There's no longer any real case against feminism, is there? All people (who are at least semi-intelligent) can understand that there should be equal rights and opportunities for all people, regardless of sex or gender. In this modern era, equality is something that we are all expected to propagate through our daily actions, but is there a line between active and passive feminism? The New Yorker's Jia Tolentino says absolutely yes in her Page Turner article, “The Case Against Contemporary Feminism.”
Has feminism become too rigid in its rules (Death to all men!), or too soft (if I wear a t-shirt that says “Down with the patriarchy,” I'm supporting feminism!)? Some feminist critics, such as Jessa Crispin, a “post-feminist” writer, and Andi Zeisler, co-founder of Bitch magazine, author of We Were Feminists Once, and creator of the term “marketplace feminism,” say that by turning feminism into such a well-known movement, it has lost its zing, as well as the meaning of its ideology.
Remember all of Hillary Clinton's feminist election tactics? The “Girls just want to have fun-damental rights,” the “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people,” or the “The future is female” accessories? Who did the sale of this apparel benefit? What functional purpose did it serve? Crispin calls this a “decade-long conversation about which television show is a good television show and which television show is a bad show.” By saying “this is feminism” and “this is not feminism,” we seem to have lost touch with the roots of the movement.
So, what exactly is modern-day feminism? Is it just a way for corporations to make money by shilling “feminist” slogans for their own profit? Or is it still a real living, breathing movement? By universalizing feminist viewpoints, feminism has become something in the middle of these two categories. On one hand, there are still many women (and men!) who want to promote equality for all people, but there are certainly many individuals and companies who are pushing products with “Girl Power!” written on them—and there are too many people who will purchase these same accessories in an attempt to show their support for feminism, all while contributing nothing to the movement themselves.
This commercial for Covergirl may seem to be spreading a message of feminism: women are equal to men— the #GirlsCan campaign. If this commercial wasn’t branded, maybe it would mean something like that, but it is branded, and so it doesn’t. The point of this commercial is to give women a fuzzy feeling about Covergirl, which will lead to them purchasing their products. Now, is there any way that this commercial was completely altruistic? It’s highly doubtful, no matter how much we may wish it was true.
Look around you—do you see the exploitation of feminist philosophy? It’s on billboards, commercials, ads, clothing, and so many more places! Right now, feminism is the “it” thing. It’s the “trendy” thing. But it’s so much more than that. Now, this “marketplace feminism” is something that can be accessed by everyone and anyone, in many different forms, but is it perpetuating real feminist doctrines, or just superficial mantras that result in big bucks for people who may or may not care about feminist issues?
Feminism is not a brand. It should be a basic moral and ethical standard by which we all abide. Until this happens, make sure you choose your side carefully. Things are never going to change unless there is a separation between commodity feminism and the goals of equality and equity that feminism has always been supposed to represent.
Grub Street Non-Fiction Team Member