Confusion over feminism….?

// 10 August 2008

The Daily Mail seems to have excelled itself in confusion this week. First was Anna Pasternak’s pity-party article about how she thinks responding to life’s events quite well has left her single (her argument seems to be because she didn’t fall apart over being a single parent no-one wants to date her – of course I might suggest that it has more to do with the patriarchally inspired resistance to looking after other people’s kids and wanting female partners to be able to be totally devoted to just you, as the man, and not some other group of more deserving emotional dependents). I’m not going to spend too long on this as our lovely Kate Smurthwaite over at Cruella has already done a fantastic (and way better than I could) disassembling of it. Kate warns readers not to read the original article whilst eating breakfast because of the chance of food/computer monitor interaction as you spit with rage – I’d warn the same about Kate’s article as you may find laughing hard as the same outcome! However just to give you a taste, Pasternak quotes a “friend” who, after her husband walked out, feels she has no idea “how to be a woman any more” (one might suggest breathing kind of guarantees that for her or that perhaps the problem is not her being a “woman” but the idiot husband who seems to have destroyed her self-confidence during or before walking out).

But yesterday the Daily Mail (and others) were reporting that Dr Jessica Ringrose from the Institute of Education has called for feminism to be taught to girls in school to help with their self-esteem. Ringrose’s research has found teenage girls are increasingly likely to rely on sexual attractiveness as the main measure of self-worth and are increasingly using sexual insults in all-female conversations.

‘It’s important for girls to have a forum for discussing these issues so “feminism” isn’t such a dirty word,’ said Dr Ringrose. Lessons in feminism could also help overcome the myth that men and women are now equal. Dr Ringrose said most schools see gender equality in terms of exam results, where girls now outshine boys in most subjects. But in the adult world, women are still paid far less and face dilemmas trying to balance work and family life. Feminism needs to be ‘reinvigorated’, said Dr Ringrose.”

From The Daily Mail

It’s only her suggestions as to who might be role models which make me roll my eyes somewhat. I love first wave feminists as much as the next person but does a 13 year old necessarily see their relevance – after all the 1900’s were a very different time where most of these girls would have been either in service or working in factories and agricultural settings, some would have been prostituted, or, the eldest amongst them, married. Why not flag up women achieving stuff now, and recently, who have made a difference – I can think of a few, Margaret Cho for example or Anita Roddick or Eve Ensler? What about mixing in Inga Muscio along with Virginia Woolf? The issue of feminist heroines or role models is a vexed one, I know. Both Elaine Showalter in the Guardian and Natasha Walter on our very own site have alluded to those who can and should be included who are contemporary figures as well as historical ones. Thing is by flagging only the historical and the fictional (Ringrose also mentioned Lisa Simpson) we make feminism appear either dead or illusory – and it is neither. Lets focus on the vibrancy of the movement(s) and see what we can compile…. So, dear readers, who would you nominate for the top 50 feminist heroines/role models?

Comments From You

Polly styrene // Posted 10 August 2008 at 12:58 pm

I’m not sure I’d define Anita Roddick as a feminist heroine, as she (was) basically a capitalist – I understand the Body Shop discouraged unionisation among its workers when under her ownership and wasn’t quite as right on as its publicity would have us believe.

My personal nomination for a feminist heroine is Nuon Phaly who underwent unbelievably horrible experiences in Cambodia’s killing fields, (including her 12 year old daughter being raped and killed in front of her) but went on to help other women refugees cope with their experiences and to go on with their lives.

Ruth Moss // Posted 10 August 2008 at 4:01 pm

Not sure Anita Roddick’s such a great example tbh. I was devastated when she sold The Body Shop to (animal testing and Nestl√© owned) L’Oreal. Talk about selling out!!

