Shun feminism at your peril, Natalie Dormer warns her young peers
Natalie Dormer says young women in particular should “stop slagging off feminism on Twitter” and read the history books
From Taylor Swift to Carla Bruni, it has become oddly fashionable for famous women to declare that they are not feminists.
The star of the BBC’s latest period drama, the true tale of a woman who was considered her husband’s property in the eyes of the law, would like them to change their tune.
Natalie Dormer says young women in particular should “stop slagging off feminism on Twitter” and read the history books to realise that.
Her BBC Two one-off drama, The Scandalous Lady W, tells the story of Lady Seymour Worsley, a Georgian aristocrat at the centre of a sensational court case in the 1780s.
When she eloped with an Army captain, her husband issued a writ for injury to his “chattels”.
Lady Worsley was not allowed to give evidence in her own defence, and had to persuade a succession of men to speak for her.
Dormer, 33, said: “I think this will be the biggest hurdle for a modern audience to get over – that women in the 18th century were their husbands’ property.
The reason Seymour doesn’t stand up in court to defend herself is that you would no more ask a wife how she felt about being with a man than you would ask a cow how it felt about being stolen.
“Drama invariably sexes things up a bit and simplifies. But I think that is completely valid if it brings an era of political and social history to an audience that wouldn’t otherwise know about it.
“I mean, only 230 years ago in this country, a woman was the property of her husband. That’s something women in their 20s should consider when slagging off 'feminism’ on Twitter.”
Dormer added that “most girls walking around on the street tweeting and ordering on their Net-a-Porter app have no idea how minute the time is that we have had equality”.
She took the role after playing Anne Boleyn in The Tudors and Margaery Tyrell in Game Of Thrones.
The actress had “made a pledge to myself to keep away from corsets for a bit” because she didn’t want to be pigeonholed, but when sent the script for The Scandalous Lady W – it airs on August 20 – she was hooked.
Dormer said: “I was intrigued. Then I thought, you know, I could manage three weeks in a corset again. This is worth it.”
Labelling oneself as a feminist is no longer the default option for women in the public eye.
Taylor Swift, at 25 one of the world’s most influential pop stars, was asked if she considered herself a feminist and replied: “I don’t think about things as guys versus girls. I never have.”
Singer Katy Perry, 30, has said: “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.”
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, 47, drew the ire of women’s rights campaigners in 2012 when she said: “We don’t need to be feminist in my generation. I’m not an active feminist. On the contrary, I’m a bourgeois. I love family life.”
She was later obliged to clarify her comments, saying she had been “clumsy” in her language. She said of feminist campaigners: “I admire their bravery a lot, but I have chosen to commit myself elsewhere.”