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My Favourite Feminists
March 8, 2015
Happy International Women's Day to each and every one of you!
To mark this day of celebration, activism and reflection, I am going to share with you the identities of ten of my very favourite feminists.
An all too often forgotten feminist. Mary Wollstonecraft.
Which is silly. Because she was one of the first feminist philosophers of the modern age. Wollstonecraft wrote "A Vindication on the Rights of Woman" in 1792. Yes, 1792. Let's just imagine for a second that it's 1792. The establishment was infinitely more patriarchal than it is now. Reactions to her publication didn't focus on content but questioned why a woman was writing in the first place. She was labelled by one as a "hyena in petticoats". I'm sure many fierce feminists would take this as a compliment but in 1792, "meek and pious wife and mother" might have been a more acceptable compliment.
Wollstonecraft only lived for 38 years but she totally smashed it.
If you don't know who Dr. Lucy Worsley is, let me take this opportunity to introduce her. The chief curator of Historical Royal Palaces, dynamic presenter and owner of an excellent hair cut, Lucy is best known as the presenter of historical documentaries on BBC 2 and BBC 4 in which she focuses on the lives of women in Britain's centuries past. Her presenting style is witty, fun and totally bewitching,
This is the first time that the BBC have commissioned programmes that offer such an explicitly female perspective on British history. This leads me to think that Lucy must have had to fight very hard indeed to make this work and her energy, determination and optimism seeps through the television screen in every shot.
Sir Patrick Stewart is very much out and proud as a socialist, feminist, humanist and all round good egg. We've heard him speak publicly on behalf of some great campaigns including Ring The Bell and here he is talking to Amnesty International. What really inspires me about Sir Patrick's feminism is that he sees things absolutely as they are and his words on the subject are very profound.
Here's a quote from a speech for Ring The Bell:
"The truth is that domestic violence and violence against women touch many of us. This violence is not a private matter. Behind closed doors it is shielded and hidden and it only intensifies. It is protected by silence – everyone's silence. Violence against women is learned. Each of us must examine - and change - the ways in which our own behavior might contribute to, enable, ignore or excuse all such forms of violence. I promise to do so, and to invite other men and allies to do the same."
"I will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now. Not ever."
Next its Julia Gillard, the long suffering Australian politician. How she hasn't lost her mind having to look at that misogynist donut Tony Abbott every day I cannot fathom.
This speech went viral. It made my skin tingle.
Here is the transcript. Here is the video. Enjoy them at your leisure.
My mum is an endless source of inspiration to me. She believes in doing what makes you happy and caring for the people around you.
I am dead proud of everything she has achieved. Her patience and generosity never end. I have no idea how she does it.
Hamlet, Socialism, Dinnerladies...is there anything Maxine Peake CAN'T do?
Two years ago Julie Ward was one of the Artistic Directors of Jack Drum Arts, a successful community arts organisation in County Durham. And where is she now? Brussels. Julie Ward launched a campaign to become an MEP for the North West of England. She talked, she talked and then she talked some more. She talked her way into European Parliament. She now talks for a living standing up for social justice, doing battle with UKIP and putting the world to rights one day at a time. She has the skin of a rhinoceros, the determination of a salmon and a very big heart indeed. I have not even skimmed the surface of the giant iceberg that is Julie Ward the powerhouse. Julie is also my mother-in-law without the "law" bit. I'm super proud to be part of her family. Click here to read an article about the moment that Julie decided to enter politics.
"For most of history, anonymous was a woman"
No list of feminists could ever be complete without Virginia Woolf.
One of most voracious campaigners of our age, Caroline Criado-Perez kicked up an absolute storm over the banknotes and rightly so. Gaining 35,000 signatures and enough funding to launch a legal campaign, the Bank of England eventually crumbled and agreed to printing Jane Austen on ten pound notes from 2017. The aftermath gained more public attention than the issue with Criado-Perez receiving hundreds of abusive messages (eg. "Stop Breathing") on twitter. She said "it's not about what women are doing, not about feminism. It's that some men don't like women, and don't like women in the public domain. Men get attacked because they’ve said or done something someone doesn’t like, whereas women get attacked because they’re visible." And this rings really true for me. Some men still hate women voicing opinions, especially in public. We're accused of being bossy and uptight. We're told "smile love, it'll never happen" and to get back in the kitchen. It still happens. Honest, it does.
Jack Burton is my boyfriend. He is also a feminist.
We met in December 2011 working on a pantomime at the Georgian Theatre Royal in North Yorkshire. He was playing the ukulele, I was playing the principle boy - Sinbad. In our coming months together, Jack listened to me talking about gender inequality. He opened his mind and allowed himself to start seeing all the everyday, institutional and societal acts of sexism that I was seeing. He is now the most rigorous and thoughtful feminist I know. This paragraph doesn't just serve to celebrate Jack's feminism but to give thanks to all men who walk together with women in pursuit of gender equality. In my life, I would like to give personal thank yous to James Edwin Lane, David Reakes, Joe Sellman Leava and Mike Woodman.
Thank you for joining me here in cyber space for this special moment. It was a blast.
TALES FROM THE ROYAL BEDCHAMBER, BBC 4, Aired July 2013.
HARLOTS, HOUSEWIVES & HEROINES, BBC 4, Aired May 2012.