Well-behaved women don’t make history: difficult women do. Helen Lewis argues that feminism’s success is down to complicated, contradictory, imperfect women, who fought each other as well as fighting for equal rights. Too many of these pioneers have been forgotten in our modern search for feel-good, inspirational heroines. It’s time to reclaim the history of feminism as a history of difficult women.
Lewis talks about the working-class suffragettes who advocated bombings and arson; the princess who discovered why so many women were having bad sex; and the pioneer of the refuge movement who became a men’s rights activist. Find out about the ‘striker in a sari’ who terrified Margaret Thatcher; the wronged Victorian wife who definitely wasn’t sleeping with the prime minister; and the lesbian politician who outraged the country.
Taking the story up to the present with the twenty-first century campaign for abortion services, Lewis reveals the unvarnished – and unfinished – history of women’s rights. She talks with Sian Norris about why the feminist movement has succeeded and what it should do next.
Difficult Women is published by Vintage Publishing. Buy a copy from our friends at Waterstones.
This is part of The Great Reset programme, in which we look at the challenges facing us and the solutions to these. The programme starts in November 2020 and runs to November 2021. Future themes include: freedom of speech and democracy (Spring-October 2021); the Bristol Constitutional Convention (Spring 2021) and a new future for cities in Festival of the Future City (October 2021). Ongoing events in our Festival of Ideas throughout 2021 will also focus on challenges and solutions.
It’s important to us that ideas and debate are affordable to everyone. It’s also important that our commentators, artists, writers, poets and thinkers are paid. This is a Pay What You Can event. You are invited to choose your own contribution to the event, from £0 to £8. All proceeds go towards supporting our speakers and sustaining Festival of Ideas. The option to attend for free is available for all online events.
Image of Helen Lewis by Urszula Soltys.