On paper we’ve achieved equal rights. Perhaps that’s why feminism is seen as such a dirty word or, at least, the reason why some people seem to struggle with the term (including the world’s most powerful woman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel). To be a ‘feminist’ is to support equality, human dignity and self-determination for women. What could be objectionable in that?

For some people, however, the pendulum has already swung too far in the opposite direction. For example, girls already perform better than boys in school, including achieving the best exam results. They should, in theory, also have the strongest start in their careers. Yet this is, unfortunately, often where the success stories ends. Whether it’s in terms of salary, the division of jobs, or career opportunities, men are doing better. Only one in three management positions in the EU are filled by a woman and she will, on average, earn only three-quarters of what her male counterpart earns. These aren’t the only problems. Sexual abuse and harassment in the public sphere, at work, and at home has only recently been brought to light by the #MeToo debate.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Anna, who argues that feminism may have been important in the past but that it’s work today is largely finished. She accepts that there are still problems with equality in other parts of the world, but in her opinion there certainly aren’t in Europe.

To get a reaction, we put Anna’s comment to Ann Widdecombe, a former British politician in the Conservative party and author. Does she agree with Anna that gender equality only really needs to be fought for outside of Europe?

Yes, I would agree with that 100%, particularly given how today’s feminism has developed. Now, where she is absolutely right there is to make a distinction between the West and the rest of the world. Now the rest of the world, you still do desperately need of feminism – or in some of it – but not in the West. And the thing that saddens me is the battles of feminism in the seventies – of which I was part – was all about ‘give us the same opportunities as the men and we’ll show you we’re as good, if not better.’ Now, it’s not about ‘give us a level playing field,’ but ‘give us a playing field that’s tilted towards us.’ Things like all women short-lists, for example, or quotas on boards. That’s almost as if we’re saying ‘Oh dear, after all these decades, we couldn’t make it; now we have to have special measures.’ That, to me, is an admission of failure and it’s not true feminism. To me, feminism has always been about competing with a man on equal terms, not having your path artificially smoothed.

To get another perspective, we also put the same comment to Jennifer Baumgardner, a feminist writer, filmmaker, activist, and Executive Director/Publisher of the Feminist Press at the City University of New York (CUNY) from 2013 to 2017. Would she agree with Anna’s point?

No, I think it’s pretty obviously false. But I also understand how frustrating it is to have to operate – there was this moment in the ‘70s when feminism globally, and especially in the West, had this tremendous impact and was really visible. That sort of crystallised our view of what feminism is and certainly the world has changed for women a ton since then: in terms of their integration into the workplace, in terms of men being equal partners in the home – or closer to that – and then most profoundly in terms of how we look at gender.  For younger person, gender is so much more on a spectrum or a non-binary approach.

I think the way we talked about feminism 40 years has some validity today, but it’s absolutely a different conversation, with different words, but because we’re still using this word that has symbolic valences of the past, I think it can feel frustrating for people to talk about the world as if nothing’s changed, when things have changed profoundly. So, I think both things are true. I absolutely that women aren’t even – in all sorts of way of measuring it – on equal footing with men.

And vice versa. There are things where men are unfairly policed, and women have more freedom: I think in the realm of emotions and tenderness and things like that; the ability to be seen as legitimate as a caregiver. That’s an area where women are seen as legitimate as a parent or a caregiver and men are not if that’s their main job.

So I think there are all sorts of work we can do as a community and as humanity, but this word ‘feminism’ is really elastic and I think you, as an individual, calling yourself a ‘feminist’ have to know what it means to you. It isn’t this sort of static entity outside of us, it’s this personal, elastic term that you take on and make meaningful in your life.

Next up, we had a comment from Julian, who sees the threat of a reactionary backlash against feminism from today’s populist parties. He argues that sexism and discrimination is still ever-present in Europe, and that we should be careful not to take our achievements for granted. Is he right?

How would Ann Widdecombe respond?

Well, I’ll always go with not taking anything for granted. That’s a sentiment that I applaud whatever I am looking at. But, you have that word there, ‘sexist.’ Well sexism now is being defined just simply if somebody says ‘that is a sexist comment.’ Well, it may be nothing of the sort. It’s almost like we’re looking for questions of offense, looking for grievances, when they’re not really there anymore.

