This first blog post, hopefully of many for FWSA, is about ‘The Future of Feminism’ as I see it. As a student at the University of York I am part of the newest generation of Feminists and Feminist activists and the future of the Feminist movement is something I am helping to create and something I care about a lot. I will be blogging about Feminism, particularly student and campus Feminism, and various Feminist issues that I care about, so the Future seems a good place to start.
Despite what some might like you to think, the future of Feminism is young, active and growing. In May this year the Guardian reported on a recent increase in the number of student Feminist Societies being founded in UK Universities. I myself have been part of this trend, founding York Feminists just a few months ago and friends of mine are setting up groups at other Universities. These student Feminists have been doing some of the most eye-catching campaigns, witness the hugely successful “I need Feminism” campaign by Cambridge University which has spread to many other University campuses, including my own. And it’s not just University age Feminists, teenage girls are also coming into their own.
Tavi Gevison started life as a teenage fashion blogger, and has branched out into pop culture critic and vocal feminist and advocate for young women, speaking at a TEDxTeen event about the pressures faced by teenage girls. In my own University town of York, other teenage girls have made an impressive stand, founding the York Campaign for Body Confidence aiming to help combat the presentation of women’s bodies in the media and the negative affects this has on many women and especially teenage girls. And as well as this we have the utterly courageous example of Malala Yousafzai. It is heartening to think of a Feminist movement with young women like these at its forefront. It is a bright future.
The Future of Feminism is not only young, it is also online. The ever growing number of Feminist blogs and websites helps to spread information and educate people and allows Feminists, newbie and veteran alike to make contact with other people who care about the same issues. Sites like Tumblr have become home to a community of Feminist bloggers sharing their own experiences and views, discussing and learning from each other. Some of the most important Feminist campaigns are online as well, Everyday Sexism and the Hollaback! Campaign use the internet to gather and record women’s experiences and to spread awareness of the sexism and harassment faced every day.
The influence of these two campaigns in particular has been so great that they have recently been consulted by London Police, on a campaign to encourage victims of sexual harassment on London public transport to report the crimes.
To me personally, these two sites in particular have been an invaluable resource when dealing with people who are sceptical that sexism even exists anymore, and those who are sceptical that Feminism is actually needed. I just need to send them the links to these sites and let them see for themselves. Other sites are doing similar things but in slightly more niche areas, such as Fat, Ugly or Slutty which records the harassment female gamers receive while playing. I see Feminism continuing to make use of the internet to organise, connect and educate.
In particular I see online Feminism as being a perfect tool for encouraging Intersectional Feminism. Online blogs and spaces are great for Feminists who are disabled, carers, who have small children, or for any other reason are unable to get involved in off-line Feminism. It allows them to participate in discussions and become involved in online forms of activism, such as starting petitions. It also helps expose Feminists to people with different experiences to theirs. Online Feminism has introduce me to issues faced by Queer women, Trans* women and women of colour and made me a better person and better Feminist.
Expanding on this, I say that the Future of Feminism must be an Intersectional one. For too long many women have felt alienated by a Feminism which was perceived to be about the issues facing middle class, straight, cisgender, white women. Women of colour and Trans* women have long felt or been actively excluded from Feminism and this must change.
In my experience most Feminists my age are aware of these issues or if they are not, are very willing to listen and learn. Whether this will translate into improvements in the Feminist movement as a whole remains to be seen, but I am hopeful. However, at the moment, most of the Feminist figures prominent in our media fit this outdated mould. Caitlin Moran, for example, author of the hugely popular Pop-Feminism book How to be a Woman used the slur “tranny” and confessed that she “didn’t give a shit” about the lack representation of women of colour in the mainstream media as well as regularly throwing ableist slurs around.
When the most vocal and well-known faces of the movement act in such a callous and bigoted fashion towards women who are not like them, then it is hard not to wonder when, if ever, Feminism will be able to shake off this exclusionary mind set. But I am optimistic, and I see enough willingness from Feminists to call out other Feminists and I have met many talented and vocal young Feminists who will be the Feminist journalists and commentators of the future. I have met so many young Feminists who are aware of and care about these issues.
And most of all I hope very much that the Feminist commentators of the future will number among them many Queer women, many women of colour, many trans* woman and many disabled and neuroatypical women. I hope that the future will show that Feminism is a broad church and that it represents the issues faced by all women, not just the rich white ones.
It is important Feminism has a future in which we are willing to challenge each other as well as the world as a whole. We must stand up to those within our movement who would ignore or sideline many issues facing women. We can fight to put more women in board rooms and in politics, but we must also fight to end violence against Trans* women, the fetishization of women of colour and the sexual abuse of disabled women.
The Future of Feminism must be Intersectional and it will be young women leading this using online resources and spaces as their tools and it is a future that I am proud and excited to be part of.
Alexandra is studying History at the University of York and will be entering her second year this autumn. She is the founder and president of York Feminists, a Feminist discussion group at the University of York.