Feminism or consumerism?
As feminism finds its way into the mainstream conversation, I'm finding myself becoming more weary of an obsession with celebrity and consumer culture and the way it masquerades as activism for women.
I've seen “girl power” and “the future is female” plastered all over shop windows. Big bold words shoved in my face as though trying to convince me that buying their product somehow empowers me and the impoverished and vulnerable and disenfranchised women struggling through their every day. A wild guess tells me that most of these stores do very little for women’s rights, if anything at all for any kind of issue. “Girl power” is more aptly applied to the legendary Jane Goodall (and Malala Yousafzai, Emma Gonzalez, Shamma Mazrui, Audre Lorde and the badass Ahed Tamimi).
I don’t flick through the racks of a clothing store in search of feminism because it simply doesn’t live there. Real empowerment lives in the words and ideas of the many wonderful female figures making real differences around the world. They’re fighting for women in STEM, for equality and facing fourteen years in prison for their social activism. But their stories and their messages are eclipsed by a fascination with the very industries attempting to profit off their goal. Too much focus on celebrity gossip, and too little on fierce female activism. It’s not to say that feeling pretty in your new digs doesn’t personally empower you. But pop feminism is not a watershed movement for women because it does nothing but dilute the message. It traps feminism down into some weird consumer movement where buying shoes empowers you (but also exploits a female sweatshop worker).
It’s marketplace activism, and it’s less about dismantling systems and more about prepackaging a feel good message and kicking you in the guts every fortnight until you’ve Afterpaid it off. What sucks the most is that major industries are a terrific conduit for reaching new audiences to be engaged in social movements, and as yet, all they’ve really done is allow consumption to stand in for action.