All power to a brave new feminist magazine – we need as many outspoken and angry voices as possible
It’s good to welcome a new feminist magazine to the world, whatever its name and however it is delivered – online, off-line or by carrier pigeon. In the 40 years that have elapsed since Spare Rib hit the newsstands, the world has changed dramatically for women, some of it good, some not so. But in recent years, there has been a worrying complacency where there should still be anger and great concern.
It seems to me that all the big advances of feminism (and remember, I am setting this against the 70s rules, which stated that women couldn’t get a mortgage unless countersigned by a father or a husband, couldn’t even rent a TV or a car unless a man was involved) have been for women at the top of society marching up through the professions, gaining autonomy and independence, emerging from the shadows of domesticity and taking their place in the cultural landscape of our country. We are continually breaking yet more “glass ceilings” with the likes of Clara Furse in the London Stock Exchange and (with apologies) Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street.
But what have these gains done for poorer women? Not a lot.
Almost two women a week are still murdered in incidents of domestic violence (the same as in 1971 when Erin Pizzey founded the first women’s refuge in Chiswick). There are still far too many women fleeing violent homes and far too few places for them to go. Women are still trapped in appalling cycles of poverty, as they cannot afford childcare, and jobs that allow flexi working are few and far between. Women still end up as “part timers”, exploited by bosses and badly paid, because juggling childcare and work when you’re on the bread line is just as hard as it always was. Women are still society’s carers, undertaking the valuable work of caring for the elderly or the disabled. In this, they are still as exploited by society and the government as they were 40 years ago. Yes, there is better education, yes, there are some jobs and divorce is easier. But look around you – there are far too many single mums bringing up their kids and struggling with poverty – and the men, sad to say, have scarpered.
At the other end of the social scale, I wouldn’t say all was wonderful either. Forty years ago, on the first issue of Spare Rib, we ran an advert for Rimmel cosmetics because we needed the money. I was convinced that such ads were a dying breed. Never again would women feel in thrall to looks and the myths and lies of the cosmetic giants. How wrong could I be? Today, women are slaves to beauty, with young girls appearing to rate their looks as more important to them than their brains or personalities. How on earth did this happen?
So there is much to do and not just here in the UK. Feminists such as Eve Ensler highlight the violence meted out to women in the Congo. Half the Sky, the recent book looking at the state of women around the globe, painted a dismal portrait of a world where women are increasingly trafficked and sold into slavery (and this happens here too). The Feminist Times looks good … and I’m glad it has launched. All power to them, as we need as many outspoken and angry voices as we can. Spare Rib was part of its time but the Feminist Times is unlikely to run out of material.
Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663879/s/322eca4f/sc/38/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Clifeandstyle0Cwomens0Eblog0C20A130Coct0C0A80Cthe0Efeminist0Etimes0Enecessary0Espare0Erib/story01.htm