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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

Award-winning journalist and presenter of The News Agents podcast

Award-winning journalist and broadcaster, and presenter of the Gold Award winning daily podcast, The News Agents. Having covered elections in the US and UK for the BBC, she fronted Newsnight, becoming a stalwart of the broadcaster’s news output and a trusted voice with the viewing public. She was recognised by GQ Magazine as one of the most influential people in Britain.  

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

First elected as the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley in 2015 and was elected chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party in September 2016. Before becoming an MP, she worked with victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking, and she continues to speak up on behalf of those who struggle to have their voice heard. Jess lives with her husband and two sons in Birmingham, where she was born and raised.