21st century feminist activism

The Feminist Library

A look at the broad range of issues and campaigns at the heart of feminism today.

The noughties feminist revival
The Feminist Library managed to keep going through the downturn of the women’s movement in the early 1990s. Its resurgence started with the slow revival of the feminist movement in the mid-2000s, which became noticeable with the organisation of a number of feminist cultural festivals (known as Ladyfests) around the country. This selection of flyers from our contemporary collection are displayed in chronological order, and show that the range of feminist activity today is wide, and ever expanding.
Cultural interventions
Telling women's untold stories has always been a key aim of the feminist movement so, like during the suffrage and Women's Liberation Movement eras, contemporary feminists are tackling male-dominated cultural spaces by creating their own. The 21st century has seen a resurgence of all-female comedy, music, and theatre events, showcasing female cultural talent and creativity. This particular piece of theatre, 'Images of Elsewhere', celebrated and gave a voice to the experiences of Muslim women in Britain.

Ladyfest London was one of several Ladyfest events to emerge during the mid-2000s.

These community-based and volunteer-run events consisted of several days of festival programming, showcasing women's arts, music and activism.

In a similar vein, the Girls Rock! camp was a week-long project aimed at promoting women musicians and encouraging more girls into music.

This Stand Up for Women comedy night, featuring a line-up of female comedians, was a fundraising event for Object! – a feminist group campaigning against the sexual objectification of women.

Inspired by second wave women's peace activism, like the Greenham Women's Peace Camp, this feminist camp protested against the UK's nuclear weapons at AWE Aldermaston for many years.

Reclaim the Night marches were a staple of the Women's Liberation Movement, and were revived in London in 2004 by the London Feminist Network.

Annual night-time marches, which now take place around the country and the world, are a women-only protest against rape and male violence against women.

Million Women Rise is a women-only march against male violence which takes place on the Saturday nearest to International Women’s Day (8th March). It has been held annually since 2007.

This useful timeline is part of a campaign by the Women's Resource Centre to promote the importance of supporting women's organisations.

Activist network UK Feminista was formed in the mid-2000s to support feminist campaigning around Britain.

In 2011, they held a weekend-long summer school at the University of Birmingham, with a range of panel discussions and workshops on 21st century feminist activism.

The SlutWalk movement was a defiant global reaction to the words of one Canadian police officer - which are a reflection of a wider systemic tendency - who advised women to "avoid dressing like sluts" in order to prevent rape.

Activists all over the world organised a day of action against rape and victim blaming.

Reminiscent of the close relationship between the feminist and lesbian movements during the Women's Liberation Movement, the Dyke March was a protest march in the style of gay pride parades, with the aim of increasing the visibility of lesbians and other LGBT+ women.

Established in 1979, during feminism's second wave, the Feminist Review is a triannual journal exploring gender and feminist issues.

In 2012, Feminist Review celebrated their 100th issue.

Feminist zines are a vital part of the many DIY zine festivals that have sprung up in recent years - like this one in South East London in 2012.

Contemporary feminist activism is diverse and multicultural.

This film festival, Women Mujeres, celebrated Spanish feminist film-making.

Tunaweza (We Can) Festival celebrated young African women with a one-day International Women's Day event in aid of charity Forward - a campaign to protect the reproductive rights and freedoms of African women and girls, including prevention of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child/forced marriage.

Million Women Rise is an annual women-only march and a movement to end male violence against women.

This 2013 poster refers back to the famous militant film from the Second Wave, Born in Flames, which has recently been re-issued.

The White Ribbon Campaign is a movement of men opposed to male violence against women.

The movement focuses on educating and raising awareness amongst other men in order to prevent abuse.

The London Feminist Film Festival is an annual festival celebrating films by and about women, and exploring feminist themes.

Founded by activist and Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler, One Billion Rising (or V-Day) is held annually on Valentine's Day as a vibrant, musical form of collective resistance to violence against women globally.

This 2014 event at the Rag Factory on Brick Lane, East London, 'debated' whether we should all be feminists, in response to the publication of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's groundbreaking book We Should All Be Feminists.