Redheadinred // Posted 10 August 2008 at 4:27 pm

I can only imagine the backlash that would ensue over teaching feminism in schools. They’d be accused of brainwashing, encouraging man-hating and bolshiness in girls and there’d be hysterical articles about how we Must Save Teh Mens from the claws of the lying evil feminists. BUT, I still believe they should do it. Yes, old-fashioned role models are not the best examples to use. Most first-wave feminists were as racist and classist and ableist as those white male ‘heroes’ we’re all taught to worship from history. Like Churchhill, Freud, etc etc. And they don’t exactly represent issues relevant to our times. I sure would love Margaret Cho to be an example, though! She’s a great role model for young girls. I reckon people like Ani Difranco, Andrea Dworkin, Tori Amos, Catherine Tate (love!), JK Rowling, any woman who is a self-made success and/or a good representative for women’s rights. And since all those examples I’ve given apart from Cho are white, how about Maya Angelou? There’s also a muslim woman whose name I can’t remember who took in young girls to save them from honour killings. That’d be a great example for girls.

Topics for study could include how women have gained reproductive rights, equal pay issues, discussion of rape, honour killings in this very country as well as cultures from around the world. Magdalene asylums. Relgious bias against women. Statistics on femicide and domestic violence. God, the list goes on.

I’d love them to do this, but I bet they won’t. Sometimes I fear that trying to make things fair only leads to even more conservative backlash and conservative laws being passed.

Saranga // Posted 10 August 2008 at 5:15 pm

I recomend:

Patti Smith

Beth Ditto

Mo Mowlam

Ursula Le Guin

J K Rowling

Wonder Woman

Tamora Pierce

My other reccomendations would come from 90s bands, (Louise Wener, Justine Frichmann – spelling is wrong I know -, Skin, Debbie from Echobelly, Lunachicks, the L7 lot, Courtney Love etc) but I doubt that any teenagers now would know that lot. Or for that matter most of my first list..

I don’t really do heroines anymore, I’m more impressed with the day to day people that I interact and work with.

Zenobia // Posted 11 August 2008 at 10:04 am

I never thought I’d say this, but I agree 100% with Polly Styrene, being a successful businesswoman doesn’t make you a feminist icon.

And Patti Smith always says she doesn’t want to call herself a feminist, because she’s concerned with people, not just women – so it might be a good idea to respect that.

I have a major gripe with the idea of feminist heroes anyway, surely, beyond questioning the fact that heroes tend to be male (not always true, but they are disproportionately represented), maybe we should be questioning the whole concept of heroes. I mean, feminism is supposed to be egalitarian, maybe we shouldn’t be anointing great women for the rest of us to look up to, like they make history and we don’t – particularly if we’re trying to empower women, the concept of the hero is very disempowering, and – one of the only times I’d use the word – quite patriarchal.

Paul // Posted 11 August 2008 at 10:48 am

I think if feminism is to be included in the curriculum, it should obviously entail the people that did the most to either develop the theory – Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Marx & Engels, Sylvia Pankhurst, Germaine Greer, et al, – and those that put feminist ideas into practice, including feminist MPs like Michael Foot, and the way Sue Lees helped to change the laws around rape.

I agree with earlier comments about Anita Roddick, a right-wing capitalist that prevented workers from joining unions and exploited god knows how many young women in her shops with notoriously bad terms and conditions of employment. All Roddick proves is that women in business have no qualms about exploiting other women. I think Natasha Walter is a bit of a dubious one as well – I’ve never understood her rather curious brand of feminism, in which you can apparently be a white bride and a feminist, and Men Behaving Badly is somehow feminist entertainment.

Louise Livesey // Posted 11 August 2008 at 11:36 am

OK dear readers, noted that you don’t feel Roddick should be on the list but so far we’ve only got about 25 nominations of people who should be on the list (including one fictional and one contested person). Change of focus to who could or should be there please?

Louise Livesey // Posted 11 August 2008 at 11:49 am

Paul – also it’s a bit surprising you mention John Stuart Mill and not Harriet Taylor Mill (his wife and collaborator).

