Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Honoured feminists disassociate themselves from the f word

In SMH today - a piece by Nina Funnell.

This year, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, the Australian Postal Corporation printed four stamps commemorating the contributions of four feminist "trailblazers", Germaine Greer, Anne Summers, Eva Cox and Elizabeth Evatt.

Only here is the peculiar thing. During the lunch to launch the stamp, the word feminism was not uttered once. Zero. Zip. Niente.

Afterwards I spoke to Greer to get her thoughts on it all. "Feminism?" she queried. "Oh it's such an old fashioned word anyway." Cox and Summers went one step further, describing the word as both traditionalist and conservative.

"To be honest, I am not - and never have been - hung up on the word 'feminism','' says Summers. ''I never used it when I was young because feminism was seen as very conservative and backward-looking then. Today's young women have a similarly disdainful attitude. They see feminism as old-fashioned - just as we did when we were the same age. To me, what matters is that women (and men) support women's equality and all that is needed to achieve that. It's what we think and how we act that really matters."

Cox adds that feminism was an extremely conservative term and so "was not the term preferred by many '70s activists who used the term women's liberation [which was considered far more radical]".

Um, I'm sure I've seen and heard these women at feminist conferences. I'm sure I've heard them use the word amongst other feminists. What is going on here?

While I do understand that walking the walk is more important than talking the talk, and that the word has negative connotations that cause young women to not identify a feminist, I also don't understand why these older, active women want to distance themselves from the word. Did they have a meeting and agree on this?

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