Last year I worked with the Women’s Budget Group to produce some creative resources about feminist economics. When researching the content I was inspired by Katrine Marçal’s book ‘Who cooked Adam Smith’s dinner?’ Do read and share the Women’s Budget Group resources, available here, and if you’re interested to read more, then I thoroughly recommend Marçal’s book. Caroline Criado-Perez gives it a glowing endorsement: “I genuinely believe that if everyone read Katrine Marçal’s book, patriarchy would crumble…”

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Being an advocate for positive social change can sometimes feel like an endless, on-going slog; fighting for women’s rights is no exception. But, it’s worth pausing to reflect on the advances of feminism and growing awareness about discrimination against women. The recent combination of global uproar (#Metoo), outrage (BBC equal pay) and celebrity endorsement (activists at the Golden Globes) are giving the feminist movement powerful momentum. The media and entertainment industries are renowned for being double-edged, but here they’re bolstering the feminist cause.

I was interested to note that Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2017 was ‘feminism’, due to the number of times it was searched on their online dictionary over the course of the year. The spikes in lookups give valuable insight into why people are interested in feminism:

  • The Women’s March on Washington DC in January 2017, several months after Trump’s election, was the largest single day protest in American history. Millions of women took to the streets again last weekend to take part in women’s marches and protest at the gross injustices and discrimination faced by women all over the world. As civil rights activist Deray stated – “protesting is telling the truth in public; it may not be the answer, but it creates space for the answer”. The marches are a collective driving force, but they are also powerful because they provoke people to find out more about feminism.
  • Interest was also driven by entertainment and pop culture. Many people looked up the word ‘feminism’ after the release of The Handmaid’s Tale and the film Wonder Woman. It shows how important our popular culture is for sparking interest and driving forward social movements. Emma Watson is a powerful advocate and role model for the feminist cause, with her video to the United Nations viewed millions of times. My recent report for Unbound Philanthropy, Riding the Waves, explores how pop culture has the potential to catalyse large-scale social change.
  • More recent lookups of the word feminism have followed countless accounts of sexual assault and harassment featured in the news. Many of these were women courageous enough to share their own story, which only serves to highlight how significant storytelling is as a means of provoking empathy and creating change. I don’t buy Germaine Greer’s grumblings on the subject. In my book anyone brave enough to speak about his or her experiences of abuse, no matter when it happened, deserves to be lauded in public.

As the feminist movement gathers pace and reach there has been a surge in feminist writing for young people. Books like ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’ by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo are tapping into a nascent movement for change. The authors launched a crowdfunding campaign with the aim of raising $40,000 to create and print £1,000 copies, but they ended up raising more than $1 million. Their frustration arose from studies showing that out of 5,000 books 25% of them had zero female characters, and only 20% featured women with a job. Favilli and Cavallo’s book has become the most highly funded book in the history of crowdfunding, and is now on Volume 2. Others are following suit, with publishers seeking to balance the bookshelves in favour of women and girls.

The GirlGuides launched a national recruitment campaign with a feminist outlook telling women and girls to #Knowyourplace i.e. wherever she wants it to be. YouTube’s Creators for Change fellows and ambassadors are reaching out to millions with their inspirational feminist messages – see in particular Muslim Girl’s influential editor, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh and YouTube sensation Lilly Singh in conversation with Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube at Google Zeitgeist.

It’s always refreshing to hear men speaking openly as feminists. I particularly enjoyed Robert Webb on Channel 4 news speaking about ‘The Trick’. Although nothing can beat the pride I felt when my son announced that he was a feminist after reading a First News article on the subject.

We are still a long way off women experiencing the same rights as men. We need big shifts in policy, feminist economics in particular. But the latest wave of interest and action indicates that pop culture is pushing us in the right direction.

 

 

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