Paul // Posted 11 August 2008 at 11:59 am

Louise – well, I think they would have to be taught together, as they are on Politics degree courses, but of course JSM was the great theoretician and the author of On Liberty. On a similar note, the teaching of Wallstonecraft would perhaps also make reference to her husband William Godwin.

Other suggestions: Alexandra Kollantai, Rosa Luxemburg, Harriet Tubman, Hannah Arendt, Emma Goldman, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul Sartre.

Louise Livesey // Posted 11 August 2008 at 12:10 pm

Paul – sorry I corrected your earlier post automatically but it’s Wollstonecraft. And Harriet Taylor Mill is now acknowledged as a substantial contributor to Mills thinking. To say “JSM was the great theoretician” appears to be saying that HTM wasn’t and yet her writings are, perhaps, the more interesting and radical of the two. Also Godwin, whilst apparently supportive of Wollstonecraft in private, spends most of the “Memoirs” obsessing on Wollstonecraft’s sexual past and mental health problems so his contribution to feminism would be what exactly? (I think he’s a good liberal thinker but that doesn’t necessarily make him a pro-feminist hero). Same for Satre I think although I’m less familiar with his work overall.

Jess // Posted 11 August 2008 at 12:18 pm

I mean, feminism is supposed to be egalitarian, maybe we shouldn’t be anointing great women for the rest of us to look up to, like they make history and we don’t – particularly if we’re trying to empower women, the concept of the hero is very disempowering, and – one of the only times I’d use the word – quite patriarchal.”

I do agree with this, but perhaps there are ways to highlight the good things people have done without casting them as heros, per se. I am fully against the individualisation of historical change (i.e. this person caused X to happen, rather than X happened, these people were there). If you look at theories of scientific invention, for example, it’s clear that often different people come up with the same ideas pretty much in tandem, perhaps as a result of cultural contexts, etc. Who gets the credit is often as much down to who finishes the work first, has the funding, and runs to the patent office in time.

Without seeking to do down the contributions of individual activists, that’s generally how I see things. (See new historicism, which outlines how this works in terms of literature, in terms of ending the cult of the author, which has hugely influenced my feelings on this matter).

That said, individuals have also been hugely inspiring to me personally – it’s that thing of knowing *someone* female/like us is doing something amazing, which just helps to counteract some of the patriarchal structures in our society and culture. Like a moment of recognition and inspiration, rather that raising up one particular person as the One True Hope.

Also, if we don’t pay attention and recognise the contribution of feminists/women in general, we’re left with a culture that is generally set up to recognise individual ‘heros’, back thousands and thousands of years. Thus, we have a lot of dead, white European male heros dominating our understanding of who we are and what we do – my view is that supplying lots and lots of alternatives it is a valid tactic to undermine this, as well as criticising the whole concept of eliding the experience of millions of people to one or two figureheads.

Um, anyway, I was going to come up with some suggestions, too, but this comment has gone on long enough! So I’ll just second Margaret Cho.

juliet // Posted 11 August 2008 at 12:50 pm

Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own). Charlotte Bronte. Marilyn French.

Squigglefish // Posted 11 August 2008 at 12:51 pm

Whilst being a successful businesswomen does not automatically make you a feminist role model, such role models are desperately needed.

Looking at many of the suggestions made, they focus upon artists and activists, activities that in many respects women are accepted in and indeed ‘allowed’ to succeed in. They may directly promote feminist concerns, but the indirect form of role model, those who challenged the concept of what women are allowed to do, are vitally needed.

The work of outstanding women in science, technology and engineering has long gone unsung, and it is these areas in which women desperately need more strong role models. Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie immediately stand out, of course.

Zenobia // Posted 11 August 2008 at 1:12 pm

That said, individuals have also been hugely inspiring to me personally – it’s that thing of knowing *someone* female/like us is doing something amazing, which just helps to counteract some of the patriarchal structures in our society and culture. Like a moment of recognition and inspiration, rather that raising up one particular person as the One True Hope.


