There are some men who, upon learning that I have been involved in two feminist books, like to say to me that women are: “More equal now than before, so why do we still need feminism?”
Typically, their tone has a kind of faux-earnest, head-cocked-to-one-side, u ok hun? edge to it. They aren’t inviting a discussion or really asking a question. Instead, they’re saying: "Come on girls, you’ve had your feminist frolics, and things are better now, so drop it, yeah?”
It impossible to be "more equal" because equal means "exactly the same". The official definition is thus: "A person or thing that is the same as another in status or quality". Women are not equal to men. We do not have the same status – so, we still need feminism.
Amy Annette, Martha Mosse and I detailed this in our introduction to Virago’s new book I Call Myself A Feminist. We still need feminism because girls are shot on the head for going to school, because we are taxed for our bodily functions, because 1 in 5 women in the UK experiences sexual violence – and the list goes on.
We are not equal to men. So, we have to demand our space and our visibility. This is why the Baileys Prize is still so important.
My co-editor Amy wrote in I Call Myself A Feminist that she is a feminist with her elbows, claiming her space in the world with them. We women still need to elbow our way into spheres dominated by men, including the literary world. A corner of the writing community to showcase only the talent of women is still absolutely necessary. The Baileys Prize is absolutely necessary.
That it is necessary would seem sad if the Baileys Prize wasn’t so glorious. The writing that is has showcased to the world is extraordinary – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Andrea Levy, Lionel Shriver are just three of the writers that I cannot imagine a world without now, and I have the Baileys Prize to thank for that. It is a platform for the best and the brightest talent of our times. If I want to buy someone a really good book, I simply look at the past and present list of winners and nominees. It’s the best, most tasteful book list ever.
When women are equal – not “more equal” – but truly properly equal, perhaps the Baileys Prize won’t be absolutely necessary anymore. But as the idea of true gender equality is at this moment stranger than fiction, it will be necessary for many years yet – and I for one cannot wait to read the women that it brings to my attention in that time.
Alice Stride is a contributor to I Call Myself a Feminist (Virago).