Charlotte Salomon is Deputy Chairman Membership for Saffron Walden Conservatives.
On my diary in our kitchen sits a four-way Bic. A man’s pen. I know it’s a man’s pen because in 2012 Bic, the billion-euro pen manufacturer fetched headlines when they brought a women’s pen to market.
We can all heave a sardonic sigh of progressive relief, ‘Bic for Her’ had at long last been engineered following what I can only envision was a lengthy R&D process to solve a problem that didn’t need solving. Sold as a pair, these pastel pink and purple writing implements mechanically remained as unremarkable as any standard gender-neutral pen, and yet those of us attempting to write in the traditional method without a Y chromosome would be charged three times the standard price for our new femi-pens.
The media got bored and moved on, the torrential teacup downfall tapered off, and Bic for Her continues to be restocked across Britain’s largest retail chains. My point is, maybe Bic didn’t get it wrong— not completely. To draw women into roles they aren’t typically attracted to, do we now need to make it… pink? If you find the premise of this theory unpleasant, I sympathise, but I presume you haven’t been paying attention.
Gender identity has taken a tight corner in the last decade; this volatile topic levelled the foundation for generation hashtag to launch a multitude of campaigns in the name of feminism. As we cause-hop from #EverydaySexism, #MeToo to #Timesup, global and social media narratives remain transfixed on women — on how far we’ve come, and moreover, how far we haven’t. If we’re so woke and gender-fluid in 2018, why does the gender pay gap still exist? Can we really keep blaming men for women’s absence in influential roles forty years after the second feminist revolution?
My mother moved to London from Manchester in the early eighties after hitting a glass ceiling. Back then, London was comfortably more liberal than the north and she was hired as an investment analyst the day she arrived with little more than £28 to her name. Feminists had finished burning their bras and now they wanted careers as they strived for a capitalist equality, not a socialist one. The eighties saw the beginning of female empowerment in the workforce as they ditched their secretarial wiggle skirts for the power suit.
We elected our first female Prime Minister in 1979 at a time when women couldn’t apply for credit in their own names, and by the end of the next decade The Equal Pay Act had come into effect, the first woman leader of the House of Lords had been appointed and the first female Lord Mayor of London had been elected. Women weren’t just catching up in terms of experience, for the first time women were overtaking men in education, and at long last London’s square mile saw a surge of female talent. This was the decade where women would make the most significant progress on closing the wage gap—and they did it without hashtags.
What followed was nineties feminism which was swallowed up in pop culture. Third wave feminism didn’t really exist in the real world; we embraced girl power, wore horrendous flatforms and watched overly dramatised sitcoms where almost every woman was an attractive witch or a vampire slayer. In a world where women still lacked influential and physical power, the nineties projected TV heroines as supernatural beings with gifted abilities to level gender inequalities.
Women were content living off the success of second wave feminists, earning larger disposable incomes than ever before whilst divorce surged to the highest figures to date, 72 per cent of which were initiated by women. TLC didn’t want no scrubs and Destiny’s Child were independent women, and yet childcare wouldn’t become effective until after the millennium. Yes, women could work, they could even take executive roles, but they couldn’t be mothers too, not yet. Quietly, we accepted that.
In 2018, we woke up and in true millennial style we knitted little pink hats and unleashed an all-out gender war upon western civilisation. Welcome to feminism 4.0. Modern man must keep his arms pinned to his sides at all times since clumsy flirtation has now been reframed as sexual assault. Threats of women quotas hang over educational institutions and businesses to ensure they are gender fair, and all in an era where being a mother is still more important than being a father. The biggest problem with feminism in 2018 is that we called it feminism. What we should have been striving for was ‘gender equality’.
There isn’t a question of whether we, as a society need to repair the harmful conditioning we’ve inflicted on young girls. We were expected to be tidier, better behaved and show modesty in character unlike our boisterous male school friends. To this day, I’m not entirely sure what behaving more ladylike means, but as girls, it’s a term we’re flooded with, and more often than not, it’s other women that promote the term. We’ve become harmful, not just to our generation or gender but to all that follow. To be confident and assertive is to be a bloody difficult woman, because when we were young we were told just as much.
Today, women account for just 4.8 per cent of Fortune 500 CEO roles, 32 per cent of MP’s are women and only 24 per cent of persons seen, heard or read about in the media are women. So when you scratch your scalp in disbelief that the upskirting bill had to become an actual thing, or wonder why women’s sanitary products are still taxed as a luxury good, consider women are not equally represented across business, media and government. And until women put down their placards and put on their mother’s powersuits, we may as well paint it pink