Feminism is Dead, Long Live FeMEnism

About 1300 Netmums were asked what feminism meant to them and only 1 in 7 admitted to being a 'feminist'. Death by survey. Classic.
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October 30, 2012
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feminism, squeamish bikini, netmums survey, femenism

Netmums, not to be confused with Mumsnet, have created a new strand to feminism. Actually they haven't, they've declared feminism dead and there's a new movement in town, sisters - sorry, forgot feminism was dead – I mean bitches.

It's feMEnism, not to be confused with fememenemenenism. Which is equally ridiculous but NOT THE SAME. But only because it has yet to have any articles dedicated to it. Yet. Because I am literate (thank a feminist) and Rebecca asked me, I shall write about the former and not the latter.

In case you missed the death of feminism this is how it happened. About 1300 Netmums were asked what feminism meant to them and apparently only 1 in 7 admitted to being, what Netmums call in their results, a 'feminist'. Of course a few media outlets leapt upon this and wondered if this meant feminism was dead. Death by survey. Classic.

Now, hang on because I am going to do a maths. Let's say the Netmums wildly unscientific survey of just 1300 mums is accurate and reflective of the female UK population. Let's say 1 in 7 women in the UK identify as feminists, that is still 14% of all women in the UK identifying as feminists.

One of the reasons stated for not identifying as feminist I suppose I can get behind was: “I can be strong without labelling myself.” I know a few people who are tired of having labels thrust upon them so choose not label themselves. The other reasons make me want to lay my head on my desk – rather hard – and never sit up again.

Reasons given for not identifying as feminist were that feminism was too aggressive towards men, that younger women can't imagine a time when men and women weren't equal (apart from, for instance, now with a pay gap of 15%) and “I would like a bit of old fashioned chivalry – opening doors.” Of course, I know that until we have Star Wars style slidey doors we will never have equality.

But what do you do once you have got rid of feminism but you've got looming government cuts that disproportionately affect women and all you've got is a rather unscientific, peculiarly conducted survey?

Well, this is where feMEnism comes in I suppose. Which, feminist or not I hate because it is skewed towards that oddly popular impression advertising et al like to give that all women's problems can be solved with a bubble bath and a bar of chocolate. Unless it's really bad – like a bloating problem – then you need special yoghurt.

Oh ME time, it doesn't solve child trafficking or up funding for VAWG charities but by golly does my back feel better after having to open all those doors by myself.

How long do you reckon feminism has been around for now? A while, at least a lifetime if for whatever reason you don't count women's lib history. If you do then...well, a lot longer than a life time. Certainly enough time, I'd have thought, for what feminism is to accurately sink in.

I have always identified as a feminist. I was about the right age to be the Spice Girls' target audience so I am no stranger to girl power, which led me to riot grrrl, which led me to Feminism with a capital F.

It wasn't until I was 20 in a lonely moment when travelling around New Zealand alone (thank a feminist), that I visited a library and pretty much inhaled Greer's The Female Eunuch and The Whole Woman.

When I returned from the Antipodes I continued my feminist education at university (thank a feminist). A friend lent me The Beauty Myth (if you only read one Naomi Wolf book read this one, in fact*, only read one Naomi Wolf book and make it this one) which allowed me to begin to express a feminism that was far more than hairy armpits (although: CHECK), bra burning (are you kidding me? Bras are expensive) and vulva ownership (this comes under the brilliant Flavia Dzodan intersectional feminism umbrella).

For me feminism manages to be the passionate voice of reason. For Netmums, it is apparently not enough. But this saddens me because it appears Netmums has simply misunderstood feminism, seemingly listening only to Men's Rights Activists and the Daily Mail's interpretation of it.

The list of what Netmum users would like feminism to fight for included: “real choice over their family, career and lives”. The strong feminist presence at the TUC march on the 20th of October demonstrated that is a huge part of the collective (as in including rad-fem, liberal feminists et al) feminist manifesto. However to Netmums feminism seems to be regarded as a disapproving, useless, barren and bare-faced spinster.

Netmums observed bafflingly: “Tellingly, more than two thirds (69%) believed Feminism's biggest fight was now to reinstate the value of motherhood.” Tellingly of what? That this is a site specifically designed for mothers?

The conclusion Netmums managed to come to from their survey was that “...it's time for another radical change to let individual FeMEnists find their own path which works for them and their family...many of the under 30s are telling us that they simply don't want to 'have it all anymore'.

"Instead, they want to 'have enough' to make them and their families happy.” This is forgetting that what got feminism this far is solidarity and that having it all means being able to choose from all of it.

*only if you really really want my unsolicited advice, obviously, read all the books you wish to.

Kate's tweeting about bubble bath and probiotic yoghurts @squeamishbikini.