The other day I explained feminism to my little sister, who mistakenly thought that it was the belief that ‘women are and should be treated as better than men’.
I told her that I felt it was something like this: the belief that men and women are and should be treated as potential intellectual and social equals.
‘Oh’, she said. ‘Why’s it called feminism then? Why isn’t it… humanism or equalism or masculism?’
Around a quarter of a century ago my Mum was JCR President at her Oxford college. A motion was passed that, on the grounds of ‘Page 3’, the college would no longer stock the Sun newspaper. Fast forward to 2012, and an online petition is started calling for ‘No More Page 3’. Its website calls on students to contact their union and call for the same thing that my Mum did in the late 1980s.
Now, I don’t mean to sound too smug and condescending, but… really… what’s taken everyone so long?
As the daughter of a single-mother dyed in the wool feminist, I spent my schooldays in bafflement that fellow pupils at my all-girls school refused to identify themselves as ‘feminists’. Call me crazy, but I adhere to the principle that ‘just because human bodies are designed to perform certain procreative functions, biological elements need not dictate intellectual and social functions, capabilities, and rights.’ And I struggle to get to grips with the idea that not everyone feels the same way.
I sense that we are in the opening years of third-wave or (as I like to call it) post post feminism. Caitlin Moran’s 2011 book How to Be a Woman hit the bestseller lists and suddenly suggested it was alright to ask questions aloud like ‘why are we supposed to get Brazilians?’. The free weekly magazine Stylist is currently dominated by feminist-themed columns and features, where a year or so ago the f-word was probably banned outright for fear of putting people off. New feminist books such as Everyday Sexism and The Vagenda (whose authors reportedly received a £100,000 advance) are being reviewed in mainstream newspapers, rather than esoteric journals.
So where does that leave me?
I feel passionately that (especially in a publication that calls itself a newspaper) neither men nor women should be reduced to instruments of sexual pleasure, totally disregarding personal and intellectual abilities and capabilities. I dislike elements of the media such as music videos or Page 3, that objectify men or (more frequently) women. I find it offensive. Quite often I am also disgusted by what I see. What a prude!
Yet, to be honest, I feel like I arrived at the party way too early and am now a bit bored and ready to go home, just as everyone else is starting to arrive.
I’ve signed the NMP3 petition, and bought the t-shirt, because I think it’s an important issue and I want to spread the message. I’ve also signed up to attend several ‘feminist’ literary events and debates, because it is a topic I’ve long been interested in.
However, I’m struggling with the fact that, as a lifelong feminist, I’m a bit nonplussed by the current feminist movement. To me, Page 3 is an anachronism in this day and age. It’s bizarre, comical and offensive to me that the country’s bestselling newspaper displays a highly sexualised image of a young woman on the first page you see on turning the front cover, every single day. When Jessica Ennis won her Olympic gold medal in 2012, the largest image of a woman the Sun carried was still that of a topless girl.
I don’t understand why this is something we’re even having to fight for in 2014, or why not everyone realises how odd it is to show soft porn in the opening pages of a news publication.
I’m tired of having to tell everyone that I don’t want women (or men) to be reduced to sexual objects. In my everyday life I want to do my job to the best of my abilities, and to be judged on my own merit. I don’t want to be given an unfair advantage against a man and I don’t want to be shouted and whistled at in the street because (get over it) I have breasts. Now can we all just sort this whole thing out and move on?