Red Pepper article: “Feminism: now for the good news”

[This post was originally published in October 2010 on the website for the book Reclaiming The F Word, by myself and Kristin Aune. Since the website no longer exists, I thought I would publish it again here.]

My article on contemporary feminism in June/July’s [2010] issue of Red Pepper has now been published online. It’s unashamedly optimistic; deliberately so, like our book, as a counterpoint to all the media messages we’ve had over the past few years telling us that feminism is dead or ignoring feminist activism.

Since I wrote the article for Red Pepper, it seems that the media is finally recognising that there is a feminist movement in this country, and there’s been a rush of celebratory articles. Hurrah! It feels like we finally broke through with that message.

And it’s been an important message, because whatever problems there might be within feminism or differences of opinion between feminists, making more people aware of the existence of the movement is a valid task, I feel. Whilst many regular readers of The F Word will be aware of the range of feminist activism and opinions, a lot of people still aren’t.

Women’s oppression remains a major feature of British society, even if it sometimes looks rather different than it did during that last big wave of feminism in the 1970s. But the good news, argues Catherine Redfern, is that feminism is alive and kicking too

You’d be forgiven for thinking that feminism today is in a terrible state. We all know the score by now, surely: rape conviction rates are at record lows; girls’ and boys’ career choices are still split along gender lines; women are being paid less than men; there’s concern about the ‘sexualisation’ of girls; politicians are threatening to roll back the clock on abortion rights; climate change is threatening women – the poorest of the poor – worldwide. And that’s just picking a few things off the top of my head.

In the face of all this, what have women been doing about it? Nothing apparently, according to the mainstream narrative of feminism over the past few years. Shrugging our shoulders, insisting we’re empowered and painting our nails while Rome burns.

Young women particularly have borne the brunt of this criticism, routinely told they’re apathetic or anti-feminist. At a recent feminist conference in Australia, 23-year-old organiser Rosa Campbell complained to a reporter: ‘We’re told all the time we have raunchy pornographic sex, binge-drink, pole-dance and are not active feminists. We’ve taken all the choices the seventies feminists won and used them for our own oppression. We’re ungrateful and rude.’

This has been the dominant narrative in the UK too. Feminism ‘has sunk into mindless hedonism’ according to one recent Telegraph article, laced with disapproving overtones about young women’s depravity, and illustrated with the mandatory photo of a group of young women partying in the street. Curiously, young women’s apparent rejection of feminism is presented as proof of their superficiality, while at the same time real feminists are dismissed and ridiculed.

The truth is rather different.

Read the rest of this article on Red Pepper

You might spot my sarcastic comments about people assuming that all feminism is about nowadays is debating whether Katie Price is a feminist icon. Shortly after completing this article, I was interviewed by Stylist Magazine for their feminism issue, with three other feminists. Whilst the interview overall worked out ok, guess what the first question they asked us was? “Some people suggest that Katie Price is a feminist icon. Discuss” Oh, the irony!

Laurie Penny wrote a response to my Red Pepper piece, which was also published in the magazine. You can read it here.

The new edition of Reclaiming The F Word with an updated Preface will be available in June 2013.

Share this page on