IS FEMINISM DEAD; A New Survey Says Feminism Now Has Nothing to Offer Women. Can It Be Right?

Daily Mail (London), July 3, 2003 | Go to article overview

IS FEMINISM DEAD; A New Survey Says Feminism Now Has Nothing to Offer Women. Can It Be Right?


YES

ANN LESLIE, the Daily Mail's awardwinning chief foreign correspondent, is married with a daughter. She says: THE feisty and fearless writer Rebecca West declared crossly that 'people call me a "feminist" whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute'. But that was in 1913 and she wasn't even allowed to vote.

The word 'feminist' in those days had the exciting smack of revolution; now, I'm afraid, the very word makes most of us yawn.

Every woman is a feminist these days, according to the author of The New Feminism, a dreary book I had to review not long ago, which tried to breathe life into the dead corpse of feminism as an ideology.

But, the author discovered to her shock, many of these women who are feminists, don't actually think they are! She condescendingly put them right, informing young women that they shouldn't feel they're not feminists just because they like men and pushup bras - unlike her own feminist mother who believes that even depilatories are ideological.

Surely, however, that puritanically bossy period of feminism only now exists in Ye Olde Feminist Folkloric Ghetto, 'personed' by covens of ageing Speculum Sisters who still believe that shaving one's armpits is a betrayal of the Revolution.

No wonder the Equal Opportunities Commission study discovered that we think of the ideological feminism of the past as ' oldfashioned' and 'man-hating' because, frankly, it is and very often was. Yes, of course there are still problems over childcare, unequal pay and 'work-life balance' issues.

But somehow to declare yourself to be a 'feminist' is, in effect, to declare that 'I'm a folkloric ghetto-dwelling, self-pitying, selfrighteous bore'.

YES

ANNA STOTHARD, 19, is the daughter of former Times editor Sir Peter and novelist Sally Emerson. Currently on her gap year, she will be going to Oxford University to study English Literature soon. She says: THERE are subtle anomalies in the way men and women are viewed, but 21st-century feminism no longer has much to fight about. I've never tried to climb the corporate ladder, so have never come close to the 'glass ceiling', but I did go to a boy's school for the sixth form.

The girls often acted like Christmas decorations, bubbling around the common room in knee-high boots and simpering over their lipstick before class, yet they did better in exams and could generally argue their male counterparts into the ground.

The poor boys seemed justifiably confused as to their role in this new 'comfortable feminism', not knowing whether they should open the door for a girl and risk having it knocked back in their faces.

Some of my female friends want to devote their lives to having children and bringing up a family, some want to be high-powered lawyers. Feminism should not be about the pressure to have everything at once, but about the freedom to choose what you want.

Feminism doesn't mean so much to my generation, not because we don't think it's important, but because our equality - at least in this country - has already been established.

YES

LYNDA LEE-POTTER is a star columnist for the Daily Mail and an author in her own right. She says: WE'RE surely now in the happy position of having the best of feminism, but with the sense to have discarded the daft bits.

I never felt any need to prove that women are as good as men because it seemed self-evident.

All the influences in my early career were remarkable women - from my mother to the female boss who gave me my first chance in journalism.

The most aggressive feminists, I suspect, came from families where there was a domineering father and a disappointed, defeated or writer Marilyn French says: 'Feminism is a belief that women matter as much as men do.' In many instances, I'd say we matter more.

NO

AUTHOR Kathy Lette, 42, is married and lives in London with her two children.

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IS FEMINISM DEAD; A New Survey Says Feminism Now Has Nothing to Offer Women. Can It Be Right?
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