Whilst the hairy, old-school, bra-burning vision of feminism maintains influence, it lacks relevance for a new generation of women who are 30 years outside of Gloria Steinem’s reach and think Germaine Greer could do with a makeover.
But then came Vagenda to fill the chasm. Set up just two months ago by twentysomething friends, Rhiannon Lucy Coslett and Holly Baxter, this is a new tongue-in-cheek blog offering a modern approach to feminism.
Inspired by a Caitlin Moran (pictured above) brand of wit, Vagenda is laced with sharp, satirical humour because women can be funny too. ‘Like King Lear, but for girls’ reads the strap-line.
Vagenda tackles the feminist questions du jour, much like Steinem in her heyday. But instead of abortion, the pill and equal pay, Vagenda’s manifesto encourages the smite of ground level hang-ups such as; vajazzles, fake-tan and celebrity sex tapes. It’s less aggressive and more accessible to the younger, fashion conscious girl who thinks Betty Frieden might be a friend of her granny.
Acting as a ‘media watchdog with a feminist angle’ Vagenda’s posts mainly lampoon female oriented media outlets. It describes gossip rags such as Grazia and the Daily Mail website’s ‘sidebar of shame’ as bad friends who bitch about your love-handles and secretly want you to have a nervous breakdown.
Vagenda unravels how manipulative articles prey upon the vulnerability of insecure women. The blog identifies stories that are filled with subtext suggesting that true happiness lies in a thinner, prettier, richer and more successful version of yourself who keeps her man satisfied and her children smiling.
It wields a knife into the patronising and borderline scare-mongering ‘what men are really thinking’ stories. It also highlights hypocritical ‘love your body’ messages in magazines, sandwiched between pages of diet tips and pictures of Christina Aguilera’s shameful cellulite.
This 2012 feminism model isn’t as airy fairy as Spice Girls’ girl power or as strident as slut-walking lipstick feminism. It’s all inclusive to span both ends of the spectrum. You don’t have to meet militant criteria and reject all the frilly trimmings of womanhood to join the club.
Vagenda racked up over 250, 000 hits in its first three weeks, asserting that there is a market for magazine journalism with some sort of deficit. Nevertheless, this is rendered virtually powerless against the heavyweights like Cosmopolitan, whose combined readership, of all 65 printed editions, would make the 12th largest country on the planet.
And although Vagenda takes a judgmental stance, it has discernible shortcomings and hypocrisy of its own. Louise Court, editor of Cosmopolitan, quite rightly pointed out that whilst the blog is quick to take a red pen to her publication, it doesn’t generate original content and hasn’t established any real alternative. Vagenda is on a combative hike towards the moral high-ground, without a flag to pitch at the summit.
In addition, the critical tone, marked by its socialist agenda, often makes for a threatening read. A recent post addressing Grazia said: “Your contribution to society is 100% BAD, and I hope your magazine goes bankrupt and that your lives thereon in are marred by a constant, niggling anxiety (called guilt to normal people) which ultimately manifests itself as a deep, melancholic regret when you lie, as old women, on your Armani Home Collection deathbeds. Because you are really, really, REALLY not helping the cause” And that’s with expletives omitted.
So, what if you like to read Grazia in the dentist waiting room, or if you loyally purchase Cosmo every month? Can you be a feminist too, or should you hang your head in shame? Admittedly some blog posts take a damning angle, but the encompassing Vagenda ethos is not an inflexible one which condemns the blasphemer. It’s more of a pick’n’mix bag of feminist views. And yes, this may well dilute certain feminist teachings, but Vagenda is not The Feminine Mystique. It’s just a taster; an incentive for the hard stuff.