Feminism is a Dish Best Served Diverse, Inclusive and Global.

Feminism is a Dish Best Served Diverse, Inclusive and Global.

If your feminism isn’t diverse, inclusive & global you’re not doing it right. A response to the Sunday Telegraph feature for International Womens Day 2013.

Last week, in the lead up to International Women’s Day, the Sunday Telegraph ran a piece called Why we need the ‘F’ word in which four high profile women explained why they call themselves feminists. It’s positive in general to see feminism getting a thumbs up from the mainstream press, but it just wasn’t enough for me.

If you think you understand the absolute necessity of modern feminism, but every representative you choose to promote that idea is a white, British, able-bodied, professionally successful, cis-female, then I think you need to diversify your worldview.

The reasons given by each contributor to explain why we still need feminism were all totally valid – they included the pressure on professional women to have children or be seen to have sacrificed their femininity, the way women are defined and dictated to by fashion, and the persistent view that a woman’s value decreases at the exact rate that her age increases.

Violence against women is all about control. Photo: Shutterstock. First used to illustrate Solnit’s article “A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year”.

There’s so much to be said about why we need feminism, you couldn’t hope to cover everything in one article. To some extent I think everyone needs feminism for different and personal reasons. But there are certain feminist issues that are indispensable if you seek to broadly address the question of why the movement still matters. The worldwide statistics on murder, assault and domestic violence point to a menacing pattern of violence against women that poisons every place on Earth where a woman treads. Rebecca Solnit recently wrote an in-depth exploration of these facts at Guernica Mag, which I’d urge you to check out if you haven’t seen it yet.

The upshot is that on a global level, just being a woman is risky. And especially so if you are in any way not what most people are expecting when they hear the word ‘woman’. Like if you’re transgender or you present as masculine or you are perceptibly ‘different’. And I know that you can’t please everyone all the time, but if you’ve got room for four women to talk about feminism then you’ve got room for at least some of them to be non-white, or transgender, or disabled, or unemployed, or any of the other million shades of female experience that is out there.

And why are there still women all over the world whose experience of gender and sexuality are outside of wider public consciousness anyway? In great part it’s because the mainstream media won’t make room for them in its definition of women and feminism. It keeps them at the fringes of society. It runs a four page spread on feminism that almost entirely fails to represent them or any of the most pressing feminist issues.

I call them the most pressing issues not because the points that were covered weren’t valid and that there shouldn’t be a space for them to be discussed. It’s just that lots of people are going to die or have their lives torn apart today because of the many feminist issues that weren’t discussed in the article. And that makes those issues more urgent for me. Or at least it makes them crucial to the conversation. To leave those things out is to censor some of the most important and frightening reasons that we still need feminism.

I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of why I felt so compelled to respond to an article that I only fault for the things it left out (which is, after all, better than having to respond to an article that actively seeks to harm the feminist movement). I think that maybe the reason is that I am scared about why those issues were left out. I’m scared that they were left out because they are just a bit too gruesome.

It doesn’t make for relaxing Sunday afternoon reading to hear that a third of the women murdered in the US each year are killed by an intimate-partner, and that in South Africa a woman is killed every six hours for the same reason (saynotoviolence.org). Or that despite there being an average of around 80,000 rape victims a year in the UK, there are only about 1,000 rape convictions (The Guardian). But we can’t leave these stories out of the mainstream – hiding them away, leaving it up to the minority subcultures that are used to fighting for their lives to face up to them – just so the Telegraph’s readers don’t have to be confronted with the horrible, complete truth of why we still need feminism.

Maybe I’m being naïve or generous here, but I think I might have more faith in the Telegraph’s readers than their own editors do. Because I think they can take it. The editors think they’ve got to give their readers a mirror; that the audience won’t grasp the significance of the subject matter if they can’t see themselves in the women talking about the issue. But women of every race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic situation and physical ability are united by the many ways they are crushed under an anti-feminist society. And the Telegraph editors do their readers a disservice by thinking that they won’t or can’t understand that.

The four women who contributed to the piece all made strong arguments for the importance of feminism, but I think a diverse, inclusive and global view is essential if you’re going to make the strongest possible argument. And why wouldn’t you want to make the strongest possible argument in an article that expressly sets out to prove why feminism matters? As it stands, the article barely skimmed the surface. In fact it didn’t even do that – it hovered way above the deep and murky ocean of reasons why we need feminism; always keeping a safe distance, never looking beyond what is easy to reach and clear to see.

Photo: Jack Hughes