The F Word

f word
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Emma Watson’s recent UN speech ignited new interest in feminism. Other celebrities such as Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence and even Joseph Gordon-Levitt have added their voices too, giving the movement even more momentum. Closer to home, Aingeala Flannery takes a look at some of the inspiring Irish women who’ve been fighting the fight long before it was fashionable.

You can’t be a feminist if you wax your legs. You can’t be a feminist if you love men. You can’t be a feminist if you wear that dress, or if you can run in those shoes. If you like soap operas and chick lit, you’re not a feminist. If you’ve ever dated a rugby player, or cried over a romantic comedy, or coveted another woman’s engagement ring, you are not a feminist. Feminists don’t diet, feminists are fat, feminists are bitter, hairy and humourless. They live– and sadly, die – alone, with cats.

As a younger woman, that was my experience of calling myself a feminist. You couldn’t just drop the F word – all casual like – and expect people not to be mildly terrified of you. That was then, and this is now. These days, you can’t throw a tantrum without hitting a high-powered feminista. Jennifer Lawrence is one, Lena Dunham is definitely one, Miley says she is one, and there on the frontline leading the charge of the feminist-lite brigade is the biggest, most bootlicious celeb of all–Beyoncé.

And what’s so wrong with that? There are sisters among us who sneer at Mrs Carter’s very public change of heart. They shouldn’t–when Beyoncé sampled Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on “***Flawless”, she helped recruit the unconverted to the cause.

The Nigerian writer’s 30-minute TEDx speech, “We should all be feminists”, now has almost 1.5 million hits on YouTube. If you haven’t already viewed it, you really, really should.

Truth be told, these celebrity feminists are responding to a movement they can no longer ignore: The Everyday Sexism Project, the HeForShe campaign, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani girl who faced down the Taliban to demand education for girls…

Feminism isn’t a niche, or a clique, or an academic club. It’s a movement that demands social, economic and political equality for you, for me, for the woman who grows her bush, and the woman who prefers to have none. There’s a fight to be fought – let’s not make it among ourselves. Meet the Irish women riding the crest of the third wave…

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Margaret E Ward, Women On Air

Tired of turning on your radio and hearing all male voices? Well, so was journalist Margaret E Ward. That’s why in 2010 she set up Women On Air, a network of women who want better gender balance on the airwaves.

According to Ward, programme makers say they can’t find women to contribute to their shows–hence the bias towards men. Worse again, radio executives told her “listeners prefer male voices”.

In response, she compiled a list of women who are experts in their fields, and who are willing and able to talk on air. “The List” now features more than 1,000 women.

According to Ward, women “tend to shy away from opinion journalism”. She is on a mission to redress that imbalance and assure women “that their opinions are valid – and wanted – by radio researchers and producers”.

Women On Air does this by holding seminars and training sessions. Previous speakers include RTÉ’s Keelin Shanley and Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, Newstalk’s Orla Barry and Dr Rhona Mahony, the first female Master of the National Maternity Hospital.

Women make up 52 per cent of the population. Should we allow ourselves to be a silent majority? Not if Ward has anything to do with it.

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Laura Whitmore, BecauseIAmAGirl

How do you get a generation of celebrity-obsessed young women to talk about women’s rights? Beyoncé did it beneath a giant neon “FEMINIST” sign at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. Emma Watson did it delivering a speech on gender inequality to the United Nations.

There is a new breed of self-proclaimed feminist: the celebrity who is less likely to burn her bra than she is to launch her own line of lacy smalls. Should being rich, famous and beautiful preclude you from speaking up for women’s rights? It hasn’t stopped

It girl Laura Whitmore is an Irish ambassador for the Because I AmAGirl campaign. The Plan Ireland initiative was set up to educate and empower girls in the developing world – young women who are denied education, who are forced into marriage, who are subjected to female genital mutilation.

Whitmore – or as she modestly calls herself on Twitter, “yer wan off the telly” – has over 300k followers and uses her profile to ask them to donate, support and raise awareness about the Because I AmAGirl campaign. / @TheWhitmore / @PlanIreland

Aingeala Flannery @MissFlannery

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