2013 was the “year of the feminist”—the word seemed to be in the mouth of every celebrity and new start-up last year. Lorde, Beyonce, Lily Allen, and of course, Miley Cyrus, have all been (willing or otherwise) recipients of the “feminist” label in the past year, and companies have also adopted the term—just take a look at GoldieBlox, the girls’ toy company that exploded last year.
More than ever before, people are concerned with what is and is not feminist—is this a feminist tech company? Is she a feminist actress? Is this a feminist blog? And that’s great—until it isn’t.
While the word is getting a lot more exposure, when we (or when marketing executives) apply the word “feminist” to every pop star, business woman, etc, we risk both diluting the actual meaning of the word and turning it into a marketing ploy. It’s similar to the way that the “pinkification” that’s supposed to indicate breast cancer awareness has been commodified—once companies realized that breast cancer awareness was important, they figured out how to make it profitable, applying the signature pink color to all sorts of products, including things like buckets of KFC chicken (a carcinogen, according to Breast Cancer Action). Once feminist became a label that women were looking for, it became a lot more present.
Just take Beyonce for example. She went from cowriting and performing a song declaring that she wouldn’t be with a man unless he could “pay [her] bills” and performing in a tour called “Mrs. Carter” to writing an essay called “Gender Equality is a Myth!” and sampling the words of famous feminist icons on her new album. Why is this? It’s probably one of two things—yes, I believe Beyonce probably grew up, her views evolved as a woman, just as all of ours do. But I think it’s also due to the fact that feminism has become more marketable.
I’m not advocating for an “is-she-or-isn’t she” conversation regarding every powerful, famous woman. I’m just hesitant to see “feminist” as a branding tool. Take “We are the XX,” for example, a new organization that claims to “rebrand feminism” to make it more palatable, less angry, less controversial, generally “nicer.” All you need to do to join their movement is snap a selfie on Instagram or Twitter! Sounds easy, right? But that’s the problem. Real feminism isn’t easy, it requires work, action, loud voices, and yes, sometimes a little anger.
It’s great that feminism has become something that’s talked about on the main stage, by women and men, and even by young girls like Lorde. It’s just important that we remember that a person’s (or a company’s) actions and statements are more important than any label they—or their PR team—might adopt.
Image via Everyday Feminism.
Alecia is a logophile and a library bandit wanted in several states. In addition to feminist rants, she also writes essays, short stories, bad poetry, recipes and very detailed to-do lists. She currently resides in a little blue cabin in Woodstock with one fiancé, one Dachshund and one pleasantly plump cat. Find her tweeting @alecialynn. See her portfolio at eberhardtsmith.com.