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Is the f-word no longer a dirty word?

A few days before International Women’s Day 2014, Lily Allen announced she hates the word feminism. A few months ago David Cameron declined to identify himself as a feminist. Why?  

Is feminism a dirty word? Does the concept of equal rights for men and women make some people feel a little…squeamish? I’m being a little unfair to Lily - she hates the word because it shouldn’t need to exist anymore.

But for me, though of course I would love to live in a utopian world where women ruled the world, er I mean where men and women ruled the world together (honestly), I have no problem with the word feminism.

As brilliant author Natasha Walter has said, modern-day feminists are "standing on the shoulders of giants".

Of course a month or so after the Prime Minister declined to “label” himself a feminist (as if by attribution the word put him into a little box to which he didn’t want to belong), he changed his mind.

John Snow of Channel 4 News pressed the issue and he finally admitted that he was, in fact, a feminist. Shocking.

Now call me a cynic, but his admission seems to me a little…forced. Maybe he hadn’t got the memo that feminism has “made a comeback”.

Feminism (and a concerted backlash against it) is all over the internet, all over the media and all over student campuses. Feminism is, like, “cool”…at last!

Maybe it’s not surprising then that in January Cameron said the UK should “lead the charge on women’s equality worldwide”. For a Prime Minister who isn’t sure whether he’s a feminist or not, that’s quite a commitment.

But if that rhetoric isn’t backed up by action, how will we know if he really means it? In almost the same breath as saying the UK should lead on women’s equality, Cameron said that in Afghanistan the UK’s priority is security…and women’s rights only come “underneath” that.

But meaningful security isn’t possible without women’s rights, as a ‘feminist’ Prime Minister should know.

2014 is a critical year for Afghanistan. Elections will be held next month and Afghan women have well founded fears that the growing pressure to negotiate with the Taliban - and increased instability - could cause a backlash against the hard-won rights they have achieved, in fact they are warning that deterioration is already underway.

Doctors, teachers, parliamentarians and policewomen are regularly attacked – with impunity – just for doing their jobs, and time is running out to make a difference.

If the UK can’t prioritise support for women in Afghanistan, where the risks are so high and the potential for impact so great, where can they?

If Cameron wants us to believe that he’s a feminist, believe that he cares about women’s equality, he can start by delivering on his promise in Afghanistan, through supporting Afghan women working for peace and calling on the new Afghan President, once elected, to prioritise women’s rights.

On this most critical of International Women’s Days for Afghanistan, call on David Cameron to be a true feminist and do more than just talk the talk. Now is the time to deliver.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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