By Sophia Durrani, Managing Partner for Strategy
There has never been a better time to be a woman. Yet, this doesn’t feel like something to celebrate when 2017 witnessed millions taking to their feet in the most progressive nations across the globe to draw attention to the plight of women.
And not all women are on board with this fight: some startling generational differences appear to exist. In a study by UM, only half of the women surveyed identify as feminists, but that figure rises to 69% of girls aged 13-18.
Perhaps this is indicative of a truly egalitarian future where feminism is no longer stigmatised. The Women’s Marches brought people together from all walks of life, which is, hopefully, a sign that attitudes to equality are becoming less divisive and more uniting. Younger women won’t accept archaic behaviours lying down. What with the uprising against everyday sexism, the scrutiny on gender pay gaps, and even the female reincarnation of Dr Who – there’s a groundswell of more liberal attitudes among newer generations.
With social media giving young people a powerful voice, the media and authorities are far more accountable than ever. Today’s teenagers are growing up in a multicultural and globalised society, and this is reflected in their greater intolerance for prejudice. Their landscape is punctuated by an increasing number of strong, individualistic role models; Emma Watson, Beyoncé and Michelle Obama, women who have used their pre-existing fame to highlight issues, were the most inspirational feminist icons according to teens in our study.
But here’s one disconcerting thought: if we take feminism at face value – the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes – it begs the question, why don’t three out of ten teenage girls identify as feminist?
Perhaps this 30% simply don’t understand what it means, in which case we need to go beyond writing articles or organising well-meaning but, ultimately, immaterial protests and, rather, rethink how we can educate them.
Or perhaps they don’t see women’s rights as an issue for their generation, which could indicate a certain amount of optimism, but I’d argue naivety too. Maybe equality to them is not about women’s rights, but isn’t that complacent? Let’s hope it’s not because they disagree with the premise and instead focus on the positives – that future generations are more open-minded and accepting than ever before.
Surely that has to be a trend worth celebrating?