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mum, where do feminists come from?

Can you hatch a feminist?

Say your task was to persuade a young woman or man why gender still matters – what three pieces of knowledge would you give them?

This is an unfair question in many ways: no one definition of the feminist movement exists, nor can you boil it down to a few fun facts in order to support your stance.

But the past month has been a massive historical shout out to the achievements of previous feminist movements. Amongst the anniversaries and reflections, voices keep asking what a 2011 feminist looks like.

On August 29th, the United States celebrated the 91st anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. This was preceded in August by a well watched TV doc on 70s writer and feminist Gloria Steinem, who reflected through interviews, her website and twitter her 40 year career fighting for equality. In an interview with Reuters, she claims that young women these days are far more supportive of the case for ladies’ equality  in 2011.

But knowledge is feminist power, or so say those at organisation, UK Feminista. In early August, the group caused the media’s collective ears to prick when they held a ‘Suffragette Summer School’, inviting young girls to come on their holidays to learn about modern day battles for women. Tackling such areas as pornography, corporate life and government benefits, high school aged girls had a chance to talk about campaigns that still needed to go on.

So how does the average young lady or gentlemen feel about feminism these days? Sometimes, classification as a ‘feminist’ is something one admits with shuffling feet and a shrug. Young people are, perhaps, so disillusioned with politics and causes in the current climate that the aggressive, poster wielding activist of old is too passe for digital frontier.

There’s also the assumption, though, that gender based activism is no longer necessary. In this forum, talented ladies write about violence against women (and society generally), sexual freedom and stereotypes, mental health and opportunities. And while great articles from authors at lip have dispelled this myth that the job is done, lack of knowledge regarding equality, both gender related and not, is not uncommon in some parts of the community.

This is not always the fault of young people so much as uncertainty around the feminist cause, and who’s telling the truth. Earlier this year while preparing to go out, I had a conversation with friends about a postcard on my noticeboard for Australia’s National Equal Pay Day. It’s held annually on the date on which women’s annual earnings meet those of men in the previous financial year. Equal Pay Day is designed to bring attention to the fact that women earn around 17% less than men in the same role over time.

This year’s Pay Day is 1st September, and runs through the month with various speaker events. The interesting part of my conversations about this was that not only had they heard little of the event, these friends weren’t really aware that there even still was a pay gap based on gender. Having only really done casual work, none of us had noticed the difference yet.

So perhaps in the face of this uncertainty, education really is key. Suggesting that you can ‘create’ a feminist is a rather strange concept. But young people, once informed, can interact with problems facing our society and work out their personal stances from there.

Equality for women and other social groups is, by all accounts, not yet done. If it’s true that young people are being spooked off old-school protest style activism, maybe the coming years will see another, new type of movement. In the mean time, if those interested ask around, research and talk to people about the state of human rights, maybe the information portion of the social movement can keep flowing.

(Image credit: 1.)

One thought on “mum, where do feminists come from?

  1. Pingback: Global Feminist Link Love: August 29 – September 11

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