And actually, if you ask me about gender inequality, I would now say it’s the men who’ve got the real grievance. I mean, if you take for example, all women short-lists for Parliament – let’s just take that as one example – then you’ve got a man who’s grown up in a constituency, educated his own children there, used the local health services, knows it backwards, but can’t apply because it’s reserved for a woman. Now think what would happen if that the reversed were approved. Men are certainly at a disadvantage in some of the legal positions. We’ve seen it a lot recently, whereby a man is named the moment there is an investigation, doesn’t even wait until he’s charged; the woman remains anonymous throughout, even if she’s falsely accused him. Men are at a disadvantage in the family courts, where the presumption is nearly always with the women. So, don’t tell me we have gender inequality against women. If anything, it’s now against poor guys.

And what would Jennifer Baumgardner say to the same argument?

A political backlash to the surge in feminism right now? In the United States, we are definitely weathering something that looks like a backlash right now, in terms of who our leadership is – not just the President, but also Congress. The big surge in the movement right now is in some ways a reaction to our leadership. I find that this supports what your questioner said.

We’re in this moment of profound threats and now people aren’t feeling so complacent about feminism, but we’re in a worst spot than we would’ve been had we not been so complacent in the first place, where we said, ‘Well, I don’t love everything about Hillary Clinton.’ But it would be meaningful to have the first female President. It’s also kind of progressive. We made these choices as a country that reveals our underlying misogyny and our underlying lack of faith in equality. Now we’re dealing the reality of that.

Finally, we had a comment from Catherine, who is fiercely opposed to feminism. She argues that feminists are really “anti-female”, and that they “pretend” there are no differences based on gender. She thinks feminists tell women they can “have it all” and be loving mothers while pursuing a successful career, when the reality is that they must choose. Does she have a point?

What does Ann Widdecombe think?

I think she’s got a point, and the point is this: it is now regarded very much as a second-class choice if you decide to give up economic activity and become a full-time mother. Not just while the children haven’t yet gone to school, but you might want to be a full-time mother until they’ve left school. That is now regarded as very much a second-class choice; a lot of pressure is put on women, as she rightly says, to ‘have it all.’ It isn’t possible to always have it all; very few women do manage that. I think feminism should relax a lot more; it should be about choice, not about taking the path feminists think you ought to take.

And how would Jennifer Baumgardner reply to Catherine?

I’m a mother and it’s one of those things where I’m quite sentimental about it. I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and I also know my own relationship with my own mother is so profound. I think so much of how – and this might be a quite French feminist way of looking at things –we as human beings develop throughout our lives has to do with our first relationship, which is with our mother: How did they play out? Was it nurturing or not? Did she have to sacrifice much? There’s all kinds of things that become embedded in our understanding of what it means to be a woman or a person. It comes from that relationship, the profundity of that relationship.

So, I don’t that it’s anti-mother, but certainly that relationship is a fraught space, because there was a time when that was only role that was listed up for woman. To this day, I do think if you don’t have kids as a woman, there’s this kind of ‘raised eyebrow’ at you that you didn’t fulfil your destiny, or something’s weird about you. So the fact that feminism was trying to create a space for women not to be mothers can be misunderstood as demeaning mothers. Some puncturing of the mystique of the concept of motherhood had to happen to create any space for women not to choose that.

Do we still need feminism? Has equality between the genders been fully achieved in Europe today? Or is inequality and discrimination still deeply entrenched within society? Why is there so much hostility to the term “feminism”? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Wikipedia (CC) – Elvert Barnes; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Widdecombe – Wikipedia (CC) Brian Minkoff-London Pixels; Baumgardner – Wikipedia (CC) Ali Price


43 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Harry

    Various strands of feminism out there.

    • Matej

      Exactly.

  2. Ivan

    Only if the goal of humanity is to commit suicide. Show me a feminist & I will show you a man hater.

    • Zap

      Ah cmon bro. Plently of manhaters, its true, but havent we given them plenty of reason? Rape, rape and rape throughout history… And now in the West its beter but life sucks being a muslim, african or asian women. Even for the rich ones in most cases, ok. So now the liberated women are abusing their privilige . Isnt that logical? They have no culture, no historical rolemodels, etc. Still i think its the opposite bro. Not putting women in power is suicide. Would muslim countries be at war if women ruled them? Would african countries? And the big demographic explosion in Africa which definetly threatens europe in the next 50 years. Maybe you fear women bro, and i understand you, but why not give them a chance? We know what happens if men rule the world in any case…. (Hitler, stalin, etv. All men)

    • Ivan

      Well done for the standard socialist BS dogma comrade but the reality is the vast majority of men would kill rapists, in the West wars are fought by men to protect women and children & I like most men would give my life to protect a woman so to claim I am afraid of women is ludicrous, idiotic, lazy thinking but mostly sexiest..

      Ps. Please do not call me ‘bro’, I chose my friends very carefully.

