On the back of Elle Magazine’s campaign to rebrand feminism, the question of whether we should take a warts and all approach to women’s liberation has been a hot topic in the feminist world.

On one hand, I applaud them for presenting feminism on such a large scale. Appealing to male and female feminist instincts at a base level is imperative for getting everyone on board with the movement. Whether that be realising that you don’t need to shave your legs just because your boyfriend prefers it; being an effeminate man doesn’t make you any less masculine; or recognising you don’t have to put up with sexual harassment on a night out, these everyday occurrences can provide a gateway into feminist thinking.

However, this soft approach can harm feminism as well as help the cause. In an effort to ‘make feminism relevant for young women today’ Elle profess to have taken a ‘heavy word that’s burdened with a lot of history and complicated ideas’ and, in the rebrand, ‘taken those complications away and made it something that people want to embrace’.

And it’s at this point that I have a problem with the whole idea. ‘Burdened’ with its history!? Personally, I am full of admiration, awe and respect for the less than palatable way the suffragettes campaigned. The intelligent, non-destructive way in which these women bravely stood up against discrimination astounds me.

Many aspects of female oppression aren’t pretty, and by taking too much of a superficial approach we might lose the essence of the ugliness we’re fighting against. Demeaning the history of the movement by leaving out ‘unsavoury’ ideas completely undermines what feminism stands for.

Demeaning the history of the movement by leaving out ‘unsavoury’ ideas completely undermines what feminism stands for.

As an individual who wants feminism to liberate other women as much as it does me, in essence I have no problem with giving the word mass appeal. I co-founded UoN Feminists to appeal to the entire student body, not to preach to the choir. But what is it going to take to get people on board? To those who want us to shut up about Robin Thicke because ‘Blurred Lines’ is ‘just one of many sexist songs in the charts’, I wonder if it has even crossed their minds how the rape victims from Project Unbreakable feel every time it comes on their radio.

Will it take one of your closest friends to get her drink spiked and be sexually assaulted to make you realise that a man can literally strip a woman of their dignity, rendering them powerless in both mind and body? For those people who want feminism sugar coated and to be an easier idea to swallow, go for it. But don’t expect it to be rosy.

Many women come to me claiming not to be a feminist but believe in equality. I say, fine, and hope one day the word will resonate with them and give them power before it is taken from them. Of course feminism should be meaningful and accessible, but the frustrating thing is, it already is. In an ideal world, where society doesn’t project a skewed idea of what feminism really means, women would simply be playing catch up on years of suppression. But we’re starting on the back foot. We do still need feminism and we need to take sexism seriously. For me, feminism is the vehicle to equality, I’m just confused as to why so many people are letting it pass them by.

Francesca Garforth (@talk2frank_)

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3 Comments

  1. October 27, 2013 at 05:25 — Reply

    Saying feminism is the key to equality is like a member of the KKK saying white supremacy is the key to equality. I have yet for a feminist to explain to me how I, as an American Indian man, am responsible for the supposed oppression of upper middle class white women. By dictionary definition I could be called a feminist, but feminists on television, radio, in newspapers and on the web have condemned me as a misogynist solely because I fully embrace the dictionary definition of feminism to which they only pay lip service. Feminists are sexists, and it has been a long time since the movement had anything to do with achieving real gender equality.

    • Sam
      November 8, 2013 at 00:48 — Reply

      Amen to that. You can’t achieve equality by focusing on only one sex.

    • Rachel
      November 9, 2013 at 19:57 — Reply

      Sounds like you need to do your research… Or even just actually read the article you’re commenting on.
      There are plenty of male and female feminists out there who purely seek to achieve equality. Rather than stereotyping you could actually try to be like these people.

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