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No woman ever changed the world by being nice. When we look back at history, it’s the women who were outspoken, disobedient and downright difficult whom we have to thank for the feminist victories that have been won.
But according to Helen Lewis, too many pioneers of women’s rights have been whitewashed or forgotten because society likes its heroines to be cuddly and safe. Lewis believes it’s time to reclaim the history of feminism as a history of difficult women, and on Tuesday February 25th she comes to the Intelligence Squared stage to set out the arguments of her new book, Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights. Many of these fights, she will explain, were won by complex figures such as the working-class suffragette Annie Kenney, who was written out of the suffragette story by its louder, more privileged members; or Erin Pizzey, the pioneer of the women’s refuge movement, who fell out with the feminist movement and ended up an activist for men’s rights; or Princess Marie Bonaparte, who conducted pioneering research into the female anatomy in order to understand why so many women were having bad sex.
These veterans of the struggle achieved so much but there is still much more to be done. That’s why Lewis will be joined on stage by Caroline Criado Perez, whose bestselling book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men shows how we are living in a world largely built by and for men. From government policy to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, Criado Perez argues that there is perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, which has a profound effect on their lives. Because of this gender data bias, women are far more likely than men to be seriously injured in a car accident, prescribed a drug by that is wrong for their bodies, and to be doing countless hours of work that are not recognised or valued. Chairing the conversation will be BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed, who has recently taken the BBC to court in a high-profile case over equal pay. Join us for a celebration of difficult women – how they have progressed the feminist cause and why we still need them to continue the struggle.
Speakers are subject to change.