Yasmin Alibhai Brown’s piece in the Independent accuses young women of failing feminism. As a young woman and feminist I am angered and appalled by this; away from the insulated world of the comentariat and media young women have been organising for years, in student unions, in our local communities, online and out there in the real world.
In her viscous and unfounded attack on young women she states
“Shame on those women between 20 and 40 who have squandered the hard-won achievements of original feminism. And to add insult to self-injury, these younger generations seem proud that they dissed and dumped all we fought for.”
However from my experience I see women of all ages, teenagers to retirees, fighting hard to retain those rights and to further the cause of women’s liberation, often directly addressing and challenging the mistakes of the third wave, working hard to offer a feminism more inclusive of all women. I have been active in feminism since university where I met an amazing and inspiring group of young women who undertook various actions and events raising awareness and money for feminist causes at home and worldwide. We worked closely with local women and founded Merseyside Women’s Movement , a hub of grass roots women’s activism on Merseyside with which I am still involved today alongside many other inspiring women, many of us in our twenties and thirties.
Just recently I attended Reclaim the Night in Liverpool, a march organised by students, including women from the very same university women’s group I attended a few years ago. The event was host to inspiring women speakers of all ages from across the country, from councillors to writers. To suggest younger women are not interested or ignorant of the women who went before us is insulting, in my activist work I work along women of all ages, I have sat and listened intently to women speak of their experiences at Greenham common, of living in Palestine, of fighting for the rights of migrant and refugee women, today women still wear the colours of the suffragettes with full knowledge of their origins and the utmost respect for our predecessors. I have been in audiences alongside other young women to hear ‘old school’ feminists such as Germaine Greer and Selma James speak, young women who will debate and ask searching questions. I have seen young women at the forefront of fighting against the cuts, campaigning to keep childcare centres open, campaigning for better education around consent, volunteering for women’s services, organising resistance against fascism and organising events ranging from academic discussion forums to arts events and film screenings.
It seems to me Alibhai Brown is out of touch with what modern young women are up to, preferring to characterise us as the shallow stereotypes displayed in the mainstream media as opposed to actually listening to and engaging with us. By idolising the past, such as the controversial return of Spare Rib, a project with a lot of financial backing, she ignores the media women, especially young women, have created themselves with little or no backing. I would go so far to say she is out of touch with feminism as a whole.
Sites such as The F Word , Feministing and Feministe get thousands of hits and many writers such as Jessica Valenti and Laurie Penny write about feminist issues for mainstream publications such as the Guardian and New Statesman. Many smaller blogs and magazines allow women to express themselves on a wide range of feminist issues and projects such as“Everyday Sexism” and “Holla Back” have been extremely successful in highlighting issues around sexual harassment. Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency has faced torrents of abuse for highlighting sexism in video games and has inspired many women to speak out about the misogynist abuse they face online. Project such as Lady Geek and Little Miss Geekare dedicated to getting more women into tech, currently a very male dominated area. Fashion blogs such as My Arched Eyebrow and Fuller Figure Fuller Bust are giving women a platform to speak about fashion in a body positive context, helping young women become more confident and accepting of their bodies. The Women’s Room has been set up to address the dearth of female experts in the media and is currently campaigning to keep women on banknotes.
All these projects have been started by women in the 20-40 age bracket Alibhai condems, some are even younger such as teenager Lili Evans who helped start the Twitter Youth Feminist Army . Indeed many of the women behind these projects have been featured in mainstream media, such as newspapers and radio so one cannot help but wonder if Alibhai Brown has even made an effort to interact with young women instead of insulting us with slurs such as ‘They have cuter things on their little minds’. There is a multitude of similar projects out there, many spearheaded by young women addressing various feminist causes both in the UK and worldwide. Perhaps if Alibhai Brown looked around a bit more she would see us, thousands, millions of us. She would see we are not the ‘rare exceptions’ she assumes us to be. She might even go so far as to support us instead of shooting us down and insulting us, something which to me is grossly anti-feminist. She would see that there are young women campaigning against the sexual objectification she highlights in her piece, that there are young women fighting against violence against women, fighting to save women’s refuges and rape crisis centres, supporting their peers who are victims and survivors of rape and violence. Are all young women feminist warriors? No, but the same can be said of any age group. The truth is there are millions of us out there working hard to further the feminist cause, not using our platform to berate our sisters and tear them down, if anyone displays ‘foolish apathy and criminal self indulgence’ it is Alibhai Brown herself for smearing young women in such a derogatory, and dare I say it misogynistic, way whilst being ignorant of all the work we are doing.
originally posted on huffingtonpost.co.uk