Thursday, October 23, 2014

Let's make it a Permanent Wave

Feminism is back. The Third Wave, you could call it. Let's make it a wave to stay.
Let's make it a permanent wave, eh?

Personally, I don't surf, or wave my hair, or go in for the whole feminist wave thing. I have been a die-hard feminist since I was a child and noticed boys got advantages that girls didn't, wave or no wave. When I found there was a name and movement for fighting against those unfair advantages, I signed up without hesitation.

I was a feminist in the nineties when the Second Wave was all but forgotten and the backlash was in its heyday. In the nineties and naughties Feminism became the F-word, with almost all young women I encountered, when I was still young, including at university in a Politics department, railing against the word and the whole idea that women are systematically oppressed by men. There were two women with tenure in the Politics department of Auckland University, out of a lecturing staff of sixteen. Feminism was not politics. Politics was men's business, revolving around issues of war and conflict. Gender was a social issue; a women's issue.

I didn't get it. I pressed on and wrote a PhD on gender inequality and violence against women. The only feminist PhD in the department. It didn't get me a job. Gender studies and gender politics courses closed down in the naughties. Plenty of women, educated women, supported these closures. Feminism was old hat; conservative; square; complaining. Men didn't like it, women didn't respect it.

I moved on, retreating somewhat into my unfashionably feminist shell, sticking my feminist head out now and then to test the air and getting it bitten off, more often than not.

Now, in the 10s, I am noticing, as are many others, the steady increase in media and public attention to gender politics and 'feminism' is no longer a dirty word and is even becoming fashionable again.

Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman, I think got the ball rolling, making feminism hip again. Lorde helped by identifying as a feminist for the even younger set, and of course Malala Yousafzai's brave survival and campaigning for women's education and now Peace Prize. Hillary Clinton's probable run for the US presidency is bringing gender politics to the fore and Emma Watson's UN speech promoting the whole HeForShe campaign (, inviting men to recognise they have a gender and gender inequality is their issue too, has added more weight to the movement. It's obvious that men should be involved, but to date, few men have seen it that way.

Let's make it a permanent wave, hey? Let's make it a wave to stay, or until we understand that misogyny, in its many forms, undermines global humanity more systematically and catastrophically than any other form of global prejudice. Let's ride the wave until this is no longer the case.

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