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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Where next for women?

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    21 March 2022

    How has feminism progressed over the years? And what sort of future does feminism have? These were the central questions under discussion at a College-hosted event in London on 10 March to mark International Women’s Day. 

    ‘Where next for women?’ was a stimulating panel event Chaired by the College President, Dorothy Byrne. The panel included author, Natasha Walter, fellow student Oluwasikemi Adetola, College Fellow, Professor Lucy Delap, and founder of The New Feminist, Ellie Macieira-Fielding. The panellists spanned different generations and spoke on different elements and stages of the feminist debate, which made for a truly well-rounded conversation.

    Equality for all

    At the core of the discussion was the identification of the key issues for women – highlighting the change in focus from the fight for contraception in the 1970s to sexual liberation in the 2000s, and the move towards the need for intersectional feminism in recent years. Oluwasikemi, Ellie and I agreed that the key difference in modern feminism is the focus on intersectionality –  acknowledging that race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability etc. can have more of an impact on someone’s life than their gender. Understanding that some feminists do not necessarily view 'womanhood' as the most significant part of every woman's identity is key. Through this, the idea of equality for all genders was underlined as one of the most important features of today’s feminist movement. Equally, the future of feminism is dependent on effectively engaging men – particularly in discussions about sexism and how dismantling the patriarchy has the potential to impact their lives in a positive way.

    Does social media help or hinder?

    A personal highlight was the discussion about social media and whether it causes more harm than good. The way social media algorithms work (i.e. how a social media platform determines what content is seen and by whom) might unite individuals by bringing like-minded people together but they also have the potential to cause a great divide. The algorithms tend to surface the most polarising of opinions, which means the middle ground is often lost in the vast expanse of digital content – much to the detriment of all concerned. However, the feminist movement has found a lot of space on the internet and specifically on social media – seen clearly through the creation of The New Feminist, produced by Ellie. 

    This incredibly pertinent and relevant conversation was thoroughly thought-provoking, and I can say with certainty that I came away from this panel with a far more rounded idea of the feminist movement. It required me to think in a practical way about feminism, and I now look towards the future of the movement with a distinct optimism. My highlight of the event was meeting the incredible women on the panel but also meeting the audience afterwards and continuing the discussion with even more perspectives and points of view. I am hugely grateful to have taken part and hope to be involved in more meaningful discussions in the future. 

    Malini Sachdeva-Masson

    JCR President 2021-22 and panellist at the ‘Where next for women?’ event