Also, if we don’t pay attention and recognise the contribution of feminists/women in general, we’re left with a culture that is generally set up to recognise individual ‘heros’, back thousands and thousands of years. Thus, we have a lot of dead, white European male heros dominating our understanding of who we are and what we do – my view is that supplying lots and lots of alternatives it is a valid tactic to undermine this, as well as criticising the whole concept of eliding the experience of millions of people to one or two figureheads.

Absolutely, and this brings up another problem – does having ‘heroes’ mean we pick them according to the same criteria as the male, dead, european ones? Because even a lot of men go without recognition while maybe less deserving ones get recognition for being heroes. Someone rather sweepingly mentioned Churchill and Freud, and actually, Churchill is a great example because he’s considered some kind of hero, even by those who would usually balk at racism, imperialism, and generally causing lots and lots of deaths: “oh but it’s Churchill, look, he’s smoking a pipe and saying something witty!”.

As for suggestions, I’d second most of the ones Paul mentions (sensing a libertarian socialist trend there) – though again, there’s a problem there because most of them didn’t identify as feminist, in fact Emma Goldman didn’t get on with many feminists at all, with the exception of Margaret Sanger. So are we considering people who were / are feminists, or people who are just inspiring to feminists? Isn’t there a danger of co-option there? Especially if someone goes out of their way to deny that they’re feminist (thinking of PJ Harvey here).

Anyway, as a suggestion, I’m going to go with Chuck D, and Yoko Ono. I don’t think they’d object to being called feminist.

Anne Onne // Posted 11 August 2008 at 1:28 pm

So much interesting discussion so far! I particularly agree with Jess, and the problems of confusing someone who contributed with someone who caused everything. But at the same time, it is useful to highlight individuals, if only to counteract all the white men who have so far made up the individuals people take notice of.

It depends on what kind of role model we are looking for, and how high the standards are. Many particularly successful women might not be’feminist role models’ in that they don’t specifically address inequality, and don’t hold unproblematic views, but may still be a ‘role model’ in that she can be an inspiration to girls and other women. An example may be Margaret Thatcher. Feminist role model? Hell, no. But she probably inspired many little girls to grow up knowing that a woman can be Prime Minister. There are so many invisible barriers, where we kind of know that we won’t be able to do something, even if it’s technically possible, that this kind of encouragement, seeing many succeed, is something I think many could appreciate.

It all depends on the name of the list, I guess. I’d have two, ideally. One of feminists specifically addressing feminist issues, and another of women who, feminist or not, are showing girls and boys that women can achieve, against the odds.

Maybe there are feminists amongs them who just aren’t obvious about the role feminism plays in their life.

Maybe expecting women to be activists and having a higher feminist standard for them to live up to is in itself an inequality, because society is willing enough to accept men, whatever their beliefs and failings, as a role model if they excel in a field.

I guess the real feminist role models are all over the world, living quiet lives and fighting in their way for equality, and many would shun the limelight. I certainly wish I knew more about the work people do out there, and the thing I love about the blogosphere is the intersectionality of it, and how many wonderful people there are out there.

Come to think of it, why not a shortlist of feminist men, too? After all, girls and their problems are only half the issue, and I feel that constricting this to ‘girls have problems, girls need role models’ misleading, when it’s painfully clear that boys really need more of a focus on how to act like a decent man, truly respect women, and fight for equality. Whilst we see inequality as women’s problem as if women are making it happen to themselves by following ‘bad’ role models, we’re doomed, because we’re blaming the victims of systemic pressure rather than looking at the bigger picture.