      This discussion is very long but well worth a watch so please educate yourself.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xc7DN-noAc

    • Franc

      So feminist = manhater?

    • Stina

      Thanks, I needed that laugh today!

    • Ivan

      Goodbye inoffensive comment, hello EU Article 13 dictatorship. 8|

    • zz

      that’s a really uninformed opinion. feminists want equal rights, not the destruction of men.

  3. Zap

    Yes. But more second wave and less third wave

  4. Jurgena

    Not any more…in all this time women would have assimilate all principle that characterized feminist principle…. now we just need to support new feminism arisen from poor countries with restrict mentality…

    • Franc

      So in short yes. Women in less fortunate circumstances are the ones who need help more than ever

    • Jurgena

      Yes But not the help of new feminism of occidental….we have to help them with the same principle that former feminists had protest against society in 1930-40-50-60-70

  5. Jan

    S**t like this is why we still need feminism.

    • Kicki

      THANK YOU!!

  6. Stadex

    Some feminists don’t want equality, they want to disadvantage men, they hate men.

  7. Lilli

    Well I lack to see what rights women don’t have in Europe anymore and if they talk about gender pay gap then that’s already been debunked for years, so really any feminist that talks about gender pay gap isn’t really educated and is pretty much going to be a man hater.

  8. Franc

    Without reading the article
    .. yes. Rights are maintained and improved because people advocate them every day. As soon as you stop defending something that is already in place, it will be discredited and put on the back burner unless there is money involved

    • Ivan

      Name one law or right men have that women don’t, just one.

    • Franc

      You didn’t answer the question. Laws are useless if they’re not enforced, which continues to happen, not just against women. Naming a law is a stupid thing to ask me, and your demand is exemplary. Asking women to bear the burden of proof, when it’s up to you to do your own research. And a law where? In Europe? France? England ? Where?

  9. Kicki

    I don’t understand how this “debate” can even be a thing. Here are but a few reasons as to why we need feminism:
    – Not all women around the world have the same opportunities and rights as men.
    – Societal expectations have raised women (and men) to believe that a large portion of their worth is determined by their appearance.
    – Societal expectations have raised women (and men) to expect certain types of submissive behaviour of women, such as “nourishing” and “timid”, while words like “protector” and “strong” is more reserved for those that just happen to have dangly bits between their legs.
    – Male privilege is alive and thriving.
    – Women are catcalled and harassed on the street.
    – Sexual harassment is also common in the workplace or at school.
    – Rape and sexual assault cases aren’t taken seriously. Exhibit A: when the world elects a sexual harasser as the president, you need feminism…
    – Men suffer from psychological problems that are more likely to kill them, because they’re seen as “weak” and “emotional”, coincidentally “feminine” traits (load of rubbish), if they seek help openly. Why should men commit suicide over the prospect of being found “girly”? Is that worse than death? What does that tell you about internalised misogyny and how women are viewed.
    – There is a lack of women in certain fields and in leadership roles.
    – The government makes decisions about women’s bodies.
    – The wage gap. It IS a thing, and more faceted than you think. Do not dismiss it simply as per hearsay. Read.SEVERAL.academic.articles.
    – “Woman” or “girl” is used as a derogatory term to insult people one finds to be of lesser worth, bad at something, or beneath you.
    There is so much more that is problematic on how women are represented, conditioned, and treated by society. Patriarchy isn’t even beneficial for men, and feminists do NOT hate men. We fight for men as well, for EVERYONE to have it better. How is that so bad?

    • Ivan

      .

      An interesting list most of which can be explained by biological & temperament differences between the sexes, cultural & religious differences across the world and Socialist dogma via intersectional politics.

      The only issue I would ask about is your assertion that ‘The government makes decisions about women’s bodies’, who do you want to make those decisions & if you are referring to abortion why does your right to control your own body supersede the rights of the unborn child to life ?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-AHLibO2rQ

    • Kicki

      Explained, perhaps. Excused and justified, never.

      If abortion is banned, women who do not want a child will be forced to have one. Children will be born unwanted. Sometimes, they may be walking reminders of rape, even. It takes two to make a child, but most of the time, the unwanted child becomes the sole responsibility of the mother, whose life it ruins, especially if the mother is a teenager. Her and her child’s prospect will be grim, at best, often costing tax payers more and contributing to overpopulation. If the unborn mush of non-sentient cells has a right to “life”, doesn’t the mother? The child and the mother may live under horrendous social and economic circumstances, that none of them chose to be in. To me, that’s not really a “life”…
      Also, when does sentient human life even begin? Most abortions take place in the first part of the trimester, when a fetus is attached by the placenta and umbilical chord to the mother, thus, its health relies on the mother and it cannot be regarded a separate entity as it cannot exist outside of her womb. And if fertilised eggs used for IV are thrown away (as so many are), is that also abortion?
      Whether you agree or not with abortion, if abortion is banned, it will still not stop being practiced. All that will happen is that thousands upon thousands of women will die, because it will be done in unsafe ways. Banning abortions is condemning women to die, and I don’t understand how there is an argument against that particular point no matter what stance you have on the matter.

