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British feminism: is there a worthy feminist cause?

Credit – The Daily Telegraph

There has been a lot of coverage in the media this week concerning feminism, particularly the advert for weight loss supplements that has been displayed on the London Underground. However, other items concerning women’s rights have been in the news this week but have been overlooked in comparison to the “Are you beach body ready?” advertisement. If there is more focus on one issue than another, does that mean there are ‘worthy’ feminist causes? Are there certain types of sexism that are taken up more readily by feminists or are some issues just being ignored?

Most people by now will have seen this advert from Protein World; it has been streamed across social media and condemned for portraying an altered, unrealistic model. I am not disagreeing with those who have condemned it, it should not have been published. Women should not be led to believe that an unrealistic ideal that is still pursued by the media is attainable. Moreover, there should be a focus on being healthier and stronger, which is not directly linked to body size. The imagery in the advert of the model is similar to that of photos printed in fashion magazines, making people feel physically inferior to unrealistic body images and exacerbates the problems of young women who suffer mental health disorders. There has been an online petition started by Charlotte Baring to remove the advert and in a week has attracted over 60,000 signatures and Dove have published their own response to the advert.

However, just to take one example, women in Northern Ireland faced serious problems when a full ban abortion was proposed; these are rights that British women had in the 1960s and often lead to countless trips to English clinics. The result was a small concession, women are now permitted to have an abortion if the foetus is so severely deformed that it would not survive outside the womb. Those who are victims of rape or incest are still denied the choice of abortion. Although these laws were passed, which is admittedly a small step but only 23% of 777 formal responses from individuals and organisations were in favour of the new changes.

There have been so many news articles this week, not just concerning abortion in Northern Ireland. They all have their own importance and should not be ranked by worthiness, and I will not go into massive amounts of detail, but just to give a few examples. Patsy Kensit claimed this week that Kate Middleton is the ‘suffragette’ of our generation just by wearing a dress twice; this is not a view I personally agree with, but there are social norms for women not to wear the same dress in public more than once, which as a standard has its own problems. To give another example, Sandi Toksvig has set up her own women’s rights political party, The Women’s Equality Party, after resigning for Radio 4. The party is now campaigning for equal rights in representation, business, education, wages and parenting, as well as seeking an end to violence against women. These issues should be given the same amount of coverage and attention as any other feminist campaign because they raise awareness for the cause and help form the equality that women need.

So why have more of us heard more about an advertisement than a government changing laws concerning women’s rights? It could be something to do with media coverage, or that on the mainland we are not aware that women’s rights are still being impinged right on our own front doorstep, as it hasn’t been a prominent issue for decades. Other feminist news articles have been deprioritised this week, but this does not make them any more or less important. I do not want to argue that there are worthy causes of feminism however, because it is too easy for an opposition to argue that feminism focuses on ‘trivial’ things and should focus on more important issues like female genital mutilations and abortion; this would be inaccurate though, because it is perfectly possible to care about images placed in the media as much as state-controlled women’s rights.


Sources: The Independent, The Telegraph, National Right To Life News, The Guardian