Paving the way for future generations of Bloody Brilliant Women.
Natasha Cellupica-Towers - Journalism Undergraduate at the University of Roehampton.
“I wanted to put these women in the pantheon of history where I think they belong”.
This is how Cathy Newman, Channel 4 journalist, introduced her new book Bloody Brilliant Women on Saturday at Wimbledon BookFest. A book which, along with many other books today, rides the “4th wave” of feminism. Without hesitation she jumped straight into her reasons for wanting to write the book, (an explanation which it seems she may have been tired of giving). However, she spoke with genuine care and passion, recounting with excitement, her favourite women from the book.
But where would 4th wave feminism be today without the vital stepping stones that have been laid by brilliant women in the past? Of course, we all know of the achievements of Emily Pankhurst and Florence Nightingale, but there are so many unrecognised women that have shaped the world of today. Newman talked about Sophia Jex-Blake, a doctor and leading campaigner for women in medicine. Jex-Blake, born in 1840, eventually became one of the Britain’s first female doctors. She paved a new future for female medics and without her efforts, the landscape of the medical industry may not be what is it today.
It is thanks to women such as this, that gender equality has blossomed to where we are today. Of course, the race has not yet been won. Maybe it will come with this “4th wave”. Maybe not. But what Cathy Newman seemed adamant about, is that we must try to keep the momentum going; although her optimism for the future of equality seems to be dwindling under the current political climate.
Of course, the digital platform which has exploded over recent years provides a perfect opportunity for women to make their voice heard. The #MeToo movement was a huge step forward for sexual abuse victims, but Newman touched on the unfortunate backlash that followed. She seemed disappointed in the way that women are not being taken as seriously as they should have been, and that Hollywood almost “hijacked” the whole movement.
One of the many positives that came from #MeToo, was the increase in solidarity shown by men. It is becoming increasingly common for men to self-declare themselves as feminists. This also poses the question, do we need powerful men to open doors for women of the future? Newman seems to think so, suggesting that without the help of men, feminism would have much further to go.
Either way, it seems essential that women in positions of power should aim to pave the way for future generations of “brilliant women”. Without these brilliant women of past generations, equality would not be what it is today. And as a generation with many more opportunities than the last, perhaps we should take it upon ourselves to shape what we can hope to be an equal future? After all, as Cathy Newman quotes Madeline Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.