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"We still need feminism!"

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"Perhaps we should just ignore it. Not dignify it with a response. But, as a wise man once almost said, for crashing stupidity to flourish it is only necessary for people of slightly less crashing stupidity to do nothing. So let’s wade in, shall we?

In an interview with Vogue Paris, Carla Bruni announced that women of her generation don’t need feminism. “There are pioneers who opened the breach,” she graciously noted, “[but] I’m not at all an active feminist. On the contrary, I’m a bourgeois. I love family life, I love doing the same thing every day.”

There is so much one could say. Like – it’s feminism that gave women the choice of whether to stay at home, go out to work, or both. Those choices exist – if imperfectly – because of those pioneers and the people still working to beat back encroachments on these recently won rights and to extend their reach to all colours, classes and creeds of woman who were not, for a variety of economic and social reasons, to be in the vanguard.

Like – let’s take a trip around the headlines of just a couple of national newspapers on the day your facile assertion was printed. What do we find? An abundance of articles about raped, beaten and murdered women, young and old, across the country, Europe, the world. An even greater abundance of stories about female celebrities “flaunting their curves” on the red carpet or on beach holidays (and “looking older than their years” – embedded in a slaveringly toned piece if the celebrity is particularly young, a disgusted one if she is older or out in public without make-up). Chris Brown, the rap star who beat up his girlfriend Rihanna, arguing with comedian Jenny Johnson on Twitter and advising her to “Take them teeth out when u sucking my d*ck, HOE [sic]” before going on to be unprintable in what isn’t even a family magazine. A story about the rise in female genital mutilation being practised on women in Bradford. I wonder if they wish for more or less equality with men as they undergo their cliterodectomies and other unimaginably painful and unsafe procedures in order that their potential husbands can be sure they are getting virgin brides?

Carla Bruni and ignorant friends, please keep schtum

If you can’t get hold of any newspapers, grab any woman in the street and chat to her for 20 minutes and find out whether she’s being paid as much as the man next to her in the office, whether she or any of her female friends has ever been propositioned by a stranger in a pub, whether she’s ever been sexually assaulted and if the perpetrator was caught and given a punishment commensurate with the crime.

Ask her what her worries are and then ask yourself the question posed by Caitlin Moran in her book How To Be A Woman – are men afraid of these things too? If the answer is no, we need feminism.

But most of all I’d like to say – how dare you, an heiress, model, the First Lady of France for four years make any kind of pronouncement – overt or implied – on other women’s lives. The habit of unrepresentative people to think that they speak for the common man or woman is a pernicious one. Our politicians are drawn from an impossibly narrow section of society. Not only have almost all of them been to private school, most of them are from just a tiny handful of those privileged few. Things aren’t much better in the media world. If you sit down in front of any television programme that purports to be influential and traced their origins you would soon come to the conclusion that there were only 17 people in the country who mattered, most of whom shared either DNA or club memberships with Boris Johnson. I know. Think of that and weep.

Policies are dreamt up, in short, by people who have as little idea of how irrelevant their life experiences are as Carla evidently has of hers.

So, not only do we still need feminism, we need an additional form of raised consciousness. We need to realise that those who pretend to speak for us, do not. They cannot. The best they can do is honestly recognise this fact and take measures to ameliorate the one and only disadvantage privilege brings – an ignorance so deep you don’t even know what it is you are ignorant of. Until then, Carla and friends, keep schtum."

You can contact Lucy by email at lucy.mangan@stylist.co.uk or follow her at twitter.com/lucymangan

What do you think? Is feminism still important and relevant in today's world? Let us know in the comments section below

Picture credit: Rex Features

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