Leading Article: Feminism is still a cause to fight for

GERMAINE GREER has got her bus pass. She turned 60 yesterday, which gives pause for thought to those for whom it was heaven to be young in the dawn of the sexual revolution. Time for yet another appraisal of what feminism has achieved, and whether there is still a battle to be fought? Hardly. It should be universally accepted that the women's movement has achieved a great deal: that young women today owe many of their freedoms and opportunities to the courage and spirit of Professor Greer and her contemporaries.

It should also be accepted that women still have a long way to go before they can regard the battle for true equality as won. That is more controversial. There has been a backlash among men, not simply of the laddish and Loaded variety, but also of the confused and defensive kind (are the two kinds by any chance related?). There has been something of a backlash on the female side, too, epitomised by Bridget Jones and Ally McBeal, though heavily offset by a knowing, post-feminist irony. Revolutionary fervour among true believers has dimmed too, as the battle has moved from the fierce passions of the applecart-upsetters and academics into the more complex field of popular culture, infiltrating the ways in which the vast majority of people live day to day.

The struggle is still being carried on in the prosaic theatres of the industrial tribunals; the labour market has been transformed, and yet the glass ceilings still have only a few skylights in them. There is only one woman - Marjorie Scardino - heading a FTSE 100 company, for example. On the other hand, the Government this week lived up to its responsibility with a Bill to promote "fairness at work" that sought to encourage the further feminisation of the workplace. Much of the family-friendly presentation was spin, but it is significant that what would once have been regarded as strident demands for the impossible should now be seen as feel-good public relations. And, however modest, the measures for unpaid parental leave for fathers and longer maternity leave for mothers will make a real difference.

Feminism has left its mark on the English language: the style book for this newspaper insists on "firefighter" and tries to avoid "he" as a general singular pronoun. That change is hardly complete, either, but the cutting edge has gone, leaving us with the partially accepted "Ms" and a lot of pointless confusion. This week, for example, Betty Boothroyd, the Speaker of the House of Commons, required Nick Gibb, a Conservative MP, to apologise for describing Dawn Primarolo, a Treasury minister, as a "stupid woman". Mr Gibb may be a stupid man, if that is the best insult he can dredge from his limited vocabulary, but to say so is absolutely not to insult the 48 per cent of the population who are male.

How, then, is feminism to be carried forward from this stalemate of unfinished business? The important point is that carrying on the torch is not women's burden alone - those who are looking for the "new Germaine Greer" may be looking for spokespeople (no, that is not approved by The Independent style book) of the wrong sex. This is not simply a matter of the strange inversion by which the only people who call themselves feminists these days seem to be men. It has become a commonplace to observe that men are increasingly demanding, or in some cases simply assuming, more responsibility for bringing up their children - often the same men who have strutted their New Lad political incorrectness, the same men who complain that women's rights have "gone too far".

Long after the slogan was coined in Professor Greer's heyday, "the personal is political", the full implications of that are working through. If women are to achieve meaningful equality of status and respect, they have to renegotiate the whole web of intimate relationships that make up a society, and the cultural assumptions governing them. So the battle has necessarily moved far beyond the simple slogans and ideological certainties of the early days. Some of the obstacles to true equality have turned out to be as intractable as they were unexpected. It has turned out not to be so easy for working parents to leave their children in the care of others, for example, and the fear of child sex abuse has meant that men can never be as trusted as women in the caring role. It will not be for a few charismatic leaders to negotiate the hazardous route; the torch of feminism will be carried forward by millions of people, both men and women. Happy birthday, Germaine.

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...