Some American Expats in Britain are Scoffing Scones and Looking for Other Feminists

Posted on January 19, 2009 by peacefulyorkshire

yahooavatar15“Feminism is a belief in the right of women to have political, social, and economic equality with men.” -Wikipedia

Before she made her move to Britain, there was once an American gal, age 20, that liked to wear gold kitten heels and had an explosive laugh. She was a feminist extraordinaire. Determined to be the “modern American Feminist of the 21st century”, she would happily get regular bikini waxes, but eat men on toast for breakfast. And while wearing Revlon all-day coral lipstick, she took the words of magazines like Ms.Bitch and that “Feminine Mystique” book as wise ways to live life.  I am telling you about her because that gal was once me.

Ok–So, what does this have to do with being an American Expat in Britain?

I ask you: Where is Feminism in Britain, dear readers? Could I have been Ms. Peaceful Yorkshire, feminist extraordinaire, age 20 in Britain if I were here then? I can’t figure out where the British Feminists are, nor have any other of my American Sistahs. We have spent many afternoon teas scoffing scones and wondering “Why is it so uncool to be a Feminist in Britain?” I don’t outwardly see a big feminist movement here nor do the English women I meet readily talk about woman’s inequalities. Ok, not like I am expecting debates on fetus rights or suffrage history over clotted cream. But how about equal pay salary?  Women in politics? Alan Sugar’s rampant sexism? We make small talk, like the weather. Celebrities.  New Topshop boots. Woman’s rights? Uh, no.

Doing some further investigative research into British Feminism, I found this Guardian article.Is Feminism in Britain dead?  Or just unspoken? Is it a DIRTY BAD ASHAMED WORD? It seems to be that saying  F*** or the word “Feminist” might as well be scaled on the same social “no-no” list.

I had to dig. Germaine Greer writes articles for the Guardian (always getting slammed by her British readers),  and another great lil’ Brit resource I found is a cheeky little “feminist” site called The F Word.

Just because I am living in Britain doesn’t mean I will stop calling myself a feminist–but do I need to be so quiet about it?

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Pingback: Feminist, late twenties, looking for Sisterhood in Britain | She's Not From Yorkshire

  2. Megan May 21, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    I am 32 so that means my formative educational years were in the late 80s and early 90s. The word “misogynist” was a vocabulary word for me in the 5th grade. Maybe it’s very American of me, but I’ve always believed that I’ve never had to wait for the man to arrive in my life to make things happen for me. If I wanted to travel the world as a single woman, I went out and did it. I want to have a baby in the next three years, and partnered off or not, I’m going to. If I need money, I go out and find a better paying job and work hard for my own income.

    While I am unable to speak for British women in general, I have been told by many British people (men mostly) that I am quite assertive. My boyfriend is English and I think he likes this aspect of my nature. He has noted that his ex-British girlfriends were far less independent than I am and much more clingy and needy, and and that he is very much attacted to me for this reason.

    I do very much hope to move to England with my boyfriend in the next couple of years and I am very curious to see how my assertiveness and feminist beliefs will be interpreted by the British.

    So, thanks so much for this posting. It’s very interesting. I love this site by the way as it’s already starting to answer a lot of my questions about what it will be like for me as an American ex-pat to live in England with my English man someday!

  3. Mellowyellow February 2, 2009 at 3:31 am

    Not wrong, just different
    also has some very, um, antagonistic arguments happening. The Brits seem to be striking back!

  4. Suzy February 2, 2009 at 3:23 am

    Some fascinating and heated stuff on this subject over at

  5. New Mum, Same Old Me January 25, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    I agree with Potty Mummy.

    I have never stood up for women’s rights or felt the need to join a feminist group (other than petitioning to wear trousers at school) because I have never been held back in any area of my life because of my sex. I like clothes and make-up, I love sport, I like beer and I like wine and, living in Britain, I can pretty much do what I like. I have close male friends and have even been an usher at a wedding (in a dress I hasten to add).

    I think it is difficult for some woman with low confidence to consider themselves equal to men. For this reason, I think the feminist movement is important to speak for those who may not be able to speak for themselves. However, British society depicts feminists as brash and unseemly and not in keeping with the lady-like image Brits like to project.

  6. Potty Mummy January 24, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    That’s an interesting post. Feminism probably IS a dirty word over here; the scurrilous British press use it to imply a woman is over-the-top in protection of her rights, probably walks all over her significant other in high heels, and at the same time has never shaved her arm pits…

    And yet, whilst I don’t use the term, I do consider myself a feminist and have never in my life felt held back because I am a woman. Possibly I never called myself a feminist because I never felt the need to; no doors were shut because of my gender (other than those I closed myself), and certainly whilst growing up no career was ever off limits because I was a girl. As far as my school and parents were concerned, I could do anything I wanted to.

  7. notfromaroundhere January 21, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Iota, don’t you think that this long maternity leave hinders career progression tho? Certainly in my workplace it seems to–the mothers are not taken seriously.

  8. Tori Pie January 21, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    I am an American that has been living in Britain now for many years. I loved this post!!!!! I think that I have had to hide my feminist views too… but I was thinking that maybe it was because Brits aren’t as open about opinions or thoughts and would be embarrassed to be so open about the “F Word”. I am sure feminism exists in Britain, but maybe its rarely spoken about? I would love to know too…

    About maternity leave, that is one area where Brits got it right… in America its crazy that a mom has to return after 6 weeks…. 6 WEEKS? That’s ridiculous.

  9. Iota January 21, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    I’m intrigued by this post, and honestly don’t quite know what to think. Are we really less feminist in Britain? Perhaps we are.

    The examples in the comments are mostly to do with manners and conventions, although of course those often reflect underlying attitudes.

    One big difference where I think Britain wins hands down is maternity rights. Here, a woman is expected to return to work after an unbelievable 6 weeks. I strongly suspect that the people making that legislation hadn’t been around any 6 week old babies recently. (And that’s assuming that the mother works up to the day of birth, which makes me suspect that the legislators hadn’t been around any 9-month pregnant women recently either.) Maternity rights, and free nursery places for 3 and 4 year olds, make it much more possible for a woman to combine having a family with a career.

  10. yankeebean January 20, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    An English guy once asked me to pass the milk, so I did. Then he said ‘good girl’


    He almost WORE that milk…

  11. pacificyorkshirebird January 19, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    I totally hate when men call me “Babe”. And women are very quick to point the finger at other women. I know a grandmother who told her teenage granddaughter that she shouldn’t argue with her boyfriend because it is unladylike and it is bad for people to think she is not ladylike. This is the same grandmother who shows her love and affection for the granddaughter by buying her clothes, jewelry, and make-up and then wondered why the girl became a defiant brat. I had to bite my tongue about it all but I did once say in front of both of them “Surely the boyfriend also has some responsibility for the arguments.” My comment was ignored completely.

  12. notfromaroundhere January 19, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I totally love the F word, glad you found it!

    It’s totally puzzling, this one, isn’t it? There is no sign of “Ms.” on drop down lists. Girls dress like tarts and don’t seem to care. There’s definitely something going on and I don’t know what it is, because I’m totally with you–my out there feminist self just does not seem to find too many British sistahs out there…

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