The imagery used on the flyer pays homage to the Suffrage Movement, the Women's Liberation Movement, and contemporary feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who were imprisoned in 2012 for a protest performance against the Russian Orthodox Church.

One Of My Kind is another example of the resurgence of independent, feminist small-press publications. OOMK Zine is a highly visual, handcrafted small-press publication, which is printed biannually. Its content pivots upon the imaginations, creativity and spirituality of women, as its collective works to dismantle racial and gender hierarchies within the creative industries.

www.oomk.net

The Women's Equality Party is a political party co-founded by author and journalist Catherine Mayer, and broadcaster and author Sandi Toksvig, in 2015.

www.womensequality.org.uk

The Time Is Now was a UK-wide season of film exploring and celebrating the role women play in effecting change.

Films were screened in venues around the country from October 2015, with the launch of the Suffragette movie, through to January 2016.

Bad Housekeeping was one of many online feminist publications to launch during the mid-late 2000s, this one aimed at students.

Following in the footsteps of print publications from The Suffragette to Spare Rib, independent feminist media continue to engage and inspire women today.

Modern feminist publications are now largely found online, where feminism is flourishing on blogs and social media.

Bloody Good Period aims to create a sustainable flow (pun intended!) of sanitary protection for those who can't afford to buy them.

They supply menstrual products to 15 asylum seeker drop-in centres based in London and Leeds.

Women's reproductive rights have been central to the feminist movement ever since the late 1960s.

Feminists have tirelessly campaigned for access to contraception, abortion, and all forms of reproductive healthcare, empowering women with freedom, choice and autonomy over their bodies and lives.

The slogan on this badge, 'Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries', originated from the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement’s tireless struggle for reproductive rights.

These rights have always been contested by religious and conservative "pro-life" (or "anti-choice", depending on your perspective!) lobbyists, and the campaign for women's reproductive freedom remains just as relevant today.

50:50 Parliament is a campaign group established in 2012 to achieve an inclusive, gender-balanced parliament.

Ahead of the 2017 General Election, they launched the #AskHerToStand campaign, encouraging inspiring women to stand as candidates for election.

The reverse of this campaign postcard reads: "This was supposed to be the European Year to End Violence against Women and Girls".

These postcards were designed to highlight the European Commission's failed commitment to making 2017 a year of focused actions to end violence against women.

Let Toys Be Toys is a campaign asking the toy and publishing industries to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys and books as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys.

Produced in 2018, this badge refers to both the groundbreaking #TimesUp campaign against sexual violence and harassment, and the UK's second female prime minister, Theresa May.

Like Margaret Thatcher before her, Theresa May has not found many fans amongst feminists, as they believe her government's policies are harmful to women.

This slogan was invented by the activist group, Sisters Uncut, when they stormed the BAFTA red carpet in February 2018.

Feminist campaigns have long fought back against men taking up more than their fair share of public space – from sitting with their legs wide apart on public transport, to speaking over women in meetings and panel discussions.

Women for Refugee Women is a small charity campaigning for the rights of female refugees and asylum seekers.

Their #SetHerFree campaign calls on the government to end the detention of vulnerable women who are seeking asylum.

This defiant badge focuses on feminist campaigning against the damaging messages of diet culture and its impact on women's body image and self-esteem.

The slogan comes from the Riot Grrrls movement of the 1990s.

Holloway women’s prison in North London, where many of the suffragettes were incarcerated, was closed in 2016. Since then, there has been a vigorous community campaign to redevelop the site for social housing and other socially useful facilities, including a women’s centre, which would honour the past while providing a base for the specialised women’s services that are much needed today.

Sisters Uncut is a feminist group, founded in 2014, taking direct action against cuts to domestic violence services. In 2017, activists from the group occupied the former prison's Visitor’s Centre to demand that the empty space be used to support local domestic violence survivors.

The Women's Liberation Movement icon of a fist through a female symbol remains relevant and inspiring today, and is an important reminder of the battles still not yet won.

For more information on the past, present and future of feminist activism, and to find out more about ongoing campaigns, visit www.feministlibrary.co.uk

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