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
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

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.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?