ELLE debate

Feminism is for everyone

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‘Feminism doesn't need to be rebranded. It needs to be reclaimed. Feminism isn't a man-hating crusade. It's about equality, which isn't very controversial.'
Women and Equalities minister Jo Swinson had the audience of ELLE’s feminism debate at Mother London nodding in agreement when she made this statement at an inspiring evening of discussion hosted by ELLE Editor in Chief Lorraine Candy.
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A panel of eight fascinating women were invited to speak out about their personal experience of feminism and what they feel the future of the movement is. The debate was as smart, compelling and energising as we hoped it would be.
Sara Pascoe opened with a comedy set that covered padded bras, feminist protest group Femen, ice cream, fake tan, burqas, David Cameron and Fifty Shades of Grey.

Sara’s probing and honest opener set the tone of the evening and concluded with a sentiment that prevailed throughout: 'Feminism isn't one set of rules. We won't all agree but we need more voices.'
Ikamara Larasi, co-founder of Rewind Reframe (a platform for young women to identify and challenge racism and sexism in music videos) also holds this view – or, as she put it on the night: 'Not sharing the opinions of all feminists doesn't make me any less of a feminist. There are as many feminisms as there are women. We don’t all have to agree.'
The motion up for debate was ‘Does feminism need rebranding?’ Rhiannon Lucy Coslett and Holly Baxter of online magazine Vagenda supported it. ‘We should be making feminism mainstream. That should be at the top of our agenda,' they agreed. 'Feminism needs a rebrand; it has an image problem among younger girls.'
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Ruby Tandoh, writer and The Great British Bake-Off finalist, shared this opinion too: 'We need to make feminism less academic, more accessible.'
However, many of the speakers found the concept of rebranding problematic. Laura Jordan Bambach, President, D&AD explained, ‘I have an issue with the word rebranding as it supposes a version of feminism that is wrong.’ Kat Banyard, founder of UK Feminista, was also uncomfortable with this terminology, noting, ‘Feminism isn’t a product. You can’t put social justice in a tin and sell it. What we need to do is tell the uncomfortable, audacious inspiring truth about feminism.'
Lorraine explained that the wording was intentionally controversial: ‘We wouldn’t be sitting here debating these important issues if I’d run a piece called 10 Things You Should Know About Feminism.'
The biggest take-away from last night’s debate was the fact that feminism needs to be something that everyone can engage with in whatever capacity they feel comfortable with. It was an utterly fascinating conversation that explored the gender pay gap, endemic sexism, feminism and femininity, and positive role models.
At the end of the debate the audience were asked to raise their hand if they would call themselves feminists. There was a united show of hands. As Kat Banyard put it: ‘feminism is back in the headlines and back on the streets.’
This is just the beginning… Join the debate @ELLEUK #ELLEfeminism and read all about the next steps in the February issue of ELLE, on sale now.

Watch the highlights from the debate...

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Lorraine discusses ELLE's feminism project on Woman's Hour

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