Truth to power

Are we winning the war against misogyny?

“We’re in a time that’s better than we think, but that’s not good enough,” says writer Bonnie Greer, who nevertheless believes 2015 is an excellent time to be a woman

Bonnie Greer OBE --Playwright, Novelist and Critic -- at the Women In The World London Summit on October 9, 2015.

Feminism: it’s in every headline and on the lips of so many pop culture icons this year. Misogyny certainly isn’t dead, so when will we see the end of gender inequality? Can feminism slay misogyny in 2015?

Acclaimed writer Bonnie Greer, whose work spans from the printed page to live theater, thinks yes, the time is now. In a panel on Friday at the Women in the World London Summit, hosted by historian and author Amanda Foreman, Greer said she believes that 2015 is an excellent time to be a woman. The intense misogyny we see now — on the Internet, in the media, and in daily life — comes from the destruction of walls and barriers holding women back, she believes. “The snake always fights hardest when it’s going down,” she said. “It may not look this way, but this mess is crumbling.”

She explained that fighting misogyny, however, works on a historical arch, and that the repression of women’s rights in today’s world is shocking for her generation of second‐wave feminists, who fought for equality in the 1970s and 1980s. “We’re in a time that’s better than we think, but that’s not good enough,” she said.

“Some of the stuff that’s being fought is some of the stuff we thought we solved,” Greer said, adding that her generation “unconsciously froze” the word “feminism,” which may be why it’s considered taboo today. There’s never been a bigger need for the movement — especially with attacks in the United States against Planned Parenthood, Broadly’s UK Editor, Zing Tsjeng, said.
“It still feels like despite having Beyonce with the words FEMINIST in block letters behind her, nothing is changing,” she added. “We need to keep fighting.”

Those rejecting the label can “take it or leave it,” she said. “When people say ‘make feminism [the word] more soft, more appealing’, they’re saying ‘change it so we like it’, and that’s not the point,” she explained. “You cannot soften the word ‘feminist’ to please people, I actually find that repulsive.”

Also on the stage was lawyer Charlotte Rachael Proudman, who may be known best for challenging a male lawyer who sent her sexist LinkedIn messages, which she made public. In shaming him, Proudman was met with backlash from men who called her a “feminazi,” but also with thanks from women around the world who identified with her and sought her advice on how to address sexism. Threats against her are a silencing mechanism, she explained, but she refuses to apologize for simply putting a picture of her face on the Internet. “I’m not here to be objectified,” she said. “I challenged vested male power and I refuse to apologize for doing so.”

Academy Award‐winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid‐Chinoy, whose work includes Song of Lahore and A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers, said that she’s often called a “feminist” online as an insult. She also argued that often, women are misogynistic themselves.

“When have you not looked at a woman said ‘she’s overweight’ or, in the workplace… ‘well, she’s a slut and she’s not’,” Obaid-Chinow asked the crowd. Greer agreed, advising other women to “check your inner misogynist.”

“Misogyny is something that has existed since time eternal,” Obaid‐Chinoy said. Bringing it to an end comes through the education of girls and women, who will move forward to dismantle systems of male power. Feminism is borderless and not something that is imported or exported to communities — it’s a grassroots movement, she explained, adding, “if you’re not a feminist, then you’re obviously on the side of people that want to live in regressive societies.”

The panelists agreed that equal access to education is a start to ending misogyny, as are diversity quotas in government and the workplace — one or two women at the top just isn’t enough. “Token women in positions of power, they can’t make that change because they’re scared for their own position,” Proudman explained.

Greer added that as a woman of African descent growing up on the south side of Chicago, she benefited from quota systems — as did First Lady Michelle Obama. In Obaid‐Chinoy’s native Pakistan, a 25 percent quota for women in Parliament has helped change the lives of women throughout the nation for the better.

Is the future bright? According to these panelists, it is if women — and men — keep pushing feminism to the forefront. “You have to talk truth to power, you have to do it all the time and in your own way,” Greer said.

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