That’s why I find the article a bit problematic, particularly that feminist role models’ are needed to overcome the negative influences of celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.’. Yes, we need the media to value women who are smart, strong, brave, dedicated, compassionate and honest. Yes, we need less of a focus on beauty, cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, celebrities, slimming and a rethink of how the media sexually objectifies women. But you know what, these women are not responsible for how the media treats them. They aren’t known for their intellect, but that doesn’t make them less human, and I think it a double standard if we blame them for a system of objectification that goes back many centuries. They’re exploiting it, true, but they will have grown up, as most people do, believing that this is the only way forward, being told constantly that it’s their role in life. So yeah, they’re not thinking outside the box, and the views they have of the role of women are probably problematic, but they shouldn’t be turned into pariahs for their choices which have made them successful.

Modern feminism as a movement needs more coverage.I love feminist history, (little though I know of it) but the fight didn’t end there, and focusing on the past has the effect of giving people the impression that women’s rights is in the past, something that people needed to fight for once, but don’t any more. In this way, highlighting what is still happening around the world, and what people are doing about it would be great. I wasn’t ever into ‘role models*’ as a girl, but I did feel inspired by reading about the lives of other women and what they had achieved, and some newer examples would probably go down well.

I’m never good at thinking of people to nominate, though Women On Waves has always remained in my mind, for providing legal, safe abortions to women in countries where abortion is illegal.

*I admit I’m wary at the thought of putting people on a pedestal and declaring that everyone else should look up to them, seeing the pressure it normally puts on the role model to be better than everyone else. At the same time, acknowledging that the achievements and philosophies of some people can be inspirational to others might be useful.

Legible Susan // Posted 11 August 2008 at 3:28 pm

Sojourner Truth

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Helen Bamber and Dr. Elizabeth Gordon, co-founders of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture

*looks at the Women’s Press bookshelf*

Dr. Rosalie Bertell, researcher into the effects of radiation

Shere Hite

bell hooks

Joanna Russ, author of “How to Suppress Women’s Writing” as well as fiction

Cara // Posted 11 August 2008 at 3:32 pm

Def in favour of the idea of feminism being taught in schools.

It would help any number of young girls who know something isn’t right but don’t have the knowledge to analyse why, who feel very alone. It might address the pressure to be sexualised, at a time when teenage pregnancies are *rising*! If girls aspire to something more than being bloody Paris Hilton, that can only be good. I mean, yes I agree with Anne Onne that these individual women can’t be blamed for being that way; I just support, as others have said, promoting women who are valued by society for something other than their looks.

And absolutely agree that most people have the impression feminism is all in the past, and we’re all equal now. That needs dispelling, fast. Tell young girls that they are likely to earn 83p to a man’s ¬£1 and see how they like that, before the usual crap socialising women into being nice and making excuses for patriarchy kicks in (I have heard SEVENTEEN year old girls say, well, I have to make sacrifices if I want to have kids – WHY DON’t MEN? Sorry, getting sidetracked there!)

I somewhat disagree with Zenobia that the idea of having heroes is fundamentally flawed- kids need people to look up to. I think there are people who are exceptional at what they do, even if they did doubtless benefit from priveleges as well. I do agree with much of what Jess and Anne Onne say – I don’t agree with Great Men type history that confuses individual’s contributions with individuals being responsible for things, ignoring larger social forces. True what someone said about scientific discoveries being as much the zeitgeist as Brilliant Mind Of Eccentric Person (usually Male), too, someone else almost discovered DNA.

Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie should definitely be on the list, to me as a kid they were proof that women can do science among being taught that the discoveries were made by Great White Men.

Also agree with feminist men being included, after all the tories whingeing about the “feminisation of education! and no male role models!!”

And equally, activists in anti-racism and human rights generally should be on the curriculum. It is all interlinked.

Think an extensive and fab list has been mentioned already. I would include almost everyone mentioned – even if they weren’t explicitly feminist, if they acted to further women’s rights in any way and inspire girls and women, that’s good enough for me.

Can I add Marian Keyes? I think she’s fab. She identifies herself as a socialist and a feminist, and also likes shoes and make-up. Her honesty about being an alcoholic is inspirational and her writing definitely goes way deeper than the fluffy chick lit it appears to be. She writes strong and complex women characters. Finally, she does loads of charity work.

