Feminism declared dead, again
Louise Livesey // 29 August 2007
Feminism has more lives than an average herd of very lucky cats, it’s seems. It’s been declared dead again by Magnus Linklater (see picture to right which I’ve captioned “Would you take feminist history 101 from this man?”) in the Times Online (At Times Like This, It’s Better to Just Be One of the Boys”), Linklater writes
“Sometimes it’s a relief to be a man. Watching, at a safe distance, the collapse of feminism is a bit like seeing a huge chunk of melting glacier falling into the sea. You know it’s a sign of something serious going on, but you’re glad not to be anywhere near when it happens.”
What sparked Linklater off is comments by Fay Weldon and Germaine Greer at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Now both Weldon and Greer have had chequered relationships with the activist feminist movement throughout their careers. However, setting that aside, apparently Weldon said that most young women
have no concept of what feminism once meant – and care less. The old battles are history, she said, the new ones don’t interest them very much. The idea that there was a time when a woman was not allowed to buy anything on hire purchase without a man’s signature now seems almost prehistoric. The early Weldon bestsellers, about women trapped in oppressive, male-dominated societies, have become, she said, “historical documents”, their arguments meaningless to a generation of women who are in charge of their own lives, choose to marry or not, to have children or not, and who generally pursue their careers with exactly the same goals in mind as their male competitors. Only the older career woman, worried about a life ahead without a family to fall back on, still feels there is a battle to be fought.From Times Online
Now whether or not Weldon did say this (there are other glaring inaccuracies in the article), Linklater’s interpretation of it is amazingly, well, reaching. Firstly, yes Weldon’s early books have become accurate historical documents of a society which no longer exists – her first book was published in 1968 and her two most famous, Praxis and Life and Loves of a She-Devil were published in 1978 and 1983 respectively. Weldon then identifies that the battles are different, women born after the start of the second wave of feminism have never known life before it. That’s not a failing, it’s an accident of chronology. So we are used to having some choices which for our mothers were hard fought victories.
The only think not so easy to review is Weldon’s reported claim that young women don’t care. And frankly feminist activism as a relatively young woman would be much easier if older feminists didn’t keep declaring us invisible or irrelevant. Weldon seems to have done it here, Greer did it in the introduction to The Whole Woman, Chesler did it repeatedly throughout the 1990s. Simply the fact that you’re reading this implies how wrong-headed this notion is – as does a myriad of other things including the resurrection of the London Reclaim the Night marches, LadyFests, innumerable blogs and so forth. So maybe, just maybe, the question we should ask is this: To all those older feminists who disbelieve in our existence, what do we need to do to gain your support rather than your dismissal?