So according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary ‘feminism’ has been deemed ‘the’ word of 2017. It cited the reasoning behind this was to do with pure mathematics it was the most looked up word of the year. The events of the Washington March on International Women’s Day and the release of the Wonder Woman film were pointed to as catalysts for curiousity over the term. As an FYI in this instance I’ll put in a reminder that the term feminism is defined as ‘the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes’. However, as much as we tend to praise the rise of this all encompassing feminism the form of movement which seems to be being promoted is that of a more palatable marketplace feminism which is devoid of its political messaging.
Branded as ‘mainstream feminism’ this version of the ideology takes residence within the proclamations of celebrities like Beyonce and the wider remnants of pop culture. Now don’t get me wrong I am just as much a fan of Queen Bey as the next person and utterly in awe of her accomplishments. However, the popular discourse around the ‘feminism’ that she represents seems to a version that is much easier to swallow than what has been misconceived by its branding as ‘radical feminism’. Sure the statements about breaking through the glass ceiling and shaking up the dynamics that render structural inequalities are on display but the level of agitation and activism which is necessary to push the movement forward seem to be lacking.
In exploring this popular brand of feminism further one can take the example of fashion labels and their use of the term ‘feminist’ on items of clothing sent down the runway. Whenever this occurs the media will inevitably point to this instance, praise the label and herald the new era of so called equality. But dig a little further into this and you’ll find that while feminism is being toted in this way in public behind the scenes companies are systematically continuing to discriminate and oppress the women who physically make these clothes. Whether it be being subjected to long and impossible hours of labour in sweat shops, inflexible working conditions or just plain abuse fashion labels are compartmentalising the idea of feminism without considering the intersectionality of race, class, status and power dynamics. They continue to perpetuate a hierarchy whereby those at the bottom of the wrung are systematically repressed and subjugated due to their status of poverty.
Another example of the duality involved with the popular form of feminism which is currently being touted is the example of how the Wonder Woman film has been glorified. What hasn’t been talked about is the Zionist stance of the lead actress Gal Gadot and what this means for women of colour within the feminist movement. While Gadot’s feminism promotes a sliver of intersection, she actively supports the queer community and their placement within the movement (all power for that!). However, on the other hand she actively leaves out the women who are oppressed by a system she vehemently defends, thus being Palestinian and Arab women living in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. The mere fact that the media and the general public are choosing to silo this element represents a functionary motivation of tone deafness whereby the easier route has been taken in which intersectionality is purposely ignored.
Surely we cannot sing the praises of our wins within the feminist movement if we are continuing to push other women down in order to promote others. The predominant form of feminism being branded is still one which is associated with whiteness, ableism, wealth, status, power and those who are cis gendered. We cannot simply rest on our laurels and think that well at least one form of feminism is being accepted. This is not a representational form of the movement! It isn’t one which represents the majority of women living in this world. Paradoxically it willingly ignores the deeper level structural issues which keep women of colour, women with disabilities, women living in poverty, trans women and LGQTQI women down and silences their voices.