With a record number of female MPs in the new House of Commons, Nicola Sturgeon's pledge on gender equality promises to become reality.

But the recent rise in female MPs has neither happened by accident, nor is the transformation complete. For several decades, feminist activism has fought for a more equal society: equal pay, education and job opportunities were among the first of the seven demands of the Women's Liberation Movement, back in 1971.

In the 1980s political activism in general hit a brick wall, and feminism was overshadowed by equal opportunity policies which, in reality, didn't do much to advance women's rights or take women's political representation from the margins to the mainstream, in spite of the fact the UK was governed by a woman. Moreover, a media-driven, anti-feminist backlash against the 1970s women's liberation movement manifested itself, and feminism has never really recovered.

This is largely due to a complete misrepresentation of feminism, which is thought to be against men or blamed for burdening women with a double task, that of being mothers and having a career. How come nobody worries about men being able to combine fatherhood and a career? And surely you don't have to hate men to be a feminist, Lady Gaga ("I'm not a feminist. I hail men, I love men, I celebrate American male culture - beer, bars, and muscle cars"). Clearly many people don't have a clue what feminism is really about. Often the very word "feminism" is tainted, as the public uproar around Beyonce's coming out as a feminist showed.

Catherine Redfern, founder of The F Word website, observes when she argues that, in spite of a "widespread support for the principles of equal pay, equal opportunities in education, equal access to employment and political representation at all levels, shared housework and childcare, reproductive rights, and targeted welfare provision for survivors of domestic and sexual violence", many women hesitate to call themselves feminists.

The most recent illustration of this modern-day anti-feminist backlash is the online social campaign, #Women against feminism, in which women post pictures of themselves while holding up signs stating why they don't need feminism. The campaign probably originated in reaction to a social media campaign by a group of American students in 2012, who argued for a continued need and relevance of feminism in today's society.

But a renewed engagement with feminism has also manifested itself in recent years, due in part to the 2008 economic crisis. Needless to say this is because the financial crisis is gendered: women have always been in a more disadvantaged position in the labour market, as opposed to their male counterparts. In spite of equality policies, women still earn less than men: according to the Fawcett Society, the overall pay gap in 2014 was still 19.1 per cent. This also explains why we're not simply living a nostalgic revival of feminism: it's very much the young generations of today whom we see in the frontlines of feminist activism, and I was struck by the presence of so many young women at the various feminist conferences that take place in the UK on a regular basis.

Scotland is no exception to this: in February of this year, the Gender History seminar series at the University of Edinburgh hosted a well-attended seminar on Women's movements in Scotland: from Enfranchisement to the Referendum. This will be followed up by a workshop entitled Do We Need Feminism? Gender Inequality, Violence and Sexism in the Present Day, hosted by Glasgow Women's Library in collaboration with the Centre of Gender History, on Monday. The event sold out within a day.

So feminism is "hot", apparently, and women's political representation has definitely taken a surge. But the question remains: do we need feminism today? What does it mean in the present and are younger generations of women aware of the persistence of sexism, sexual violence and gender inequality in our societies? Can feminism be useful in tackling these issues?

Dr Hajek is British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Glasgow. The workshop Do We Need Feminism? Gender Inequality, Violence and Sexism in the Present Day is organized by the University of Glasgow's Centre for Gender History in collaboration with Glasgow Women's Library.