Most women my age don't like the word feminism and don't choose to identify as feminists. I know this because I have spoken to many women born in the Seventies and Eighties over the past couple of years as research for my book, The Noughtie Girl's Guide To Feminism, which is published today. In fact "I'm not a feminist but..." has been one of the most frequent refrains I've heard, with women then going on to tell me they are in favour of equal pay for women who do the same jobs as men, better paternity leave so that men and women can share childcare, and more sharing of domestic chores. But they don't want to be dictated to as to what they can and can't wear and they don't hate men. Some are not in favour of abortion. Some want to change their name when they get married and believe that not just name-changing but marriage itself is something feminism does not want them to do. How can they be feminists, they have asked, if they want these things?
And these are completely valid questions. Because feminism in the past has been characterised by po-faced earnestness, It is a movement where all too often humour has been missing. Not only that but previous generations of feminists have given the impression that you have to subscribe to a specific set of views, and agree with all of them, to be a part of it. What is more, you have to look a certain way be it keep all your body hair or wear shapeless clothes. No wonder young women today feel alienated by some feminists that have gone before.
Feminism for the Noughties seeks to reclaim individuality and choice when it comes to feminism. It doesn't prescribe a set of belief other than that men and women should be given equal opportunities and equal choices. Within that, we can do whatever we want. I am out and proud as a feminist and some of my choices reflect traditional feminism, while others don't.
I am married but I use the title Ms and have kept the surname I was given at birth, and there was certainly no being given away at my wedding. I do not do all the cooking or laundry in my house. On the other hand, it's not that unusual for me to play on the fluffier image of women when it comes to things like DIY or mowing the lawn. Sometimes I walk past a building site and am annoyed if there are no wolf whistles, even though traditional feminism would be hugely angry if there were wolf whistles.
That's because Noughties feminism sees life as a mass of contradictions and let's us choose how we live it. And, unlike many of the feminists who went before, we believe that, as long as women's decisions are real choices, then she can be a feminist whatever those …