Was feminism worth the fight?

The Henley Literary Festival provides the perfect back drop for discussing the sixties debate


Was feminism worth the fight?

The much anticipated (and Psychologies' favourite) film ‘Made in Dagenham’ is released this week. Featuring a fantastic British cast, including Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins and Rosamund Pike, the film follows the small group of female Ford car machinists who went on strike until they got the same pay as their male counterparts. Their action eventually led to the Equal Pay Act 1970.

Forty years down the line, women still earn 21% less than men, which begs the question — was feminism worth the fight? This topic debated yesterday at the Henley Literary Festival. Chaired by Jane Reid, Irma Kurtz, Linda Kelsey and Rosie Thomas reflected on how the Sixties feminist movement has changed society, politics and economics.

'The change since the Mad Men days is incalculable,' said Thomas.

But one of agony aunt Kurtz's comments particularly stuck in my mind: 'What the feminist movement gave us was the freedom to find ourselves. The freedom to ask "What do I want?” No longer financially constrained to unhappy marriages, unplanned children and with the ability to express our opinions, women now have more choice. This choice gives us the freedom to ask: Who do I want to be, and how do I get there?. 'Young women forget how lucky they are to have that freedom,' said Kurtz.  'As far as I’m concerned, the fight still goes on,' said Reid. True. But a quick flick through the features in Psychologies shows the impact feminism has had to date: How many children is enough?, Are you life curious?, What do you do when you want to do everything? All questions that, pre-Sixities, few women would have considered asking. What do you think — was feminism worth the fight? The Henley Literary Festival runs from Wednesday 29 September to Sunday 3 October.