Friday, 7 August 2009

The Myth of the Invisible Young Feminists

The Myth of the Invisible Young Feminists

It seems a lot of people are very invested in the idea that there are no young feminists, that young women are turning away from feminism in droves, that young women just don’t care about feminism, that we are embarrassed and ashamed of it.

Well, all I can say to that is it is not my experience AT ALL. I know hundreds of young feminists. I am in touch with young feminists all over the country through networks and Ladyfests, and I am in touch with young feminists all over the world through social media and the blogosphere.

We’re everywhere. Get used to it.

Of course, not all young women are feminists. And a hell of a lot of young women seem to say “I’m not a feminist but” and then say they agree with a lot of feminist thought. But that’s ok, isn’t it? The thought is the thing, the badge can come later. I know women who shied away from calling themselves feminists, and now embrace the word wholeheartedly. Why? Because people are allowed to change, they are allowed to and they do change their minds. And the times, they are a changing. A lot of young women who didn’t identify as feminist may now be starting to do so, because they are sick to the back teeth of the way society views women at the moment. They’re sick of violence against women being ignored and low rape conviction rates, sick of exploitation, sick of objectification and sick of street harassment. Look beyond the UK and women are sick of how other women are treated globally, angry with FGM and floggings of women in trousers and televised beatings of women by the Taliban, of women being raped as a weapon in war, of women bearing the brunt of poverty. Ask these young women, and many will say how they are sick of how the patriarchy hurts men too. I know I am – and I believe that one of the ways to help fight injustices against men worldwide is to help fight injustices against women. The two are side by side.

Janice Turner wrote an article bemoaning the lack of young feminists. She obviously hasn’t heard of Google, as only fingertips away are groups of young women setting up feminist networks, setting up Ladyfests, organising Reclaim the Night and organising fundraisers, rallying to fund Rape Crisis Centres, organising marches, taking to the streets and flyering lad’s mags or hiding them in brown paper bags. We are everywhere! We are in your cities and your towns and we are making a lot of noise. Go on the F-Word, go on Feministing, pick up a copy of Subtext, hang out on my blog – young women everywhere are proclaiming feminism.

I have this week given up posting comments on the crazy world of Comment is Free as I was sick of reading all the nasty anti-feminist comments that in no way contributed to any debate, and sick of reading the nasty personal comments that abound. (as well as the ignorant ones – my favourite being that violence against women is always reported in the news but you never hear about violence against men. Uh – hello?) But one comment that came up over and over again was that all young women were rejecting feminism and so the movement was over. The comment was repeated over and over, even though myself and other young feminists were pointing out that we were young and feminist, ergo we exist. Why is this?

The only explanation I can come up with is that the anti feminist voice has a real invested interest in wilfully ignoring the rise of young feminists and the hard work they are doing in the UK. If they pretend we aren’t there, then they can proclaim the movement over, dead, defunct. If they pretend we aren’t there, they don’t have to face up to the inequalities that abound. If they pretend we aren’t there, they can feel smug that they are right. But the fact is they aren’t right. We are here. We’re very loud about it.
Most importantly – if they pretend we aren’t here, they can pretend feminism has failed. It hasn’t. it achieved huge leaps and bounds and we know we can achieve more.

The more confusing thing is when older feminists such as Germaine Greer deny we exist. This really troubles and worries me. But I guess the only solution is to keep insisting that we are here and we are working hard to make changes. We have to keep blogging, keep writing, keep marching, keep talking, keep consciousness raising, keep demonstrating and keep arguing. It is tiring to have to constantly try to prove we exist, but I believe it will be worth it in the end.

A further piece of evidence espoused by anti feminists to prove that we young feminists are mere figments of our own imaginations is their insulting insistence that young women and old women, especially young feminists and old feminists don’t get on. Well, I call bullshit on this one. Through Bristol Feminist Network I have met the most inspiring and incredible older, second wave women. Their stories of the second wave and their continued feminist fight never fail to inspire me. Their curiosity about how we younglings experience the world, how we deal with the aftermath of their battles, is one of respect and genuine interest. By making the contact between young and old we are able to see how far we’ve come, and we are able to see how far we have to go. The suggestion that old and young can never reach across an impenetrable divide is just another myth designed to perpetuate the idea that women are bitchy and catty. Instead, we support one another, offer advice, laugh and cry together. We are beautifully together.

We don’t all have to like each other, of course. We’re not all going to be bust friends. But that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss, debate and work together to affect change.

So, here we are. Young feminists, making noise, working together with old and young to continue the fight for women and men everywhere. Whether you like it or not!

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