Don’t rebrand feminism: reclaim it

Kristin has an article in The Scavenger:

Declared dead, irrelevant, unfashionable, yet simultaneously responsible for a host of social ills, feminism has a bad rep.In fact, feminism’s image in the mainstream media has been pretty awful over the last decade or so.

To give just a few British examples: ‘Bra-burning feminism has reached burn-out’, cried The Times in 2003, while the left-wing New Statesman bewailed ‘Where have all the feminists gone?’ (2006). This September, The Daily Mail declared: ‘It’s feminism we have to thank for the spread of fast-food chains and an epidemic of childhood obesity’.

These accusations affect how people see feminism. Research by Christina Scharff, Lecturer in Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London, seems to bear this out.

Based on interviews with 40 German and British women, Scharff investigated women’s perceptions of feminism. Three quarters didn’t see themselves as feminists, and the language they used to distance themselves from the F word revealed how media stereotypes have become ingrained in the vernacular.

The non-feminist women explained that they thought of feminists as: 1) unfeminine; 2) man-haters; and 3) lesbians. Stereotypes of dungarees, rugby shirts, hairy legs, short hair, a so-called ‘ugly’ appearance and, predictably, bra-burning (a long-held allusion to an event which never actually happened) accompanied their explanations.

And yet when asked to give examples of feminists they knew who fitted this description, no one could.