'Feminist' a word that conjures up images of a hard, single and bitter woman who due to her beliefs has had to forgo a happy marriage and children, oh and has hairy armpits and continually rants on about women's rights...am I right? Yep, thought so.
'Feminism' has become a vilified and dirty word and according to Carla Bruni in the French Vogue last week, "We don't need to be feminists in my generation". Oh Carla, this could not be further from the truth. While it can appear that a substantial amount women share Carla's view and I may be generalising here but I question if those who tend to be wealthier and have more privileges can somewhat overlook the need for feminism.
If there is no need for feminism then explain the following. Women are STILL having to protest against The Sun's 'Page 3', STILL unable to become Bishops, STILL having their reproductive rights challenged, a survey by the Guardian found that women STILL hold a measly 14% of the position on executive boards, have only had 1 female Prime Minister and STILL not earning equal wages? I could go on, but you get my gist. By ignoring the facts, the hard work undertaken by feminists is being undone. Granted, we have come a long way but there is still much more to achieve.
Perhaps Carla Bruni can be seen as the epitome of the successful young modern women, or should I say fortunate woman who can has full access to childcare, an indisposable income, a choice of different homes and the luxury of not having to work. However, many families struggle to find affordable childcare, juggle numerous jobs to cover living expenses, while women can be expected to run a home at the same time. Yet, they would be subjected to lower wages, looked down upon for 'not spending enough time with the kids' - it is just simply not as easy for most of 'us in the real world'. Bruni comments that she is not "at all an active feminist... [she] loves family life, [loves] doing the same thing every day". Well good for you Carla, but to demand equality does not mean you can't "love family life", she has totally missed the point. It may be surprising but feminists can love family life too.
Maybe we shouldn't be too harsh on Carla, negative images of feminism are consistently infiltrated and reinforced across all forms of media. This alongside walking hand in hand with our capitalist, neo-liberal and consumer led society an act of brainwashing has effectively taken place. By endorsing social hierarchy (class, gender, race, sexuality) in our society, the process where women, regardless of their backgrounds can collectively come together to find common ground is presently, unforeseeable. Looking at life through Chanel rose tinted glasses is a better way of viewing the world, it's far easier to ignore the desperate situations that others find themselves in when it does not affect your everyday life.
Feminism has become lost in translation to younger generations - instead it is almost as though by allowing feminism to develop, for true equality to exist for women, feminism will ultimately be the undoing of society. Perhaps the blur between the term 'feminism' and 'femininity' is another part of the problem. Demanding equality and believing in your rights as a human being regardless of gender does not mean you have to dislike men, not get married, not be 'feminine', be career driven and not have children. Quite the opposite, you can enjoy baking, sewing, shopping (why should it mean you can't) - it should mean you can choose how you live your life without being discriminated against, help create a better or improved society for future generations. If you choose to stay at home and be a housewife, then so be it - it is your choice to do so, but not one that should be made for you. In fact, you can be a man and be a feminist (yes, I said man), why not? Because you are a man and believing in women's rights does not emasculate you, in my eyes that makes you more of a man.
We need to continue the teachings of our pioneers but in a fresh contemporary way. By reinventing and interpreting the term, 'feminism', for younger generations, the stereotype would be distinguished and being a feminist wouldn't be something to be ashamed of.
A few less Carla Bruni's and a few more inspirational feminist role models in the media and I bet, within time, attitudes would begin to change. It is idealist to a certain extent but it can be achieved. This maybe just half of the battle; the other half is convincing women that pursuing feminism is actually in their best interests!