In a tweet that garnered much attention this week Piers Morgan declared that rabid feminism was emasculating his gender. His playground taunts, though easily dismissed as attention seeking and puerile, received more than forty thousand likes and this suggests that however mainstream feminism has become, it still hasn't come far enough.
What Morgan wants is a type of gender equality that doesn't rock his pedestal. It's a pop-political liberal cool where women have the vote, have jobs, and are allowed opinions. If you try and go any further than that you are quickly labelled rabid. Acceptable feminism is the kind that looks back a hundred years and says 'weren't we so unenlightened then; aren't we so lucky now'. Going one step further and actively challenging the status quo is usually deemed maniacal, fanatical, extremist, and reminiscent of a diseased animal (yes these are all synonyms for rabid).
As a feminist parent, encounters such as these are not uncommon and challenges to gendered stereotypes are often met with eye-rolling and discomfort. Socially, our children are bombarded with gendered party themes, playdates, toys, clothing, sports and extra-curricular activities. Calling out a homework exercise for its stereotypical and reductive portrayal of girls or asking the staff to consider engaging in a development exercise in unconscious bias is somehow taking your politics one step too far. But gender discrimination in classrooms does exist, and no matter what's happening at home the effect of a child being subjected to prejudice for six hours a day, five days a week, for fourteen years of her life will not be insignificant. Addressing this is not militant and it's not about emasculating men, it's about breaking down stereotypes that are detrimental to the wellbeing of both our daughters and our sons.
Over the last ten years feminism has become less of a dirty word, more parents are speaking out, discourses in the home are changing, and many mothers (and fathers) are beginning to find a political voice. The size of the Women's march across the globe was testimony to this. When those with power and privilege like Morgan respond to such action using expressions such as 'hissy fit' we should not dismiss the comments as childish or unreconstructed but denounce them as deliberate attempts to undermine this change.
In the furore that erupted after the initial tweet Morgan went on to add: 'Just been for a bracing walk in the park with my wife and daughter. We all felt completely equal, though I bought the coffees'. His snide oversimplification of the argument is damaging because as an authoritative voice in the mainstream media there is a risk that his belittling of the movement will shake the confidence of those whose voices are just emerging.
A quick glance at Morgan's Twitter feed will tell you he relished the attention and his retweeting of the vitriol he unleashed suggested he revelled in his renewed status as super villain. His responses to those who bit back were often targeted criticisms of appearance or literacy and the discussion though peppered with quick wit and tenacity quickly descended into mudslinging. Challenging Morgan directly then is probably not the answer. But how best to move on? I'd like to think that I can maintain a dignity in my responses, resist engaging directly with his dismissive rhetoric, and instead focus on celebrating the emergence of strong female voices. I will recognise those who are calling out misogyny for the first time, and most importantly I will focus on raising the next generation so that dinosaurs like Morgan are faced with extinction.