Feminist resurgence in new grassroot groups

10 Apr

by Amy Jackson

The Bechdel Test is very simple. To pass the test, any film  1) has to have at least two [named] women in it, 2) who talk to each other, 3) about something besides a man. Out of around 2,500 movies only around half pass the test. Failing flicks include The Social Network, Avatar and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. As Helen Lewis pointed out in last week’s New Statesman, so did The Artist. The fact that Hollywood continues to represent women in a one-dimensional way is depressing stuff. But, a Guardian article yesterday has given hope for women and men striving for gender equality.

Despite narrow and/or sexist portrayals of females throughout popular culture, more and more women are saying they have had enough. To mark their second birthday, UK Feminista, a ‘movement of ordinary women and men campaigning for gender equality’, have found that the number of grassroots feminist organisations has doubled in the past two years. This explosion in activism has led to near weekly protests against a range of issues from government cuts, the treatment of Nike employees in Bangladesh, pro-life campaigners and ‘designer vaginas’. And it’s not just seasoned feminists getting in on the act.  Yesterday’s Guardian article on the subject mentions feminist groups forming in schools, taking action against highly sexual ‘lads’ mags’ images, visible at eye-level in shops. As a student from Camden Schools for Girls said, “I just don’t think I should have to look at that – it’s degrading”. Encouragingly, more and more men are becoming involved in the feminist movement too, as it becomes increasingly acceptable for men to call themselves ‘feminists’. I saw evidence of this last October at the Cheltenham Literature Festival . Caitlin Moran was talking about her brilliant book, How to Be a Woman, and spontaneously, she and her male interviewer asked the entire room (of over 1000 people) to stand up and shout ‘I am  a feminist!’ – 99% seemed happy to oblige.

So what has caused this boom in feminism? Issues relating to women have been high on the news agenda of late. Ken Clarke and his ridiculous rape comments, anti abortion protests, Nadine Dorries (need I say more), Slut Walks, plastic surgery – the challenges facing modern women are numerous. And the Government is not on our side, as benefit cuts hit women hardest, with twice as many women as men expected to lose their jobs. But as the saying goes, for every action there is a reaction. This rise in activism is a sure sign that women (and men) are fed up, and are not afraid to say it. As Kat Banyard, founder of UK Feminista says in the Guardian, ‘Whether it’s Hugh Hefner’s toxic brand of sexism, cosmetic surgery supremo Mel Braham’s phoney solution to women’s lack of body confidence, or the coalition’s cuts to women’s financial independence, you have the power to take them on. Whoever you are, wherever you are, there is something you can do. So choose your target, get organised, and get taking action.’

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