Only one British female in four calls herself feminist

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When Betty Friedan published her groundbreaking tract A Feminine Mystique in 1963, a generation of self-proclaimed feminists was born.

But four decades after women rallied across the world to declare the "personal as political", the term feminist appears to have lost its lustre.

Seventy-one per cent of females in this country would not define themselves as feminists, according to a poll commissioned by the women's rights organisation Womankind Worldwide.

The study, published today, interviewed more than 500 women aged from 15 upwards, who were representative of different classes, regions and ages across the nation.

Only 29 per cent said they would call themselves feminists, while 68 per cent rejected the label and 3 per cent remained undecided. The findings could be indicative of a "post-feminist" generation of younger women who consider the term carries too much stigma.

Lana Homeri, 24, who works in the human rights sector, said it was a "problematic" definition, not least because it had been sabotaged by the media over the years as a term of ridicule.

"Feminism is in the eye of the beholder. The dangers with it as an all-encompassing term is that it could mean one group of feminists from the West could end up telling women from other cultures what 'true empowerment' is when, in actual fact, this is debatable. I believe in women's choice and I would fight for it, but there are different types of feminism and I don't know which one I would fit in to. It has also acquired this bad name in the media which is all about 'bra-burning feminists'," she said.

But others said it was as relevant now as it ever had been. Meg Sanders, 46, a writer from Stratford-upon-Avon, said a "third-wave of feminism" was needed to follow the suffragette movement and the 1970s movement.

"Women who say, 'I'm not a feminist' are living in a world that has been created by feminists. There are problems facing women which are different to the ones I faced growing up in the 1970s," she said.

Maggie Baxter, the executive director of Womankind Worldwide, said "shocking injustices" such as domestic violence and unequal pay still existed in spite of the many who felt that the fight for equality had been won.

"We commissioned this poll to highlight that, although many in the UK feel that equality for women has been achieved, shocking injustices remain.Over 98 per cent of Somali women have undergone female genital mutilation, 80 per cent of Afghan woman are illiterate and in Ghana there is no law to protect women from domestic violence," she said.