2011 – What happened to feminism?

It’s 2011 and it’s hard not to wonder what happened to feminism?

People, and sadly women in particular, are scared to label themselves as feminists because it is seen as outdated, and irrelevant. Feminism has become the official dirty F word for women.

The world of post-post-feminism tells women that we’ve arrived, we’re here, we’ve got the vote, we can work, and we can use the pill or have an abortion, plus we can have sex ‘like men’ – so we must be living it up. But are we?

South Africa is a particularly interesting place to have this debate. It is one of the least safe places for women in the world (in terms of sexual violence), is incredibly conservative despite its liberal constitution, and relegates the work of the HIV care economy largely in women’s laps at the expense of their ability to seek paid employment. Women can certainly work, and they do it bloody hard, all day and most nights. Women must work harder and more hours than men to earn the same salary. Women, in short, are certainly not living it up.

Yet there are simultaneously more platforms than ever for women’s engagement. The creative world is filled with women, and the number of South African female bloggers has steadily increased. Community development is often led by women who are fearless, relentless and unwavering in their support of other women. The number of female politicians in senior roles is higher than most third-world countries, and women lead most NGOs in SA.

However, access to these platforms are limited and facilitated by particular social ties, experiences, class, race, and culture. Feminism certainly has some deep roots in South Africa, but only a select few women are able to access the fruits that these roots bear.

It is thus essential to ask who the women are who are willing to call themselves feminists in 2011, and what it means for them? Can one word adequately describe the experiences of a number of women from varied backgrounds, cultures, races, sexualities and political positionings?

This is the theme that I hope this blog will explore in January. My hope is that despite our varying positions, we will all come to the conclusion that feminism is very much needed, as is a redefinition of its inclusions, exclusions and built-in prejudices.

As this is the first month of the blog, I hope it can be a truly exploratory one. The style and the categories may change, and your feedback and negotiation is certainly welcome!

You will also notice that there is a section entitled ‘men’s perspectives’. When introducing the project on Twitter, several men indicated that they would like to write, consider themselves as feminists, and want to work on this project with us. The twittersphere was largely in support of this, and I think that it’s worth giving it a go in this spirit of inclusion.

As posts appear they’ll be categorised so that you can browse articles you might find interesting. The  on the left will be your guide to finding the right things for you. The most popular posts will appear on the right, as will the most recent posts. We’ll develop a page of all of our authors (so you can get to know your favourites) and some guidelines for article and photograph submission. Your advice and suggestions are also welcome here.

Essentially, I hope that we can make this an incredible project. I’m convinced that the need to situate feminism at the core of our analysis of everything else that affects women is essential.

Lets make 2011 a year for refreshing and redefining feminism. I think that we all need it.

Jen Thorpe



2 thoughts on “2011 – What happened to feminism?”

  1. Personally I think the greatest trick for Patriarchy was convincing women that using their sexuality is empowering. That’s easy for young women, who are part of the patriarchy’s dream, but when looks fade there’s a stark reality.


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