A week or so ago, I was sat on the train leaving London, reading the April issue of Marie Claire. Before I go on, I must stress that I do truly love this magazine, but the editor’s letter this month jarred with me for some reason. I tried to ignore it and give the benefit of the doubt, but it kept on niggling at me and I had to write it down. It read:
“It may be the explosion of social media, or it could be the straightened circumstances young women find themselves in thanks to the past five years of economic downturn, but feminism is, to put in mildly, having a moment”.
I had to really dig into my brain to figure why it made me feel a bit funny all over. It might be because it sounded like a flippant fashion trend, such as: “It may be the cold rainy weather, or the watery circumstances that young women find themselves in thanks to the unsheltered shops on Oxford Street, but flip flops are, to put it mildly, having a moment”. Maybe it was also because feminism is suggested here to only really have a proper look-in because ‘of the past five years’ of shitty economic mess or the fact that we can all rant and rave on Twitter. I don’t think I’m going mad here, but feminism is NOT “having a moment”; feminism has always been a word to sum up equality between men and woman. I sincerely hope that the idea of equality is not just having a moment in 2014 – if so I think we should all be VERY worried.
Thanks to Caitlin Moran’s book How To Be A Woman published in 2011 the WORD feminism did have a very big media moment, but it’s not to say that it didn’t exist before, or that aspects of feminism weren’t already going on around us. I certainly wouldn’t want feminism to be thought of as something that’s currently on trend and on the ‘what’s hot’ list.
It IS good that fashion magazines are talking about feminism, it truly is. In particular I love the debates that ELLE have had recently and I was lucky enough to attend an event last year about how women can be feminist AND feminine. I love the conversations around the fact that it’s totally possible to wear heels and be a feminist or wear floral floaty dresses but still stomp around a board room in the same professional manner as men.
It openly challenged stereotypes that women can be all things they want to be, and I liked the way that ELLE brought that to the table in an unapologetic way, (they are a fashion magazine that focuses on aesthetics after all.) Also Lorraine Candy seems like a tough cookie and to talk about these topics publicly with some elements of unavoidable controversy has to be admired.
Talking about feminism, I was reminded of the Spice Girls the other day and I smiled when I remembered how they were the biggest feminists of the 90’s but didn’t take themselves too seriously. No one sat around writing long essays or screaming at other women on Twitter. They just publicly misbehaved in a PG way, and inspired a nation of young girls to buy massive platform shoes, shout about Girl Power and feel invincible and truly equal to men. I liked how casual the term was- it wasn’t offensive or aggressive or serious- it just succeeded in making young girls feel like they can do whatever they want to do, and have fun whilst doing it.
The Spice Girls were also really naughty. Geri pinched Prince Charles bum, they would run away from their agents and sneak off in the middle of the night. Anyone that has watched Spice World The Movie will understand that sort of mischievous vibe they had, and the film sort of sums up their spontaneous, strange approach to life. The other funny thing I always noticed in that film is that all the men are totally at the girls beck and call. No one was the boss of them. Their poor manager (Richard E Grant) cannot control them, Meatloaf (LOL, the driver) gets annoyed when they won’t get back on the tour bus. They run away from Michael Barrymore (not sure what exactly his role is meant to be) and dress up in military suits and march around, kicking and shouting. They are not being extreme or serious, they are just being girls, but being powerful girls at the same time.
I don’t necessarily want it to be come across like I’m ‘bored’ with the feminism chat, because it is quite the opposite. I feel more strongly about the subject that ever before especially as I go deeper and deeper into my career and into my life in general which can only get more complicated. But if I ever had to sit down with a young girl now who was looking for advice, (like I was in the 90s!) I would want to inspire her to explore and believe in girl power. I wouldn’t want to approach the concept of equality or feminism in a way that is deemed to be “fashionable” or a topic that will ever have an expiry date; I would encourage her to think about gender equality even if it’s not being covered by her favourite magazines that month.