The front cover of The Spectator magazine controversially announces that feminism is dead, just as the F-word is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Contrary to the (frankly naïve) assertion that it has become redundant, feminism is still very relevant. In fact, it's a growing force to be reckoned with. Feminism is on fire right now!
I'll admit it's a loaded term that is still frequently misunderstood. If you are a feminist, you might prefer not to shout about it. There's the bra burning, man hating connotations that it can sometimes bring, evoking a mental image of your stereotypical feminist. Oh wait, she looks like just like your one on the cover of The Spectator. Most of us are smarter than that though and appreciate that feminism is about discrimination. That's not something to be mocked. It's a serious issue.
Plenty of women will keenly disassociate themselves with it because they think it's "not relevant to them", "it's outdated" or perhaps "they already feel they are treated equally to men". Oh lucky them! If I don't think it affects me then it doesn't exist, right Emily Hill? Except it does. There's been progress, yes, but not nearly enough. You might never have considered yourself one but perhaps YOU are a feminist! As a journalist I prefer to work with the facts. They may help you decide.
Around 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year. According to Rape Crisis, 1 in 5 women aged 16 - 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16. In the year to April, a record number of people were prosecuted for offences categorised as "violence against women and girls". An estimated 137,000 women and girls in the UK are affected by female genital mutilation. It doesn't stop there. According to the charity Gingerbread, there are around two million single parents in the UK. Over 90 per cent of them are women. The majority receive no child maintenance payments. 41 per cent of children in single parent families live in relative poverty. Still unconvinced?
Many women are paid less than men for doing the very same jobs. The overall pay gap in the UK stands at 19.1 %.One in three women feel disadvantaged in the workplace, according to a survey out in June this year. 57% feel that unconscious bias is the greatest barrier facing them. In 2015 women account for just 191 of the UK's 650 MPs.
Then there's cultural discrimination. You know, where advertising and the media depict women as sexual objects to inspire and gratify. Naomi Wolf's 'The Beauty Myth' is as pertinent today as it was when it was first published in 1991. Oscar winner Emma Thompson has said "sexism and unpleasantness" in the film industry is worse than ever. Maggie Gyllenhaal has revealed that she was turned down for a role opposite a 55-year-old man because she was too old. Meryl Streep and Dame Helen Mirren have also been vocal about sexism and gender inequality.
If these statistics upset you, if you believe there are issues at stake here that need urgent attention, injustices that shouldn't exist in 2015, then you are a feminist! As a society, we won't tolerate racism. It is totally unacceptable. So why does gender inequality still persist, why is it allowed? Feminism is about driving change for the next generation. It's about keeping our daughters safe, giving them positive role models and empowering them so they can access their full potential as human beings.
I've long maintained that for women to be treated equally to men, they need the support of men. The UN Women 'He for She' campaign, spearheaded by actress Emma Watson, has gone some way to dispelling the myth that feminism is an anti-male movement. How damaging it would be to trivialise this! A host of stars including Russell Crowe and Simon Pegg have backed it.
Other high profile men such as Daniel Craig, Prince Harry and Antonio Banderas have all declared their support for women's rights in general and more will follow suit. Meanwhile women are continuing to share their experiences through blogging on sites, like this one. Their voices are finally being heard, their daily struggles no longer ignored. The feminist movement has evolved and is gaining momentum, there is no denying it.
I'm all for sparking a lively debate and looking on the bright side of life but to suggest feminism is dead or no longer needed, is to whitewash the experiences of so many women. It's insulting and regressive. Feminism is not going to simply go away, not until things are as they rightfully should be.