germaine Greer was a lecturer there.) In the past seven days there have been plenty of people, both male and female, ready to argue the toss.

Personally, I subscribe to the Lena Dunham school of feminism, ie:

"Feminism isn't a dirty word. It's not like we're a deranged group who think women should take over the planet, raise our young on our own and eliminate men from the picture. Feminism is about women having all the rights that men have."

If the people cropping up in Saturday's Times are anything to go by, however, feminism is still a dirty word to be avoided at all costs.

Sample copy: a few pages into the paper, Angela Merkel dodges the label as deftly as her country has dodged Europe's dip-diving recessions.

Asked point blank if she was a feminist during an interview in Berlin, the German chancellor apparently said: "A feminist, not. Perhaps an interesting case of a woman in power, but no feminist. Real feminists would be offended if I described myself as one."

Like Margaret Thatcher before her, here's a woman who has risen to the top, a shining example for young girls everywhere, but is terrified if she credits feminism with her success she'll be judged as a woman, rather than just an incredibly intelligent person.

Fast-forward to the Times' magazine, and jumping out from a glossy photo shoot with Borgen actor Pilou Asbaek, comes the quote: "I love women. I will always hold a door for a girl, pay the bill. But I'm not a feminist."

This from a man who, thanks to Danish working rights, has just spent four months on paternity leave and shares equal parenting responsibility with his fiancée.

So why the reticence? For Asbaek, feminism is too "strong" a word. He believes, in Denmark, it means "fighting" for women's rights, and as he doesn't personally fight for them, he doesn't want the label.

Times columnist Janice Turner tips the balance back, insisting we need feminism now more than ever, "Right now, feminism is hot. It doesn't need to be the "word police".

The argument didn't limit itself solely to the Times. Over at the Mail, Kirstie Allsopp was firmly on the pro side, telling one of their reporters: "There's this weird thing that I'm this 1950s throwback, which I find extraordinary because I'm a feminist for a start. I'm a vocal advocate of women's rights in all sorts of places and ways."

And on the Guardian Online earlier in the week, Jill Filipovic discussed the irony of feminists trashing each other.

Long story short, there's an awful lot to say about feminism right now, and love or loathe the word, the debate has never been more important.

Cameron would do well to pay close attention. Not least due to the fact it was the female vote which helped Ukip to its electoral surge last Thursday. And don't get me started on the disproportionate amount of women who have lost their jobs since the recession started...