5 Kay Symons describes debates amongst women about anonymity and feminism at the first WiP meeting


I remember there lots of different ages and different looks, you know, some of them looked like, looked a bit like these maiden ladies or, you know, rather sort of powerful and established people and others were a lot younger.  I remember there were, even at, well, my memory is that at the first meeting we discussed things that are, again, quite telling now.

Should we say who we were and who we worked for when we spoke up, because it might get back to our companies that we’d gone along to this and we might be considered trouble makers and it might do our careers harm to be seen to be involved in something as radical as this.  So I think we decided not to, certainly for the first meeting or so that, you know, people could stay anonymous.  We had a lot of discussion about the word ‘feminism’ and was it a ‘feminist’ organisation?   Were we going to call ourselves feminists?   I think those were the two abiding memories.

Why was there discussion about whether you would call yourselves feminist or not?

For the same reason as we had the discussion about should we say who we were, that some people thought of feminists as being irrational, one-issue people, extremist, radical, not the kind of person you would like to employ in your nice publishing company, thank you very much.  They were bound to be a nuisance. So, and I think, I suspect that quite a lot of people because the word feminist was  still considered to be still a derogatory term for some, it was still quite a new term and your average woman at home with kids would probably not have called herself a feminist.

So, I think some people felt that they knew what feminists were and they definitely weren’t one and didn’t want to be one and didn’t want to be associated with an organisation that was one or that said it was a feminist organisation, even though they thought that it was a jolly good thing that women were getting together to talk about how women might be helped to do better at work and be taken more seriously.

And then there might be others who would think, well I’m not really sure.  I think I would have fallen, no perhaps I’d got beyond this at this point, that I could see how a bit younger I might have thought I’m not quite sure how this feminist word is going to settle down, and I’m not sure I want to label myself with it and all of the negative assumptions that might come with it.

And then there were some others of us, and I think I was probably in that group by then, who felt – well, of course we’re feminists, I mean come on, that’s what this is about and, no, feminists don’t have to give up men wear trousers and not shave their armpits, you know, that kind of thing.

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