    • Samuel

      What do you mean with “socialist dogma”? What would you consider a right worthy of protection?

    • Ivan

      ‘Explained, perhaps. Excused and justified, never’ ? Even when the explanation is based on facts & science as opposed to the way a few people feel ? Seriously ?

      Hospitals across the world are full of people who can not survive on their own so should we kill them too ?

      Care homes across the world are full of people who can not survive on their own so should we kill them too ?

      Billions of children under 16 across the world can not survive on their own so should we kill them too ?

      Attempting to justify mass murder because its inconvenient is an incredibly bad Indictment on Western culture and even more so on women.

      Maybe women taking a little personnel responsibly would work equally as well…. or you could just blame men.

    • Ivan

      Samuel Byström There are many rights worthy of protecting chief of which is the right to life, without it you have nothing worth protecting..

      Socialism ‘always’ leads to the same result, death.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQqnNqVDlig

    • Kicki

      Did you seriously just ignore everything I pointed out? Opting out by ridiculing? By your own logic, banning abortion would be the last thing we should do, because, we already have enough people to take care of that we can’t take care of. Not sure how pointing that out even speaks in your favour.
      Why do anti-abortionists only care about life until it’s born?
      Anyway, say whatever you want, because when it comes down to it, really, there is no banning abortion; there is only legal and illegal abortion. If we do as you would prefer, it’s a death sentence for women. And that is a fact.

    • Samuel

      Kicki , let’s just disengage. He’s nothing but a “pro lifer”. His identity is built around a lie about red pills regarding female oppression of men and ‘actual truths’ about the sanctity of potential while disregarding the rights of the actual.

      Nothing more to see.

    • Ivan

      Samuel (< -- Troll) It's a seriously screwed world when saying that valuing life over some woman's inability to control themselves is seen as a bad thing, but in your case not having children is probably a good thing for the human race. Thanks for your SJW virtual signalling though, however meaningless it was. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_sGn6PdmIo

    • Kicki

      Hahahaha “Their inability to control themselves”? Really? It’s not that simple and you MUST know that. PLEASE don’t tell me you’re that retarded. For starters, contraception doesn’t always work, and many women don’t get to have a say in when men exploit their bodies for pleasure anyway, which can result in pregnancy. If you cannot see why it would be wrong to force something they do not want upon someone, especially in those situations, you are not only a disgrace to your sex, but walking proof that we need feminism, still. I cannot argue with someone who is not even open to listen, even though they were the ones asking a question to begin with. That is why I will not reply further. Good day.

    • Liudvikas

      Please explain me then why the heck you fight for killing girls with abortion and why do you need same rights as men you women are different, men’s are better at their things and women are better in their things

    • Ivan

      Kicki If it doesn’t work for you but it does for billions of other people maybe you are the retarded one comrade 8| Have you tried reading the instructions ?

      If you can’t see why killing babies is wrong clearly you should not have the privilege of having one. Kill a child outside the womb & go to prison for a very long time, kill a child in the womb & get to pat yourself on the back as a poor hard done to victim of the none existent male hierarchy. The women of the 1% enjoying their privilege while claiming victim hood is quite pathetic.

  10. catherine benning

    Judy is a woman I identify with. Feminists do not work for women.They work for pseudo women who want to take on a male persona. I am not one of them. And never want to be. From a feminist ideology It is seriously against the rights of women to be female reasoned and respected for that female persona they enjoy. Feminists work on promoting women to emulate men and pretend they love being that way. They don’t. And women do not find satisfaction trying to shed their natural sense of well being the way they have been pushed to believe.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71TsgQavVkM

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJkFQohIKNI

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmhxLQLFqh8

  11. catherine benning

    Judy is a woman I identify with. Feminists do not work for women.They work for pseudo women who want to take on a male persona. I am not one of them. And never want to be. From a feminist ideology It is seriously against the rights of women to be female reasoned and respected for that female persona they enjoy. Feminists work on promoting women to emulate men and pretend they love being that way. They don’t. And women do not find satisfaction trying to shed their natural sense of well being the way they have been pushed to believe.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71TsgQavVkM

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJkFQohIKNI

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmhxLQLFqh8

    We never needed this political delusion called ‘Feminism’ as it has been presented. We need women who knew how to work political o raise the stature and needs by understanding and admiring genuine female differences in their nature. Not an idealism that doesn’t even want to acknowledge it exists.

