Elevate Difference

Reclaiming the F Word: The New Feminist Movement

What happened to the feminist movement that meant so much to all of us in the 1970s? Is it dead and gone for good? The answer is no, and UK authors Catherine Redfern and Kristin Aune are on a mission to spread the word. “Article after article proclaimed that feminism was dead,” they write, “and stated that young people in particular are uninterested in this once vital movement. This simply didn’t tally with what we had seen through our research and involvement with the feminist community.”

One of the most interesting things that Redfern and Aune do in Reclaiming the F Word is to compare the objectives of the previous movement with the objectives of the current one. According to their research, the demands of the 1970s’ women’s liberation movement were not all that different from our desires today. In chapters devoted to each of the seven issues they deem to be relevant in the past and today, they explore both issues as well as solutions.

For example, “Liberated Bodies” highlights a number of issues, from eating disorders to female genital mutilation to abortion to “jumping off the beauty treadmill.” The “Sexual Freedom and Choice” chapter opens with a discussion of what prevents women from making free choices. This can range from being forced to have sex with her husband to agreeing to an uncomfortable sexual practice in order to maintain a relationship. The authors go on to highlight specific sexual issues that women face today, including sexual double standards, objectification, sex education (or lack thereof), and homophobia. Redfern and Aune also analyze violence against women—including sexual assault, physical abuse, and harassment—and draw attention to the ways in which patriarchal attitudes impact violence, and how violence against prostitutes has its own specific concerns. They offer practical solutions such as organizing public awareness campaigns, better laws, and education programs.

Many of us know all too well that the fight is not over for equal opportunities in the workplace, while working women still struggle with being expected to take on the lion’s share of the housework and child-rearing. A chapter devoted to this issue once again illustrates the strengths of the book: providing statistics and stories from real women to back up claims, and then providing real solutions. Redfern and Aune suggest that expanding women’s career choices, challenging global poverty and working conditions, fighting for pay equality, challenging discrimination at work, and promoting equality in the home will make a huge difference for women. This is not just a book of “feminist complaining;” it is a call to arms against injustice and a blueprint for how to get there.

Chapter five tackles a sticky subject, one that people are not supposed to broach in polite conversation: politics and religion. Today, women are still fighting barriers when it comes to running for office and even getting to the polls. On the religion side, Redfern and Aune offer insight into how women perceive religion as well as how some feminists have tried to account for their faith.

Many feminists believe that sexism is so ingrained into popular culture today that it will require a major overhaul of media in all forms to fix the problem. In a chapter devoted to freeing popular culture from sexism, the authors tackle hip hop and its lyrical messages, sexism in advertising, gender stereotyping, and celebrity culture as it pertains to women like Paris Hilton or Miley Cyrus.

The final demand of feminists today is “Feminism Reclaimed,” as many of the women interviewed by the authors felt that feminism itself needs a revival. The backlash against it, leading many women to fear self-identifying as feminists, is not helpful. Neither is misrepresenting feminism or trying to typecast all feminists.

Reclaiming the F Word provides an excellent overview of all of the issues currently faced by women not only in the UK, but also around the globe. By highlighting the concerns women have today and offering powerful suggestions on how to eradicate sexism, readers feel empowered that they too can change the world.

Written by: April D. Boland, July 28th 2010