Stuck on the long road to equality

 

Share

Has feminism had its day? The vast majority responding to a survey on the Netmums website saw the term as old-fashioned, not relevant to their lives. Older women felt less strongly. I take these findings with a pinch of salt, because they are strongly weighted in favour of mums, but they did make me think. Feminism is part of my DNA. It colours how I react to social situations, political decisions. I never felt much in common with the feminist contemporaries of Germaine Greer – they seemed strident and aggressive – although I was working in a very macho environment in the media in the Seventies. I found that a dollop of humour got you a very long way. Inside, though, I never compromised, and the moment I could, I promoted and championed women.

Feminism is the fight to achieve equality – socially, politically and economically – and, no matter what these women may think, that has not been achieved. They say they regard men as equals – but, much more importantly, how do men regard us? If we didn't represent some deep-seated threat to their power base, then – given the equality laws – women would be sitting in far larger numbers on executive boards, in Parliament, at the top of the police force and the judiciary. We have to compete for these jobs on terms laid down by men, favouring people who don't have to reproduce and nurture their children. It's not surprising that the number of women who start their own businesses (on their own terms) is soaring. An Ipsos Mori survey earlier this year found that 84 per cent expected growth or stability over the next three years, in spite of the recession.

The main stumbling block to true equality in this country is the lack of free, high-quality childcare and nurseries for all working mothers. I don't regard mothers who choose to stay at home and care for their families as second-rate feminists – far from it – but that is not an option for the vast majority of women in this country. Economic necessity drives women to work.

Women in Journalism conducted a survey of newspaper front pages recently and concluded they were still "male dominated and sexist". But in the end, a newspaper is a product, like a cup of Starbucks coffee, and we consumers hold the ultimate weapon – our cash. The number of female writers on this paper and our sister paper, writing about every subject, has grown massively since the days I was an editor over a decade ago. Sometimes, collecting statistics doesn't further the cause in any discernible way. Neither do lists.Woman's Hour has launched a campaign to find the 100 most powerful women in the UK, supported by a month of programming and online nominations from the public. As a newspaper editor, I was catapulted into one of these "power" lists of UK women at number 20-something, and I've been in and out of the Guardian's media 100. It's pretty meaningless. Forbes magazine lists the most powerful women in the world, with Angela Merkel at No 1 and the Queen at 26. The last Sunday Times Rich List contained a record number of women – but most had inherited or married their cash. Lists don't advance women; legislation and affirmative action do.

Modern women are often the largest earner in a household, and that can place strains on a relationship. Women are responsible for most household spending. No wonder that Netmums women say men "are no longer the enemy". Modern feminism is about subtly working towards your goals, while accepting that many men have lost their tradition role as breadwinner and feel lost. It's no longer a battle of the sexes: for modern feminists, our goals remain the same, but we achieve them differently.

Modern women are better at talking to each other, sharing online, and forming supportive networks than my generation ever was, but they must not make the mistake of thinking modern women are treated equally, because they're not.

A blight on the potato police

I've been looking at the glamorous website for a new women-only club called Grace Belgravia that's opening next month with £10m worth of backing. A friendly bar isn't mentioned, and the emphasis seems to be on health and beauty and healthy mini-meals. As membership is £5,500, this is one establishment I won't bother joining. The best club I ever joined was for fellow potato-growers, and ensured I was able to access rare varieties outlawed by the EU. I still grow about five different varieties every spring and summer, in ugly plastic pots. I've had varying success – axona and pink fir apple were last year's success stories. This season, quite a few spuds looked OK, but when they were cooked they suddenly exploded into mush – apparently the result of too much rain.

I will persevere – nothing tastes as divine as a spud you've grown yourself – so I was incandescent to read the Potato Council blaming amateur growers for spreading a blight that's wrecked commercial crops which are sprayed. They claim blight spores spread in the air contaminating crops miles away. The council's chairman had the effrontery to say: "People should grow their own vegetables … but the blight risk is real, and it would be better if people bought healthy potatoes from their retailer, rather than grow their own." I have two words in response to this ludicrous suggestion. Sod off.

Overdoing the crocodile shock

There's still time to see the controversial new production of Handel's Julius Caesar at the English National Opera, if you've got the stomach to sit through business with a realistic dead croc, a dismembered giraffe, a severed head in a plastic bag and buckets of blood. The most irritating aspect of this production is not the pointlessly brutal staging, nor the unflattering costumes which require Julius Caesar to don a skin-tight shirt and jeans, cowboy boots and a Stetson, and – confusingly – both the Egyptians and the Romans to wear matching white, but the uninspiring dancing that forms a backdrop to almost every single aria. Handel's music is sublime, and the orchestra, conducted by Christian Curnyn, sparkling. The four hours never pall and most of the singing – especially Patricia Bardon, as Cornelia, Pompey's widow, is excellent. This opera is a masterwork, so why tart it up with completely unnecessary detritus and crass choreography that adds zero? Shut your eyes and you'll have a great evening.

I hated ENO's previous excursion into baroque opera, Rameau's Castor and Pollux. There seems to be a desperate need to be shocking for the sake of it at the Coliseum these days: the ad for the next production of Don Giovanni features a used condom. I know they want to attract a younger audience, but judging by the crowd at Julius Caesar, those tactics aren't working.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Digital Content Officer - Central London - £33,000

£28000 - £33000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive (Digital Marketi...

SSIS/ORACLE DBA

£400 - £401 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SSIS Administrat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If Hadza nomads get by on 14 hours’ work a week, why can’t we?

Boyd Tonkin
Ed Miliband will launch a campaign including more than a dozen speeches by Shadow Cabinet members over the next five weeks  

Ed opens up about his image problem. Now he needs to explain some of his policies

Andrew Grice
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform