Published July this year was the book How to be a Woman by The Times journalist Caitlin Moran, detailing a new type of feminism. About time it got a re-brand, asks Isobel Archer?
Moran’s feminism is softer than the traditional image, a bit like Cameron’s Liberal-Conservatism; this isn’t burning bras and marching through the streets. But it is standing up and saying, “I am a Feminist”, men included. Moran asks, “Are the men doing it? Are the men worrying about this as well? and if the answer is no, then neither should women. She takes issues like the workplace, childbirth, strip-clubs and pornography and through personal anecdote empowers the reader with a sense of possibility and highlights hidden injustices in our own society.
This comes at a time when laws concerning the number of woman in parliament are under scrutiny. Currently, only 22% (Inter-Parliamentary Union) of seats are held by women, ranking the UK as 48th in the world in terms of equality in parliament. The debate concerning quotas has been widely discussed in the last two years at cross party conferences, however no real action regarding the issue has yet been taken in the UK. In Norway and Denmark, quotas for women in parliament were implemented in the 1980s and this was the same in Sweden in the 1990s. These Scandinavian countries now have some of the highest percentages of female MPs in the world. It is clear that quota systems do work in terms of encouraging female involvement in politics. However the argument dragged up time after time by MPs is that of “positive discrimination”, that by having quotas for female seats, somehow a man that is better qualified and suited to the job will be turned down in favour of a less suitable woman- because of her gender. There is also the issue that the women, once in parliament will feel hostility from male MPs and feel less confident in themselves, always fearing that they are only there because of a quota, and will always be seen as positively prejudiced and less worthy of the job. However, one must look at the effects in the long term; once this first wave of women have fought their corner as “quota girls” and penetrated the system, they can become positive, balanced role models for young women across the country, encouraging more women to enter politics, following the already carved paths. This will eventually render the quotas irrelevant as the gender balance in numbers of applicants becomes balanced.
Role models are needed greatly in politics for women, there are so few female politicians that young people could speak positively about, or for some, even name. It is almost impossible to find one who has not been forced to dress and act like a stand-offish man, a la Ann Widdecombe. I dream of a UK where I can see female politicians (note the plural) who are feminine, articulate and great leaders, working with men, against other men and women, arguing at question time. What’s more, I dream of extensive media coverage depicting their prowess and downfalls regarding implementing policies; not in their clothing or hair choices. This leads back to Caitlin Moran and her new wave of feminism. The small things do matter if women are to advance properly into the professional world. So sexist jokes and the media fixation on female appearance can’t simply be accepted or laughed off by women or indeed men. If everyone could start standing up and saying “No” to these accepted practices in society then there would be time to tackle the huge issues that traditional feminism says we should focus on; such as female circumcision in third world countries, domestic abuse and pay inequality. If real women: teenagers, mums, and teachers started calling themselves feminists and not blushing afterwards, then the social stigma attached to feminism could be lifted. Moran doesn’t say women can’t shave their legs or wear make-up or enjoy reading magazines, all she believes is they should be unashamed of being women and go after anything and everything