The other day I decided to give Lily Allen's new track Hard Out Here a listen and I have to say I'm a fan. The song itself is incredibly catchy and with lyrics such as 'We've never had it so good, uh huh, we're out of the woods and if you can't detect the sarcasm you've misunderstood' it seems Allen is verbalising a truth universally unacknowledged- that feminism is far from being a resolved issue.
As I make a cup of tea, chanting 'It's hard out here for a bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch' this realisation is brought to the forefront by an invitation from the social network of doom, Facebook. Believe it or not, I have been invited to the 'Annual Jelly Wrestling Competition' - I know what you're thinking, lucky me right? If this isn't enticing enough, the event description informs me that this is my opportunity to be, I quote, 'the BADDEST, MEANEST BABE IN BRISTOL'. Thankfully for all parties involved, my desire to be the 'BADDEST, MEANEST BABE IN BRISTOL' is outweighed by my reluctance to roll about in some jelly, an image that seems to have jumped straight out of an out-dated porno mag and that further consolidates the concept that women should be used as a form of male entertainment.
As a woman in the UK I am fortunate to live in a generation in which I do not have to fight for the pill or protest for the right to vote but this comfort means that feminism is confronted with more apathy and antagonism than ever. To assume that the aforementioned rights mean 'job done' for gender equality is naïve. Consider the fact that the UK, which we consider a highly liberal country, was placed third from the bottom earlier this year in a poll documenting the percentage of women in parliament, with a measly 22.5% . Consider that for a woman to decide to continue working after having a baby is still seen as somehow failing to fulfil her duty. Whilst women now have the choice and increased opportunity, which perhaps they did not have in the past, the point has not been reached where this is not discriminated against due to their gender.
I consider myself a feminist, I haven't read The Female Eunuch or burnt my bra but I still class myself as a feminist. Why is it then that I am reluctant to reveal my views amongst my peers, both male and female alike? Feminism seems to have gained an unwarranted reputation for being a movement of man-bashing, cat ladies who have nothing better to do than harp on about the superiorities of women. Not true. For me, feminism is the understanding that men and women are equal and that the plight against gender discrimination is not yet a closed book.
The problem seems to be that being a feminist is perceived as something that is exclusive as opposed to inclusive. For example, there is a common misconception that being a feminist excludes you from wearing heels, caring about your appearance and of course being 'romanced' is off limits. This buys into an outmoded idea that feminism induces sacrifice opposed to benefit. No wonder the reluctance.
There has also been a lot of talk lately about the 'rebranding' of feminism and in itself this confirms this concept of exclusion as the act of 'branding' connotes a targeted audience thus suggesting feminism can only be for a particular demographic at one time. This exclusivity can also go the other way as whilst researching for this blog post, I read an article in The Telegraph, which poses the question as to whether Lily Allen or Miley Cyrus is more of a feminist. Surely these debates subject feminism to the box-ticking criteria which femininity and womanhood is subjected to on a daily basis. For me, these 'I'm more of a feminist than you' disputes are worrying as they create a destructive atmosphere in which women are put in unnecessary competition against each other on an issue which should in fact promote a united front.
Furthermore, by subjecting the feminist movement to this idea of 'rebranding' it continues to accept the belief that women are easily enticed by a 'brand' in the first place. The notion that to be interested in feminism at all, we have to be marketed to with something superficial seems demeaning and can certainly be blamed for the lack of understanding about what feminism inherently stands for.
Surely the answer here is not to 'rebrand' feminism but re-educate people about the fundamentals of what it is to be a feminist. To 'rebrand' feminism is like that time at Christmas when you get a big present, only to find the majority of it is cardboard and bubble wrap. The present is still what you wanted but was made to look like something it's not. Instead, we need to get rid of the bubble wrap and pointless frills that prevent people learning about the real deal and strip feminism back to its purest form, equality.