  12. EU Reform- Proactive

    The Feminism vs Masculism political war” in the West is a fight of relativity.

    Prevailing 1st to 3rd world differences in Asia & Africa in that respect are enormous and still a long way to be resolved. “Civilizing” the world- including both genders- on many levels is an ongoing evolutionary process- everywhere.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masculism

    At least all aggrieved genders have access to a quasi functioning court of law in Europe. This rule applies to everyone. Below that- go work it out!

    Reproduction rates in Europe are alarmingly low. Women on the streets and on barricades should be unnecessary. Both pro & anti abortionists have a point. Governments need to consider both.

    Suggestion:

    Services like public health, education & security etc are state (all tax payers) sponsored. The result of social “mishaps”- like naive & reckless sexual indulgences- causing unwanted pregnancies should be “sensibly considered & regulated”- by all sovereign states- not the EU.

    Today, enough education and preventative means are available for every responsible person (both genders) to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Those failing (both- takes 2) have to carry the pleasant or unpleasant (also financial) consequences. Juveniles are the (financial) responsibility of their parents. That’s life!

    Legal abortion should & must be granted by a panel of doctors for women with (serious) medical conditions after careful considerations. All other unwanted babies (incl. from repeat “offenders”) must be born, handed over to state to be professionally cared for and/or offered for adoption eventually.

    The law should never allow abortion (legal killings) on demand by immature and irresponsible- would- or would not be parents. Forget the “when life begins” argument/excuse. Ethically it remains @ conception.

    The state can/must contribute “to up” the low EU birth rate and banish any sinister thoughts in its immigration policy. Rather spend the (tax) money on pro life for ones own citizens, instead on “burials of the dead & innocent” of mistakes by the Immature’s. Nor waste it on immigration experiments with unknown outcomes.

  13. catherine benning

    Do we still need feminism?

    This added link is what ‘feminism’ and the ‘equalities’ action has produced. Of course it is denied, but. this is how men really feel. The only men who pick up with women who believe they are capable of shooting their own snakes are desperately in need of mothering themselves. Only men who have the persona of a ‘Peter Pan’ is interested in being second class citizen in the house he is trying to be head of. That is why, today, women constantly feel deserted, anxious and needy. No matter the position they find themselves in at their employment level. And this horrendous situation has grown out of all proportion under this so called ‘Feminist’ movement.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoFoZwYgew8

    I repeat ‘feminism’ is a ‘male’ or ‘masculine’ promotional organisation. And they are too ignorant intellectually to understand the root to satisfying the psyche of either man or woman, or, indeed the children they produce. Which leads to total dissatisfaction in every level of the human condition.

    What we ‘all’ need is a movement that is equipped with a knowledge of how nature has chosen to create gender satisfaction in order to fulfil the needs of the
    human condition. As, you cannot better the lot of one gender without also bettering the lot of the other. It has to be a joint movement for it to have any purposeful effect.

  14. M.par

    Successful women and men in the community are those who do not offer their sexual aspects. Unfortunately, the type of cover – whether male or female – has made the human reality of a person marginalized. Women and men have a community role that they can perform in terms of their physical capacity. Appropriate coverage makes humanity a consideration, not gender.

  15. jthk

    We cannot always use how many women are occupied senior/leadership posts to determine inequality exists still. Why can’t we see that many women prefer to sacrifice their career for their children. If I am the boss, I of course would promote a man who can dedicate all his time in his career rather than a woman who have children. More importantly, I do not see how woman can fully devoted to their children if she has a full time job. As a woman, if we want our children be brought up the way we wish and dedicate more time to take care our children, we have to give up other things that are less important such as career.

  16. jthk

    As we can see in modern society, woman are better educated and have also themselves a very good career. However, many women have also missed the chance to find a partner. So, equality is not having the law to be distorted so that woman can have everything including to replace man. It is always a matter of choice, what to give up and what to pursue. By blaming the society, blaming others and going to the street, woman can only show their strength is insufficient to master their own destination.

  17. jthk

    When women are still proud of their husband and their children’s success, please forget equality. Because women are required to support their love ones and sacrifice is required. It is a matter of choice. Once our own choice is made, do not blame others that we cannot have everything.

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