STILL FIGHTING FOR FAIRNESS; INTERNATIONAL Women's Day Was Launched Nearly 100 Years Ago. but Is the Fight for Equal Rights Still Needed or Has Feminism Become a Dirty Word? KATE STANTON Investigates in Our First of a Series of Articles Looking at Women's Status in the World Today
Byline: KATE STANTON
FROM the minute a woman wakes up until the time she goes to bed she's affected by inequality, reckons Kat Banyard. "People say it was achieved decades ago, but that's clearly not the case."
Banyard is author of The Equality Illusion, a new book which points to the gap in pay between men and women, the low conviction rates for rape and the fact most positions of power are held by men, as examples of existing gender inequality.
Catherine Redfern, founder of The F-Word website and co-author of Reclaiming The F Word: The New Feminist Movement, agrees.
"Feminism is definitely still relevant," she says. "There are huge issues still to resolve."
"In fact, some of the issues that feminists had to deal with in the 1960s and 1970s have actually got a lot worse.
"The pressures on women to conform to beauty ideals are more extreme; the conviction rate for rape has reduced to appalling levels; and pornography is a lot more prevalent in our everyday lives."
Redfern set up The F-Word (no relation to the Gordon Ramsay television vehicle) in 2001 when she was in her early twenties, after noticing a lack of such resources for UK feminists.
Resources, is one thing, at least, that would seem to have improved since then.
The recent publication of Living Dolls by Natasha Walter (Virago, pounds 12.99) prompted the media to revisit the arguments of feminism.
And with Banyard's book out this week and Redfern's due in June, plus a growing number of feminst and women's groups springing up around Britain, it seems the movement may once again be finding its voice.
Nearer to home, members of the Warwick Anti-Sexist Society (WASS) and the Student's Union echo the belief that women's rights and equality need fighting for.
Lorna Russell, WASS secretary and ethics and social campaigns officer for the Student Union, is 20, and studying politics.
She says: "If you're against racism, most people will agree with you. But to say you're anti-sexist, people aren't necessarily supportive.
"We only want equal rights for men and women.
It's hardly radical.
"Females need to feel a sense of power about themselves to be able to put t hemselves forward for p o w e r f u l roles and our society undermines women and girls which affects their self esteem."
Kat Hobbs, 21, who is affiliated with various groups on campus and is doing an MA in English Literature, says: "It's sad women are taught to value themselves only if men treat them a certain way.
"The use of sex in the media and advertising has become ubiquitous and it's hard to opt out of - you have to be objectified to be valued.
"Whatever's being sold - perfumes, holidays, whatever - they use an airbrushed, idealised image of a woman's body."
Mary Finnegan, 22, who is doing a PhD in financial engineering, nods: "Feminism is a dirty word now. Men say, 'Oh you're obviously a lesbian and you hate men.'" Banyard believes most of us accept the way things are because it's what we've always seen: men in power, women as primary carers or sexual objects.
"We grow up in a society like this and become accustomed to it," she says.
"We take it for granted that women hate their bodies; rape is seen as something that just happens and society needs to manage and the vast majority of those in parliament and boardrooms are men but we just accept it.
"But huge gains have been made since the 1970s. Women now have the right not to be fired from their jobs when they marry and husbands are no longer allowed by law to rape their wives.
"Yet a lot of these laws still have to translate into reality.
"Women working full-time are paid on average 17 per cent less than men, despite the Equal Pay Act."
This is not just down to women taking time out to raise the next generation of workers, it also stems from male-dominated professions being better paid than those in which women make up the majority of the workforce (even where jobs demand similar skills and experience), and women being less likely to be considered for promotion against a man in many cases. …