We hear almost daily from the media that we are witnessing an upsurge in feminist activism and ideas. People tend to discount these media claims particularly as it is summer, many people are away on holiday, and journalists need to file their copy in some way or other. But we have confirmation of a rise in feminist activity from another, more serious source. There is a new book out just now charting recent developments in feminist activism in Britain entitled Rethinking Contemporary Feminist Politics (Jonathan Dean, Palgrave) which echoes this viewpoint.
Jonathan Dean has researched three contemporary British feminist groups in particular, The Fawcett Society, Women's Aid and the F-word website, to show that new forms of feminism are emerging currently which nevertheless continue to draw on and be influenced by the 2nd wave feminism of the 1970s and 1980s. It is unusual to have a man researching feminism, and when asked how he got into this work, Jonathan says that his consciousness was raised by feeling ‘silly’ about male rituals (getting drunk, misogyny etc.) while an undergraduate. He then gained a vocabulary which helped him understand his discomfort from a week on feminist theory in his
degree course in Politics and Sociology, and in particular, from reading Judith Butler’s work. His book is based on his doctoral work and he remains passionate about the importance of feminism, both for women and men.
He doesn’t say too much about education although he notes that quite a few younger feminists are focusing on the gendered cultures of primary and secondary schools, and how they perpetuate sexist and homophobic language and behaviour. He values Angela McRobbie’s ideas in The Aftermath of Feminism (2008, Sage) but is critical of her claim that higher education in the UK is currently the last haven of feminism and its most productive site. However he is not too sympathetic either with feminist grassroots activists who accuse academic feminists of being detached and elitist.
Do other people think that feminism is on the way up again like Jonathan Dean? Or that academic feminists are detached and out of touch? Let us know your views
Further information about the new book and a free sample chapter are available from Palgrave