Feminism and Democratic Renewal

By Lanning, Tess | Soundings, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Feminism and Democratic Renewal


Lanning, Tess, Soundings


What are the lessons we can learn from the history of feminism over the last forty years?

It is often said that the aspirations and opportunities available to women have increased dramatically over the past century. Once excluded from university, educational achievement is now higher among young women than their male contemporaries. Female employment has soared, and the gender pay gap between men and women in their twenties has almost disappeared. Increased female earning power has also transformed gender relations in some households, driving a small but steady increase in the number of househusbands and men who share in the housework and childcare.

Yet accusations that feminism has largely benefited middle-class women have dogged the movement since as long ago as Emmeline Pankhursts prioritisation of suffrage over issues of maternity. Thus Jenny Turner has accused feminists today and historically of being 'mostly white, mostly middle-class, speaking from, of, to themselves within a reflecting bubble'.1 For some, feminism has not just ignored the concerns of marginalised women, but has actively undermined them. Labour MP David Lammy, for example, has argued that the Women's Liberation struggles in the 1960s and 1970s fed an individualistic 'my rights' culture that facilitated the rise of neoliberalism and is evident in the consumerist values among many young people today.2

This article explores current priorities for feminism, and strategies and agencies for change, drawing on research conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on how women's lives have changed over three generations. It argues that to construct a narrative of progress, or a broad argument about 'gender equality', is to ignore the ways in which the economic, social and political changes of the past thirty years have been experienced very differently by women from different backgrounds. Yet it also questions those who brand feminism as a sharp-elbowed, aspirational project, and argues that revisiting some of the tenets of second-wave feminism could provide inspiration for much-needed economic and political renewal.

Feminism, equality and class

After a long period during which feminism was distinctly unfashionable, new networks, books and campaign groups taking on discrimination and sexist attitudes have thrived in recent years, boosted by new technology and social media. Feminist protests and women's rights organisations have called for measures - often but not always legislative - to protect reproductive rights, prevent violence against women, and restrict access to pornography or the growth of lap dancing clubs. In mainstream political debates, the still disproportionate levels of economic and political capital controlled by men are often taken as evidence of an unfinished revolution. In the run up to International Women's Day in 2012, Chérie Blair and several other high profile women argued that gender parity on company boards is a defining issue for women's equality. Wider debates raged on whether legal quotas should force the issue.

Many politicians choose to appeal to women as a broad group with shared concerns around discrimination and sexism. According to former Conservative MP Louise Mensch: 'Most Conservatives would define feminism as supporting equal rights and opportunities for women. In that sense it is a movement of women, not of right or left'.3 Greater representational equality in positions of power will, it is hoped, challenge the perception of female capability, and provide role models for young women growing up in a male-dominated world; and each of the two main parties has dedicated 'networking' groups to support female candidates. For some, female power is also a model of political change. Head of the IMF Christine Lagarde suggested, only half in jest, that the financial crisis might never have occurred had Lehman Brothers been called Lehman Sisters, and boasted a more gender-balanced boardroom. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Feminism and Democratic Renewal
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.