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"Why I'm happy Alan Jones now calls himself a feminist."

“Are you a feminist?” is not the question I expected to ask Alan Jones the first time I met him. But live TV is unpredictable. It just happened.

And what do you know, it turns out he is a feminist and I’m glad about that. We need more men and more women to identify as feminists and I will keep cheerfully recruiting them despite the backlash I’ve copped from some who are pissed by the idea of throwing open the doors of feminism to welcome the likes of Alan Jones who is right wing and holds a lot of views on other things that many feminists disagree with.

Before you ask, no, I won’t even begin to defend what Alan Jones said about Julia Gillard. It’s indefensible. Nor will I defend what Germaine Greer said about her.

The minute we start making arbitrary decisions about who can and can’t call themselves a feminist based on what they’ve said about any number of issues in the past, well….I’ll leave that impassioned debate to Twitter where running tallies are always kept on who is and isn’t a good enough feminist on any particular day.

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The Q and A panel on Monday night. Screenshot via ABC.
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Let me back up for a minute and set the scene for Alan’s feminist conversion. It was the eve of International Women’s Day and I was part of a panel on ABC’s Q&A program where the subject of feminism came up, early in the show. My fellow panelists were right wing broadcaster Alan Jones, Minister for Women and Employment, Michaelia Cash, Senator Penny Wong and comedian Josh Szeps.

A year 11 student in the audience, Maddie Mott, had a question for the Minister for Women.

Maddie wanted to know why Michaelia didn’t call herself a feminist. Many others have asked the same question, myself included when I met her backstage before the show.

Watch Michaelia talk about why she doesn’t label herself a feminist here. Post continues below. 

Video via ABC

Her reply to both Maddie and I was well rehearsed. Clearly, she’s asked about it often.

She said:

” I am fundamentally committed to gender equality and I see the responsibility that I have as the Minister for Women as being a great one. Do I think that I can be the Minister for Women, be passionate about my commitment to gender equality, put in place policies that will ensure that as Australians we move towards gender equality and yet not be a feminist or not label myself a feminist? Yes, I do.”

This is a nonsensical answer and I called her on it (although not as eloquently as Penny Wong because she’s Penny Wong, one of the most considered, calm and concise people in Parliament). I agreed with Michaelia that she is indeed a passionate advocate for gender equality and so, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!” Michaela, you’re a feminist.

She replied she doesn’t like labels but that’s disingenuous. Mere moments earlier she had declared herself a Catholic. She’s also a Liberal and  West Australian.

As Amy Poehler said to Elle magazine last year about the idea of not calling yourself a feminist:

“…I don’t get it. That’s like someone being like, ‘I don’t really believe in cars, but I drive one every day and I love that it gets me places and makes life so much easier and faster and I don’t know what I would do without it.’ ”

So yes, the word is important because you need a name for people who want equality between the sexes.

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Amy Poehler is a feminist. Image via Getty.
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When Meryl Streep says “I’m a humanist” or someone says “I’m an equalist” I think that’s a bit bollocks because humans aren’t equal. There are many many legal, social, economic and human rights men have that women do not in virtually every country in the world.

It’s not that men need to be held back, it’s that women need to be propelled forward.

Also? Equality isn’t a finite resource. In most cases, men don’t have to lose anything for women to be equal.

Feminism is the word that means you recognise that women are not yet equal and that we should be, we must be.

Senator Penny Wong had an elegant response to the Minister for Women’s decision to distance herself from feminism. Post continues below. 

Video via ABC

I believe – and always have – in feminism being inclusive. I don’t think it should be women only or left wing women only or women who have certain beliefs about cosmetic surgery or refugees or marriage…if you believe that women should be politically, legally and economically equal to men, then come on down and join the party.

While critics have claimed that definition of feminism is weak or diluted, I disagree. Any movement is a numbers game. The more people who agree with your cause, the more power you have to make change. The definition of feminism IS broad. It should be! If only some feminists spent less time obsessing about who is and isn’t ‘allowed’ to call themselves one, there would be more time available to work towards the gender equality we all agree we want.

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I don’t even believe you have to be working actively to better the world for women every day if you identify as a feminist (as one writer suggested this week). Alan Jones probably doesn’t wake up every day and think about fighting for gender equality but by associating himself with the word – just like so many other men and women do – he focuses his attention on the rights of women. How can this possibly be a bad thing?

To expand on Amy’s car analogy, you know when you decide to buy a certain type of car, suddenly you see that car everywhere on the road? Of course they’ve always been there, you’ve only just begun to notice them because that’s your filter.

Watch the moment when Alan confirmed that yes, he is a feminist. Post continues below. 

Video via ABC

By identifying as a feminist, you start to notice things, just like as a Catholic or a Liberal party member or a West Australian or a bisexual person you notice things pertaining to those words, those….labels. You notice sexist comments, you notice the number of women in Cabinet, you notice articles about the gender pay gay, you notice when the only woman at the meeting is expected to serve the drinks.

So words do matter. And I want men at the feminist party, working with us to achieve better outcomes for women.

Just because I may not agree with someone’s views on other matters, doesn’t mean they can’t be feminists.

The more the merrier.

Alan? Welcome.

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