Cara // Posted 11 August 2008 at 3:37 pm

Oh oh, and can I also add Elizabeth Wurtzel?

Sarah // Posted 11 August 2008 at 4:58 pm

As well as the scientists already mentioned, don’t forget there were important women mathematicians such as Sophie Germain, who went to extraordinary lengths to pursue their studies and research in an age where women weren’t even allowed to enrol in universities. The determination and dedication they showed is at least as inspiring as their talent and ability.

Also worth remembering that some famous women did more than just the thing they’re most remembered for – Florence Nightingale for example was more than ‘just’ a compassionate nurse. Not that there’s anything lesser about being a nurse, but it tends to get overlooked that she was a pioneer of statistical analysis and epidemiology in public health. In computer science there’s Ada Lovelace, of course, and Grace Hopper.

I know historical examples are not quite the same thing as role models, but I think it’s worth mentioning them because otherwise it tends to be assumed as the default that all scientific/mathematical research and discoveries have been done by men, and this is not the case.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 11 August 2008 at 7:20 pm

i think while the girls have the session, and im guessing the boys too? or maybe they do something better without the girls.. itd be good to have a mixed debate class too. its not that i think itd go anywhere near as well as the single gender class because “womens things” arent interesting to girls or boys in a rowdy class. neither is anything else. i purely say this because as a tomboy in class i would have found it frustrating to be shoved in with the girls in my class. i hated it. i know id have resented it and refused to listen. id feel that i was being treated differently as a girl. of course i dont feel like that these days but as a naive kid that thought the world was equal apart from the teachers trying to pull me from the guys to talk about women to me id be scared they were going to brainwash me into thinking the things that feminism tries to prevent.

Squigglefish // Posted 12 August 2008 at 5:40 am

I entirely agree with the talk of also considering the boys in such things. Although a wide range of possible male role models exist and are widely promoted within society, those most actively pushed and featured in the media are exactly the sort that go against feminist principles. I recently saw a montage of disney male leads, and it was quite worrying to see what they promote.

More importantly, however, is the need to break down the gender barriers when it comes to role model selection, especially for boys. Boys suffer ridicule from even the teaching staff if they go so far as to suggest that they could see a women as a role model, a hero(ine). But this ability to see women as equally successful and valid helps to counter some of the problems we face.

I think I am a better person for understanding concepts of privilege, and I think such things should be considered essential and taught to everyone (and hence why I will never go into teaching, the system would drive me out before I even finished the first lesson :P)

Cara // Posted 12 August 2008 at 11:14 am

Two more great examples, Sarah. Hmmm I had no idea Florence Nightingale was into statistics…guess women and nurses in particular have to be portrayed as caring, nurturing and saintly but can’t possibly have a brain as well! Especially not maths cos we all know teh laydeez can’t do maths!

Going on from that, I had not heard of Sophie Germain until I was like 17, and surprisingly, it wasn’t at school!

Laurel, interesting point. I agree that feminism should most definitely not be taught only to girls, but to both genders. I think a lot of girls are more likely to speak up in single-sex classes though, although there are the ones like you were who would be *less* likely…different strokes. Perhaps a mixture of both mixed and split classes would be the way to go…

Hazel // Posted 13 August 2008 at 11:00 am

Here are a few more admirable women – some do/did identify as feminists, others don’t/didn’t but they are role models:

Kate Bush

Thea Gilmore

Kristin Hersh

Felicia Day

Tina Fey

Ellen Page

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Millicent Fawcett

Lise Meitner

Mary Leakey

Jacquetta Hawkes

Joan Smith

Joanna Bourke

Linda Colley

Bethany Hughes

can't think of a name // Posted 13 August 2008 at 11:49 am

If I had to take a class like that, I’d want to hear about the Guerilla Girls. I think the stuff they do would be interesting for teenagers.

