Have you heard about this “rebranding feminism” contest?
I know, right? Again with the rebranding of feminism. Every so often there emerges from the fetid mists some chumpass jacknut who would take a crap on feminism by coopting it as a gimmick to help hawk thigh cream and tampons. The target? Women who sense deep down that regular feminism is a pretty good idea, but who are reluctant to admit it publicly because of the 2nd-wave taint that makes dudes hate feminists. All efforts to “rebrand” feminism involve making it more palatable to dudes. This is accomplished by repudiating feminism’s rejection of femininity.
For those who may be just joining us, allow me to reiterate that femininity is not, as women are pressured to believe, an inherited trait. It is a set of infantilizing and dude-appeasing behaviors that women are required to perform in order to designate us as members of the sex class, signal our sexual availability, and convey our degree of compliance with the patriarchal mandate.
All efforts to “rebrand” feminism involve reinstating femininity as the essential ingredient of womanly contentment.
Feminism, for example, got “rebranded” by the UK Times back in 2008 (sadly, the link is now broken and search is stuck behind a paywall, but I wrote about it here), wherein “new” feminists reassured an anxious public that the humorless hairy dykes’ reign of terror was over, and yes, you can now wear lipstick and be a feminist.
A more recent iteration of the phenomenon first blipped on the Patriarch-O-Meter a couple of days ago in the shape of some lip-curling tweets: Bitch Mag was asking what everyone thought about rebranding feminism. Not realizing that this was a reference to an organized marketing scheme newly dreamed up by some crapulent capitalist entity, I said, sure, why not? Why not rebrand feminism, if “rebranding” entails restoring it from Zooey Deschanel Mode back to the struggle for women’s liberation from patriarchal oppression? High time, too.
By “Zooey Deschanel Mode” I meant, of course, feminism’s current “brand”: a consumer-driven collection of dude-appeasing lifestyle behaviors, the flagship cause of which is the empowerful modern girl’s inalienable right to choose feminine choices. No matter what choices are chosen, choice-choosing feminism insists that its practitioners abide in a critique-free zone, immune to the jaundiced scrutiny of the humorless, hairy women’s studies cabal. Any less-than-enthusiastic analysis of the choice-choosing lifestyle is tantamount to misogyny, because they’re women, aren’t they? And they’re choosing choices, aren’t they? Isn’t that supposed to be the whole point of feminism? Who the fuck are these feminist frumps to suggest that the choice to, say, ‘project childlike vulnerability‘ is neither a feminist objective nor a high moral purpose?
Quoth the “adorkable” Deschanel herself, on the subject of feminism vs. her disturbingly cutesy affect:
“I’m just being myself,” says Deschanel, 33. “There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap [feminists] say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a fucking feminist and wear a fucking Peter Pan collar. So what?”
Her argument, in other words, is that she’s a feminist; therefore it follows that anything she does — however objectively antifeminist it may seem — must be a feminist act. Including, apparently, the performance of femininity. So fuck you, gnarly feminists who dare to question whether collar shape should form the basis of a revolutionary platform!
With its huggy-wuggy embrace of patriarchy-approved behavior, this kind of feminism-as-fashion-accessory gets a lot of support from the unholy alliance of liberal dudes and the megatheocorporatocracy. Both are the direct beneficiaries of women’s choiceiness. Both get appeased by and profit from women who choose choices from the menu provided by the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women. Dudes get girlfriends who willingly comply with the desired heteronorms, and corporations get loyal customers who reliably shell out for compliance apparatus.
Which brings me to the “feminism rebranding” to which the Bitch tweet alluded. I shit you not, it’s a feminism rebranding contest. Oxymoron much? The prize is $2000. The logo is a skinny young white chick in corporate drag, drinking a scotch and smoking a cigar like a captain of industry. The organizers — and brace yourself for a shock: they’re a bunch of advertising hacks in league with a so-called “media platform” — want to see who can give feminism the best makeover. Omitting only two offensive stereotypes (“hairy” and “bra-burning”), the contest brochure lists the key elements of feminism’s image problem: it’s “humourless, man-hating, elitist, white, privileged, dogmatic, judgmental, and over.” Entrants are challenged to change “the perception of the idea of equality” by giving “feminism some love. Make it feel meaningful and relevant to a new generation.”
Because … the notion of feminism as a revolutionary political movement representing the interests of an oppressed sex class is … what, exactly? Unmeaningful and irrelevant? It clashes with the imperative to buy Peter Pan collars? Or what? And what is this “new generation”? Suit-wearing white alcoholic smokers?
One need not speculate, it turns out. In what is one of the most tone-deaf “feminist” statements I have read in weeks — that the proposed rebrand should speak to “men who care that there are two genders” [!] — the true purpose of this absurd enterprise shines through. They merely want to logo-ize a heteronormative dude-appeasing fake feminism, because apparently some strategist somewhere has theorized that marketing to today’s savvy female consumer involves reassuring her that the products she’s buying are glittering instruments of independence and self-determination. At the cost of enmockerizing what is perhaps their only shot at true liberation, the “new generation” must remain in thrall to the Femininity Industrial Complex.
When one of the organizers admits that the goal of her rebranding contest is “to make feminism pretty,” one is hardly surprised. And if making feminism pretty emits a familiar, foul odor, your sneer-muscle will get a workout when I tell you that two of the judges turn out to have checkered pasts. That’s right. They were involved with the heinous Dove ad campaigns.
I puke on you, Feminism Rebranding Contest.
Before I go, I must acknowledge that the aforementioned litany of feminism’s character flaws, specifically the “elitist, white, privileged” part, are of course real problems. I am sanguine that they can be solved, as more and more white feminists get with the program, stop being defensive, start listening, cop to their complicity in the oppression of their WOC sisters, and cut it the fuck out. But even if I’m wrong about that, one thing is certain: these issues can definitely not be solved by turning feminism into a marketing gimmick.
Via Flavia Dzodan blogging at Red Light Politics
Illustration from the Rebranding Feminism website