Feminism Gets a Bad Facelift

6 Nov

Feminism Goes Under the Knife

Rebrand1For a while now, various individuals, media outlets, and organizations have called for the rebranding of feminism, claiming that the movement’s bad rep (you know: man-hating, no-shaving, bra-burning lesbians) must be fixed. Last month, Women’s media platform Vitamin W made a big “oopsie” when launching what they call the “Rebranding Feminism” contest.

Originally, the contest looked like another bad facelift on a type of feminism that is no stranger to the back-alley plastic surgeon—a type of feminism whose privileged members seek to revamp the movement, yet, blindly fail to address the experiences of women of color, the LGBT community, low-income workers, and full-time mothers. Yes, maybe this type of feminism should seek an upgrade.

Vitamin W’s mistake was their approach: Their original signage, presenting a white woman in business attire drinking Scotch, called for people to create an image, video, or poster to represent the new face of feminism.

Fem Makeover

(click for larger image)

Ironically, the contest displayed the very reasons many educated women who fight for gender equality do not identify as feminists. The woman’s image and some of the wording on the signage (the wording offended many people who do not identify as male or female) displayed the historically exclusionary practices of the feminist movement .

Fortunately, there was immediate outrage on the internet and Vitamin W listened. They changed their signage, and have recently announced their contest winner, who was smart enough not to use an image that would be viewed as discriminatory. However, neither the change in Vitamin W’s signage nor the winning poster touches the heart of the issue.

Rebranding enthusiasts tend to focus on changing the face of feminism so that it’s prettier and more inviting to the masses. Yet, we don’t need a commercialized version of feminism because feminism isn’t always pretty—it isn’t 24-7 Kumbaya. Sometimes it’s about checking your privilege, admitting the ways you have wrongly (sometimes unknowingly) oppressed others, and shutting up so you can listen to people with experiences different from your own. Otherwise, the movement becomes as weak as 2 Chainz’ lyrics, with uninformed feminists who talk a good game about solidarity, but are grossly bigoted. A cutesy version of feminism would water down the multifaceted aspects of the movement and its potential to address not only gender issues, but also intersecting issues of race, class, sexuality, ability, and everything in between.

Instead of preparing feminism for facial reconstruction to appeal to audiences who shy away from the F word, rebranding enthusiasts should switch their focus. As a participant in on Bitch Media’s rebranding feminism online discussion panel suggested, those seeking to upgrade feminism should address the needs of women who already identify as feminists or believers in gender quality, but feel left out of the movement. Just ask the women who participated in #solidarityisforwhitewomen, a hashtag that fuelled worldwide discussion about how women of color feel their issues are unaddressed by the feminist movement.

Mainstream feminists in the movement need to open their eyes and acknowledge issues of women who aren’t quite as privileged. For example, feminist campaigns to widen access to Plan B, often do not benefit women on Native American reservations, who in many cases, have the least amount of access in the country. White feminists who reclaim the word slut fail to realize that it isn’t quite as easy for Black women to do so. And exactly where was all of the feminist outrage, rallying, and campaigning when reporters announced that California doctors illegally sterilized about 150 women in prison?

Clearly, rebranding without any real effort to acknowledge all equality issues isn’t going to solve the exclusivity problems in the movement. Instead of simply talking about feminism being an all-inclusive fight for equality, we have to truly be about it.

Unfortunately, Vitamin W’s contest won’t be the last we hear about rebranding. Elle U.K. has made it their task for their November issue, and an organization called We are the XX recently created a new “feminist manifesto.”  But frankly, these tired calls to rebrand feminism are futile.

Rebranding isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to make feminism “cool.” Instead, as writer Samhita says in a recent Feministing article, “As much as it is easy to rest on the “equality between the sexes” definition of feminism, if we want to change public perception of feminism, we actually have to change feminism itself. We have to both push for a world that demands gender equality, while pushing for a feminism that acknowledges, accepts, and truly incorporates difference.”

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2 Responses to “Feminism Gets a Bad Facelift”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Your Top Posts of 2013…Did You Miss Any? | A Womyn's Worth - December 30, 2013

    […] Feminism Gets a Bad Facelift “Originally, the Rebranding Feminism Contest looked like another bad facelift on a type of feminism that is no stranger to the back-alley plastic surgeon—a type of feminism whose privileged members seek to revamp the movement, yet, blindly fail to address the experiences of women of color, the LGBT community, low-income workers, and full-time mothers. Yes, maybe this type of feminism should seek an upgrade.” […]

    Like

  2. YES YOU CAN: Twerk and Have a Brain | A Womyn's Worth - November 15, 2013

    […] If anything, Allen’s video proved one thing—it’s harder out here for some women than others (something women of color have proved time and time again). Allen and her white singer counterparts aren’t demonized for their sexuality in the same way black women are. It’s assumed that Lily is a person, while the dancers aren’t even considered to be fully human. As Mia McKenzie from Black Girl Dangerous explains it, the video cuts away at the bodies of black women as if they are parts and pieces, instead of full human beings. The video lifts up women of a certain complexion while oppresses those of another. That’s the same kind of privileged fake feminism I talked about in last week’s post. […]

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