Anne Onne // Posted 13 August 2008 at 12:06 pm

I think for some subjects it would be easier to get girls to open up if it was single sex, and probably easier to get boys to talk, too. There would probably be good reasons to have some mixed classes as well, but knowing how agonisingly embarrasing a lot of teenagers find talking about gender/sexuality related topics, a mix of classes would probably be best.

I’ll put forward Maud Menten. She’s probably not that well known outside medical sciences and biochemistry, but she’s contributed a lot to enzyme kinetics, and was one of the earliest women in Canada to earn a Medical doctorate. Because women weren’t allowed to reseach there, she moved abroad to work. I don’t know if she’d call herself a feminist, and she’s historical not contemporary, but to me women like her and Marie Curie have always been an inspiration.

It’s ironic, because at first, I had no idea who to put forward, (I’m loving the contributions so far, especially the singers!) wondering just how well-known they need to be, or and thinking that maybe I just didn’t know many women to add to the list, when I realised that hiding amongst all the men noted for achievements, there have always been some outstanding women, who even in times where their lives were severely limited, tried to achieve something. I wonder how many more of the discoveries I learned about are quietly hiding contributions by women.

In addition to highlighting the feminist women and those currently contributing to the world and to equality, we still need to remember those of the past. Not just feminist women, because the world and his dog all know feminists have mostly been female, but especially in all other fields where historically women have been barred, and their contributions hidden and minimised and credited to others. In addition to persuading people that feminism is still relevant (which is very important in itself), we sadly still need to explain why historically women have achieved less, because we still get complete idiots mouthing off that women are inherently inferior because we have contributed less to history. I’m just worried that the way education stands, we’re still not giving children enough of an understanding what women faced, and how many of them achieved great things against the odds.

But I’m going off on this tangent because contemporary examples escape my mind. Apologies!

Aimee // Posted 13 August 2008 at 2:25 pm

I know she’s not modern, but Simone De Beauvoir is my number 1 inspirational woman. Also, Rhianna Pratchett, Juliette Lewis and Erica Jong.

frau sally benz // Posted 13 August 2008 at 3:24 pm

The idea of teaching feminism in school is an interesting one, but it would need to be done from the right angle, IMO. If we’re talking about starting at a young age, then I think JKR would be the best introduction. Not only is she a successful woman who uses her money and power to do good, but the HP series in general has some great examples of strong women (think Hermione, Mrs. Weasley, Lily Potter). I’m out of touch with children’s fiction, so I’m not sure what else would be good for the youngsters.

In junior high school & high school, I read/learned about Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and Virginia Woolf, among others.

For feminist role models, I would list these as well as Eve Ensler, Gloria Steinem, Gloria Anzaldua, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Arundhati Roy, Alanis, and Sarah McLachlan. That’s my list without much thinking, I’ll get back with more. =)

Monty // Posted 13 August 2008 at 7:35 pm

Karin Spaink, please look her up if you don’t know.

As for Juliette Lewis(I presume you mean the actress Aimee?), she should be nowhere near that list.

Jacky Fleming // Posted 14 August 2008 at 1:11 pm

To me feminism is like a magic wand – it reveals the invisible, which is why it’s such a radical and inspiring process – particularly in relation to history – and not something which can become out of date. It doesn’t just reveal remarkable feminists from the Middle Ages (Christine de Pisan) to today (Somaly Mam) but reveals the history of our absence from history. Unless we have knowledge of the cycles of backlash which have been going on for centuries, we can’t understand the one we are in. Both boys and girls are entitled to an inspiring and truthful version of the past or we cannot place ourselves in the present. It isn’t just the absence of women’s achievements, but our entire perception of our gender is skewed. When I studied art history the set text made no reference to women artists – an invisible omission with shattering implications regarding…everything! There’s nothing dull about the past, once feminism makes it visible – it’s essential to our future.

shemanicmaid // Posted 17 August 2008 at 2:19 am

Ani Difranco!!!

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