Is Feminism Fashionable?

Daily Life's All About Women event will be held at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday April 7.

Daily Life's All About Women event will be held at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday April 7. Photo: James Brickwood

How many times do we need to hear 'It's been a big year for women' before we tire of it? It's as if 'a big year for women' is the new 'What Women Want' - both sound faintly patronising and, a little hollow. It's undeniable that women have made themselves heard during these last 12 months, (in the form of a collective pushback over shock jock's sexist opinions, violence against women, archaic laws both here and overseas, workplace bias and advertising). But they've also faced a backlash to the backlash - that is, a kind of preening, hipster stance that says 'I was a feminist before it was cool.' Which can only mean one thing: it's officially cool to be a feminist.

No longer confined to the hallowed halls of academia, feminism is now the go-to word for more than a handful of beloved celebrities too. Beyonce calls herself a 'modern day feminist', Taylor Swift denies she's one but also lashes out at accusations she calls 'sexist'. Meanwhile, Amy Poehler defended herself against Swift by calling herself one.

Daily Life has something that might be called the mainstreaming or, the commercialisation of feminism going on. To wit: we're holding an event on Sunday at the Opera House, All About Women, which could be convincingly renamed Feministpalooza - that is, a place for like-minded people to gather, pay money to listen and nod their heads in unison.

But the main complaint about this mainstreaming of feminism is that the feminists are now only concerned with the micro, that is, the irks of white, middle class women and it is in this way that the movement is being diluted or corrupted. Putting aside the idea that calling out what other middle class women are doing is its own kind of middle class problem, the question then becomes, what does 'pure feminism' look like anyway? Or is pure feminism simply a concept we know when we see it because it's our brand of feminism, consistent with our personal value system? 


The argument has been around since Betty Friedan wrote of her stultifying experience as a middle class housewife and it's certainly true that while mainly white, middle class women with their bourgeois value systems are writing and editing a lot of what constitutes mainstream feminist discourse, there is still much to be gained from taking even a sliver of an ideology out of the hands of the precious few and into the clumsy, messy world full of people Who Don't Get It and wannabes and ordinary women, just like us, (yes, even onto Twitter). Friedan's legacy is proof of this. For starters, there's more exposure. More exposure means more debate - among everyone, not just those who deem themselves worthy. And the more people who join in the debate, the more questions get raised, questions that might even be outside the mainstream, questions that certain feminists (like me) may already take for granted.

There's also much to be gained from applying a feminist point of view to real life issues, from child care to fat shaming. Otherwise, what's the point? Before we go about changing the world we first have to see the world how it really is and we can't do that unless we start to question every part of it, not just the texts we pored over in first year university. And that means questioning everything - big and small, even our own motives. 

While we're proud of our feminist coverage at Daily Life we also understand that as a mainstream media website we can't be all things to all feminists all at once. But there remains a strong commitment here at Daily Life to cast the 'feminist issues' net a little wider. Want further proof? Check out Sunday's lineup.