‘Feminist politics aims to end domination, to free us to be who we are – to live lives where we love justice, where we can live in peace. Feminism is for everybody.’
bell hooks, Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics
The following is a copy of my letter published in yesterday’s Sunday Independent (Feb 19th, 2017), addressing the repeated misrepresentation of feminism in recent times by one of its journalists. This kind of thing is certainly not new. Nevertheless, it does a dire disservice to a movement that, while not perfect, has won more rights for women than any other. In short, journalists and commentators: by all means be critical but in doing so, be fair and be factual.
I am writing to take issue with two articles by Niamh Horan (January 29th and February 12th). Both reinforce archaic gender stereotypes which do a grave disservice to women and men. Both also misrepresent feminism and its aims.
Contrary to what Ms Horan infers, feminism is focused on injustice, not domination. Its wins for women are wide-ranging. To list them all would be impossible but selected highlights include: the establishment of vital services for domestic violence, reproductive health, and sexual violence; outlawing marital rape; demanding equal pay for equal work and the right to maternity leave; ensuring women have equality of access to education; winning women the vote.
The success of second wave feminism led to a well-documented and sustained backlash, orchestrated in part by sections of the media. Ms Horan’s articles could certainly be construed as part of this effort to undermine the gains of the movement by misrepresenting its aims and misappropriation of blame.
Ms Horan should understand that feminism is not monolithic; it is a diverse, vibrant school of thought and activism. Feminism does not dictate what women want; it fights for the conditions that allow women to choose in every aspect of their lives.
A longstanding aim of feminism has been the realisation of a more livable world for all, women and men alike. Ms Horan would do well to remember the words of Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote in 1792: “I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”