In the past five years, in my own life, a lot has changed – rapidly. From being a seventeen year old girl who believed that politics would never really interfere in my life, to being twenty two, and realising that my very existence is political, as is everyone’s, I’ve staggered through many opinions of the world around me; many of which have morphed into one another, many of which I’m sure I’ll never revisit, and some of which I believe will continue to explore as time goes on.
When I did start reading up on feminism, mostly through social media posts and articles shared on Facebook, I was completely bought by it. Female empowerment, equality, not having to be afraid of walking outside alone in the dark, what’s to question? To me, I believe that very thought was my problem.
I didn’t question the feminism I was learning through social media, and so my idea of it fluctuated to fit a narrative, wherein I was still conforming to the ideas of a social world constructed by men, but just unhappily so. I was still listening to my boyfriend telling me to lose weight so he could show me off, while resenting him for it. I was still resisting my mother when she told me not to stay out too late, while ignoring the historical and sexual oppression of women that pervaded her (and my) understanding of the world.
In order to understand a concept, you need to acknowledge the circumstances in which it was brought into being. Feminism calls for equality and women’s empowerment; but where does equality stand now in a world — designed by mostly men and their standards of being — that is already provided for us? When we talk about women’s empowerment, how do we address that though women have been oppressed by men since the beginning of recorded humanity, some women are less so than others? What becomes the line between actively trying to bring about social change and clinging onto the coattails of whatever idea is fashionable at the time?
There are many reasons to be angry. Most of the time, all I feel I have to give to the world are these words, and my rage. My constant rage. And most of the time, it is this rage that drives me, as I’m sure it drives most other people so passionate about supporting a cry for social change. However, as I said before, we live in a world built by men. In Caroline Criado-Perez’s extensively researched book, ‘Invisible Women’, she states “The result of this deeply male-dominated culture is that the male experience, the male perspective, has come to be seen as universal, while the female experience–that of half the global population, after all–is seen as, well, niche“. It almost appears as though changes in the last fifty years, female-reserved transport, policies to prevent discrimination against women, the spotlight on the #metoo movement are patchworks to appease protests in a system that will continue to function the way it always does; according to the whim of its manufacturers, who perform with their own interests in mind.
Feminism, with the recent distribution of information the internet can provide, in mainstream culture has taken on a ‘market-friendly’ form, manipulated and handed back to us, almost allowing us to believe that what we are saying is being heard, before realising that the very cause we fight for has become weaponised against us.
‘Femvertising’, with the increasing accessibility of the internet and the flexibility of industrial marketing, has becoming a rising trend in the past five years. Movies, that are decidedly unremarkable, become commendable for their female leads, or all female cast (Yes, I’m looking at you, Ocean’s 8). In a half-hearted attempt at representation, BAME leads are shoved into the frigid mould of the unpopular white high school girl, and marketed as diverse, empowering and intersectional. The presence of an implicated feminism that exists purely to pacify a call for an equal role in the world begins to undermine the actual intention behind the movement; The collective empowerment of women.
As consumers, we need to be wary of how we decide to perceive the content marketed to us. We need to respond with education and solidarity, to defend what it is that, as feminists, we are seeking, and why, most of the time, SHE-E-Os and #girlboss does not cut it. With the bottomless access of the internet, it’s worth taking the time to dig past the cheesy slogans and seemingly inspirational quotes (next to a picture of Marilyn Monroe) and relearn why, as women and supporters of feminism, we need to look past the easy-to-digest Instagram quotes. There are women that do not have the luxury of choosing to be feminists, and it is this movement that will allow them that.
Artwork by Sacrée Frangine
Recommended listening: No Surprises by Regina Spektor (Radiohead Cover)