I was recently invited to join the discussion on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme with the wonderful Laura Bates, who launched Everyday Sexism.
Great. But it was set up as the New Feminism achieving more than the boring old feminism…
Madness: the new feminism is fabulous — women improvising political strategies out of their own experience and in the context of new cultures of sexism released by the web. As it should be: each generation confronting its own circumstances and creating its own movements.
The established media, however, suffers from historical amnesia as well as institutional indifference — it thinks of feminism as if it were Year Zero: nothing happened until yesterday. It doesn’t know what’s being going on because it doesn’t pay attention.
Every day the Today programme has a sports bulletin. Actually, it’s a bulletin about boys’ games.
But did you hear the programme interview the nursery nurses and classroom assistants who took on a cartel of 20 councils in Scotland over equal pay — fought them all the way to the Supreme Court and won last month?
Did we hear interviews with cleaners and cooks who challenged Europe’s biggest local authority, Birmingham, over a grotesquely discriminatory bonus structure — and won?
Did we hear the thousands of women trekking through the tribunals to make public authorities obey the equality law? Did we hear government being challenged about their readiness to bail out the banks, but their refusal right now to bail out local authorities facing historical comeuppance and monumental bills for their determined refusal to apply the law on equal pay – in effect, for stealing from women?
Do we hear about feminism’s impact in the last Labour government in radicalising the law on crimes of sexual violence, or its irreducible importance in making new labour introduce Sure Start — the best thing it ever did?
Each generation makes its own feminism — but it is as hard as it is because our national media ignores the feminist activism that already exists.