The end of feminism? There are more of us than you think

On Netmums and elsewhere, feminism is being declared dead. But the more some people talk about it, the more they reveal they have no idea what it actually means

Share
Related Topics

Last week there was much ado about Netmums, the website which produced a poll pronouncing the end of feminism, on the basis that only one in seven of a group of women they surveyed self-defined as a feminist.

To dismiss feminism as ‘dead’ (as many media outlets promptly did) on the basis that one woman in seven constitutes an embarrassingly low turnout is interesting in itself, given that those figures would give it a nationwide ‘membership’ numbering just under four and a half million…more than ten times the membership of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties combined.

Young women were declared particularly averse to the movement, with those aged 20-24 least likely to call themselves feminists. But it is worth remembering that this survey, widely reported as if it reliably summed up the views of all women, canvassed only Netmums users. Whilst I’m sure there are plenty of young feminist mums out there, it’s probably fair to say that if you wanted a representative sample of how many young women aged 20-24 would describe themselves as feminists, surveying only those who are members of a parenting website probably wasn’t the most unbiased way to get it.

But regardless of the reliability of the figures, to ‘measure’ feminism as if it is some kind of card-carrying members club is to misunderstand the whole ethos of the movement. Somebody who works to further women’s rights and achieve gender equality is a feminist activist. But to be a feminist, you only have to believe that men and women should be treated equally – it’s that simple; not something many people even stop to think about, much less put a label on.

Want to know where all the feminists are? They’re the Oxford University students who are so fed up with the sexism they encounter that they’ve set up a Facebook page called “Misogyny Overheard at Oxford Uni”. The woman who set up a blog just to record her experiences because she couldn’t bear the constant sexual harassment in silence any more. The 22-year-old man who spends his time explaining women’s rights to other guys. They’re the recent graduates who’ve set up a network for young professional women to connect with female entrepreneurs and businesswomen. They’re the 48 male and female welfare officers at Cambridge University who wrote, brilliantly, to the student paper to denounce an article claiming  women should avoid the ‘risk’ of being raped. They’re the young men proudly tweeting photographs of themselves wearing No More Page 3 T-shirts. The four-year-old girl who wonders why boys have to buy superheroes and girls have to buy princesses. Every little girl who doesn’t know why she gets the toy cleaning set or the cooker when the ray gun and the baseball bat look so much cooler. Every little boy who’s ever been shushed and ushered away because he wanted to play with the dolls.

Feminism isn’t a paid-up club or a badge-wearing photo opportunity; it’s an idea. And 10,000 women who’ve had that idea have written about their experiences on the Everyday Sexism website, simply because it didn’t seem right that they were treated differently because of their sex. That’s 10,000 feminists right there.

When a woman writes on our website:

“My shorts are a practical choice of clothing for the sport I train in; not an invitation for stranger's comments/judgements. I shouldn't even need to justify that”

That’s feminism. Would she have self-identified using the word on a Netmums survey (which also included the option to deem feminism “too aggressive towards men” just to make it really clear what the right answer was)? I don’t know. But honestly, it doesn’t really matter.

I can’t tell you how many feminists there are by percentage, or geographical location or ratio. But I can tell you there are a lot. Far more than you might expect of a ‘dead’ movement. I can think of no corresponding concept which critics and media alike are so wildly keen to loudly proclaim ‘Dead!’ ‘Finished!’ ‘Over!’ on the basis of the flimsiest of evidence. And that, in itself, speaks volumes.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing