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Feminism Is For Everyone

Has feminism become trapped in its own elitist ‘lean-in’ bubble? How can we bring men into the conversation, and involve them in a project that stands to benefit everyone?

A year ago, you could have been forgiven for thinking that gender equality was on an unstoppable trajectory. America stood poised to elect its first female president. On this side of the Atlantic, members of the political and cultural establishment proudly sported ‘This Is What a Feminist Looks Like’ T-shirts. Had you told a Hillary Clinton supporter or one of those T-shirt campaigners that a year later the US president would be Donald Trump, a man with an abysmal record of sexually harassing women, and that women over the world would be defending their basic rights, including access to abortion, they would have barely believed it.

How did we end up here? Has feminism become trapped, as some claim, in its own elitist ‘lean-in’ bubble? The recent Women’s Marches may have seen millions take to the streets in a tide of popular outrage. But some feminist commentators argue that the marches only demonstrated just how much middle-class liberal aspirations have become over-represented in the gender equality movement. Feminism, for these critics, has failed ‘ordinary’ women by focusing almost exclusively on the advancement of women at the top. According to a new report, while female CEOs’ salaries are rising, the gender pay gap across the globe is actually wider today than it was in 2008.

If the gender equality project is to move beyond the needs and concerns of the so-called ‘elite’, what are the blindspots it needs to address? What can feminism do to expand the conversation beyond the ‘politically correct’ classes? How can we bring men into the conversation, and involve them in a project that stands to benefit everyone?

To explore how gender equality can be made more accessible, Intelligence Squared brought together a brilliant panel to put forward their practical solutions. Speakers included Jess Phillips, the outspoken MP described as ‘Labour’s future red queen’, and Catherine Mayer, bestselling author and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party. They were joined by writer and TV star David Baddiel, and teenage activist and journalist June Eric-Udorie, named one of the BBC’s 100 Women of 2016.



Emily Maitlis

Lead presenter of BBC Newsnight and one of the UK’s best known broadcasters

Lead presenter of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Newsnight. She presents general elections for the BBC and covers US politics for the programme from across America. She has won plaudits for her longer form interviews for Newsnight, for which she has interviewed Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Clinton and the Duke of York. 

David Baddiel

Comedian, author, screenwriter, television presenter whose new book is The God Desire .

Comedian, author, screenwriter, television presenter and Jewish activist. Following the publication of his bestselling polemic Jews Don’t Count, David has been at the forefront of tackling antisemitism in the media, sport, and more broadly, the progressive left. The book became The Sunday Times Politics and Current Affairs Book of the Year, 2021 and enjoyed critical acclaim in the UK, Europe and US. In 2022, Jews Don't Count was adapted into a documentary for Channel 4. David's varied career spans over thirty years. As a stand-up comedian, he performed to a Wembley crowd of 12500 in the UK's first ever arena comedy show in 1992 and was credited with turning comedy into 'The New Rock n Roll’. His television credits include creating and starring in The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Newman and Baddiel in Pieces and Fantasy Football. More recently he has created and presented several acclaimed documentaries, including The Trouble with Dad (Channel 4), Confronting Holocaust Denial (BBC2) and Social Media, Anger and Us (BBC2). David has published ten hugely successful children's books as well as four critically acclaimed adult novels.   

June Eric-Udorie

Activist and journalist

Activist and journalist. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Daily Telegraph. In 2016, she successfully ran a petition to have the study of feminism added to the A-level politics curriculum in the UK. She is a prominent anti female genital mutilation activist, and editor of a forthcoming anthology on intersectional feminism.

Catherine Mayer

President of the Women’s Equality Party

President of the Women’s Equality Party, which she co-founded in 2015. She is the former editor-at-large of Time magazine, and the author of several books, including a bestselling biography of Prince Charles, Charles: The Heart of a King, and the forthcoming Attack of the 50ft Women: How Gender Equality Can Save the World.

Jess Phillips

Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley

Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley. She has been hailed by JK Rowling as ‘a heroine’, for her pronouncements in the House of Commons. She is the author of the books Everywoman: One Woman’s Truth About Speaking the Truth and Truth to Power: 7 Ways to Call Time on B.S.