29 January, 2016

Girls Who Made it OK to Use the F-Word

Waaay back when, in the mid (ish) 90s, before I'd even heard of the F-word, I, along with the rest of the world, discovered the Spice Girls. I didn't realise it at the time, but looking back on the early years that the Spice Girls were around, the message that came along with catchy pop tunes and school disco-worthy dance moves, was incredibly important to the young me.

Before I'd even cottoned onto the different ways that women were treated, compared to their male counterparts, these five incredible girls were telling me that I was a force to be reckoned with and Girl Power meant that I was just as important as the boys around me.

It's a pretty sad state of affairs that around 20 years later not a whole lot has changed for us girls. Yes, there are more women in high-profile, senior roles (Sheryl Sandberg, Marne Levine, I'm looking at you), but there's still a vast gender-based pay gap and it still feels like we've got a while to go before we’re given the same opportunities and status as the boys.

Of course, the F-word I’m referring to is that much brandished, but often misinterpreted, word: feminism. Feminism has become a bit of a dirty word of late, with it so often being linked with female superiority and not its intended message of equality for both sexes

Years after the Spice Girls had sung their final “hi-see-ya”, I discovered another of my feminist icons, much by chance, as part of a book club I joined. After devouring (at a fairly slow pace, but steady nonetheless) all 1000+ pages of Gone with the Wind, I started to appreciate Scarlett O'Hara more and more. She, like so many other women in history (fictional or otherwise) is often portrayed as an unlikeable, rude character, but Scarlett to me was the sassiest, badass bitch around and no one was going to hold her back. Whilst her actions are often ruthless and shocking, I saw Scarlett as a victim of her time, a woman who was as business-minded as any of her male counterparts, and oftentimes more successful, but who was constantly held back simply because she was a woman. She was a woman who endured the very worst life could throw at her, but carried on regardless, because, well, what else can you do? Her sheer determination and reliance upon only herself was so exciting to me as a reader, and to this day I still find her such a refreshing and modern a character.

In the last couple of years, feminism has had a resurgence in, I won’t say popularity, but awareness. With celebrity faces putting their name to the F-word, a new generation of young women are learning about Girl Power. Emma Watson and Karlie Kloss are examples of this, taking part in #OurSharedShelf, an online book club community where the first book chosen wasn’t some bestseller with a stamp of approval from Richard and Judy, but Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road. With over 800 images on Instagram alone using the hashtag, young women are discovering feminism in new shapes and forms, from different decades and voices around the world.

I can’t say if or when our lives in the workplace, at home, intellectually or otherwise, will be more equal, but what I do know is that thanks to Ginger, Baby, Scary, Sporty, and Posh I won’t give up on Girl Power and neither should you.

C x
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