Image by Ina Lounguine
Recently feminism has been given a lot of attention in the mainstream media which is exciting but also frustrating. Certain aspects of feminism have been commodified and used as a way for magazines and businesses to make money. What I often see in the media is a watered down version of feminism focusing on pastel colors and girls on their iPhones saying that if we all just accept each other and get along then everything will be peachy. While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of this, these privileged individuals are ignoring many feminist issues and focusing only on those that directly affect them. Because the majority of feminists covered by mainstream media are straight, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered, conventionally attractive women, the general public is left with a very limited view of what feminism is. I want to see articles like this featured in the mainstream media. Women who are given recognition for their feminism should use their power to talk about intersectionality, about trans rights and women of color, the glamorization of disabilities and the fact that last week a 16-year-old black girl died in police custody of mysterious circumstances and hardly anyone is talking about it. Feminism is more complicated than girl power and hairy bodies. Girl power is awesome and I’m happy to exist in a society where I can do what I want with my body hair but there are bigger issues that need to be discussed.
Mainstream feminism is often talked about in a way that provokes little discussion or growth. The term “pat-on-the-back feminism” was coined to describe individuals who encourage and celebrate themselves simply for being feminists. Elsie Stone’s article “We Should be Challenged by Feminism, Not Just Empowered by It” sums up in the title why telling yourself and your friends that feminism and womanhood are awesome isn’t enough. Feminism isn’t just about celebrating and affirming the opinions of other women and non-binary individuals; it’s about creating a dialogue to further each other’s understanding and awareness. Youtuber Rian Phin recently posted a Youtube video called “Should We Buy / Wear ‘Feminist’ Clothes?” In it they discussed the pros and cons of wearing clothing with feminist messages, and didn’t come to a single conclusion, instead asking others to share their opinions on the topic. Phin did not create the video to bash feminist clothing, rather they created it to instigate conversation about a specific topic. Conversation can be had between individuals with different ideas and all of the individuals can be feminists. We don’t all need to come to the same conclusions to be feminists, and most social issues are too complicated to have one “right” and “wrong” answer.
Basically, as feminists we don’t have to pat each other on the back all the time! It’s okay to call someone out or for someone to call you out (as long as it’s done in a respectful manner) and it’s important to be open to different perspectives! We are all still learning. I am constantly learning more about feminism and intersectionality. I have learned so much in the past year, thanks mainly to the smart women that surround me in the real world and on the Internet. I hope that this year I can apply what I’ve learned to the work I create and help stimulate discussion between individuals while still learning about feminism and the world around me.