Sarah called yesterday. She was to write about icons for the new feminism in The Times. Who would I nominate? Natasha Walter, I said, at once. I love Natasha Walter; she is rigorous without being pompous, articulate without being hectoring, sticks to her guns without being pious. She wrote a great book about the new feminism a few years ago, which I recommend enthusiastically.
Then we thought farther afield. It could not just be the obvious suspects. The one who fights fundamentalist Islamists, I said, you know. Yes, yes, said Sarah, the one who gets the death threats. What is her name? I said. Ali, Ali, something, Sarah said. Our minds went suddenly blank. I can see her face, I said, I have heard her speak, best friends with Christopher Hitchens. We both started googling madly: feminism, Islam, death threats, Hitchens. Hirsi Ali, we both shouted in chorus, rueful that we could forget. Neither of us is brilliant with names, but even so. I have put her picture up at the top of the post, so that I shall not let that name go by me again.
You will have your own favourites. What was interesting about the conversation was that we found it very easy to think of old feminist icons, the ones who have been around since the second wave - Andrea Dworkin, Kate Millett, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem- but it was much harder to think of those of our forty-something generation or younger. There is no woman in the public eye in her thirties that I can think of who would describe herself as a feminist. In some ways this is not a desperate thing: you do not have to carry a placard or a label to be a feminist, you can just live your own liberated life and not call it anything except what it is. But as a proud, unreconstructed, unrepentent feminista, I find it a little sad that the word has become something to fear, or even worse, is regarded by anyone born after 1975 as an antiquated irrelevance. When women in the Sudan are getting flogged for wearing trousers and girls in Iraq are having acid thrown in their faces for daring to go to school and honour killings still exist and the CEOs of top Footsie 100 companies are almost all men, the feminists must still be needed, surely? Or did I just read too much Female Eunuch at too formative an age?