You Don’t Have to Burn Bras to be a Feminist


By Naomi Morris Omori

Recently, someone said to me: “Naomi, you’ve become a lot more ‘outwardly feminist’ in the past two years.” Yes, and I’m proud of it.

What annoys me intensely is that there is a black name against feminism and that many people are therefore ashamed of calling themselves feminists – both men and women. They do not understand what being a feminist means: it means believing that men and women are equal. Not superior, but equal.

I cannot understand how there is anyone in the 21st Century who is not a feminist. There is vast inequality still present in the UK today. Why are men paid 21% more than women for exactly the same job? Why have there never been any female Chancellors of the Exchequer, or Director Generals of the BBC? We live in one of the most free and democratic countries in the world, and yet 50% of our population is still treated unfairly.

CLC does not ‘indoctrinate’ us all to be feminists, but we are certainly never told that we cannot do anything. This year, our Principal’s Lecture Series carries the theme, ‘Inspirational Women’, in honour of our 160th Anniversary. Professor Greenfield told us to have “more female role models”. I completely agree.

Emma ThompsonOne of my role models is Emma Thompson. A comedian, actress, producer and director, a polymath – she possesses infinite talent, intelligence, sharpness, and a wicked sense of humour. However, she is incredibly humble and a generous philanthropist. I went to hear her talk at the Cheltenham Literature Festival last term, and heard of her adoption of her son, a Rwandan ex-child soldier who is now studying for his Master’s Degree in Human Rights Law. Listening to her talk, I found that Thompson is an incredible human being and most definitely the “good” kind of celebrity.

Another source of great inspiration to me is Kate Adie, one of the most well-known faces of our newscreens. She also came to the Cheltenham Literature Festival and because College was sponsoring her, I was lucky enough to attend the talk in the front row and to meet her in College afterwards. She gave me some valuable advice which I’d like to share with you: “Be flexible. You never know what’ll happen.” With many whispering that the ‘death of the newspaper’ is approaching, I asked her where she thinks the the future of the media is going. “No one knows. Don’t close anything off too soon and be open to anything”, she responded thoughtfully. Asking about women in the media, she said, “It’s getting better.” Indeed, her ground-breaking career evidences this and shows us that women really can break the boundaries.

Admittedly, it may be an exaggeration to say that feminism is ‘cool’ (at least, outside of CLC), but it’s certainly becoming more fashionable in the celebrity world (Beyonce, Lily Allen), and that’s perhaps the biggest influence over the general public. However, I do feel that gender inequality is becoming a more prominent issue in the media. Many would argue that the British press is still too male-dominated, proven all too well in the recent coverage of the tragic death of L’Wren Scott, the well-known fashion designer, who was redundantly labelled simply as ‘Mick Jagger’s girlfriend’ by major news sources. One must find solace, however, in the outrage and condemnation which this sparked. There was nothing more encouraging than reading The New York Times’ response, a full article in tribute to L’Wren Scott’s achievements, ‘A Lady of Elegance’.

At CLC, we must comfort ourselves with the fact that we have not had to experience what Lily Myers describes in her poem, ‘Shrinking Women’:

‘I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry”.’ We are indeed lucky to have had our achievements encouraged and not stunted. Feminism does not mean men-bashing or bra-burning. It should be felt by all to be accessible and in my opinion, desired, regardless of gender, race, or background. The word ‘feminism’ translates to something so basic, simple and universal: equality.

Image: by Garry Knight on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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