York ‘Thinking and Drinking’, 17 January 2008
Argument: The fundamental basis for the 21st Century modern feminist is that, quite simply, it no longer focuses primarily on equal pay and exasperating the physical and emotional differences between men and women. Rather, it would be more viable to claim that feminists are now challenging the traditional social labels of “masculinity” and “femininity”, so that, in essence, a woman could easily be a good firefighter if she has the necessary skills and physical strength required for that particular line of work, and a man could be quite successful as a nursery nurse or cleaner. The main premise is that social stereotyping needs to be overturned; that we accept feminists are a part of our social fabric, even if they are unhelpfully represented by the media as “bra burning lesbians”.
Originality is indeed needed for feminists to radically update their argument for the 21st century. This might include getting rid of the label of male and female altogether, so that we focus on the individual’s assets rather than the physical body they are born with, or, perhaps more convincingly feminists being seen to represent equal rights in general, rather than on the myth instinctively associated with “women’s issues”.
However Feminism does still have a vital role to play in the politics of today’s multi-cultural society. Women are still being unfairly treated in the Third World; there are high levels of domestic violence, women being stoned to death just because they fall in love with an unsuitable person whilst the man would be let off with a verbal scalding…This is entirely unacceptable and needs to be highlighted more reverently, and if you believe that any kind of violent act is intrinsically evil, feminist or not, then we should support the media campaigns and demonstrate on the streets until all primitive misogynistic urges are thoroughly stamped out.
This is, I believe the future for 21st century feminism, and long may it continue to be controversial, radical and individual!
Some ideas suggested by people at the T & D meeting following the presentation and discussions:
“Is there such a thing as a ‘woman’s issue’?”
“One would be hard pressed to find any great causes, issues, or problems brought up in the presentation. Rather that despite relatively few issues remaining, feminism is not irrelevant, despite being so”
“There is no need for feminism. All that is needed is for people to be original, then it is down to individual choice, which we shouldn’t change”
“Feminism is not the same thing as either equality or individualism”
“Sweden is clearly the way forward”
“Legislation cannot alter social attitudes; we need more than equal pay laws”
“We need an equality movement, which is more inclusive, rather than exclusive feminism”
“You do not need to be a member of a particular socio-economic group to champion its rights. Male feminists are the future!”
“State intervention is a greater evil than gender inequality”
- Tom Harding, NGS Thinking and Drinking Co-ordinator