"F" is for Feminism: FCKH8's Feminism Video isn't so Fabulous
It’s all over my newsfeed: Little girls swearing up a storm in the name of feminism. On Tuesday, October 21st, tee-shirt company FCKH8 released the newest online video sensation, “F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Word for Good Cause.” The video features five six to thirteen year old girls, dressed as princesses, dropping the f-bomb left and right, interspersed with factual information about women’s inequality including the pay gap and sexual assault.
Not surprisingly, the video has had many, many mixed results. Some feminists are excited, spreading the word about a new popular video in the name of feminism, challenging the idea “pretty” girls as princesses, and of course, little girls being tough and swearing. On the other hand, there are many people upset with the idea of children using the “f” word, though they state in the video, “What the fuck? I’m not some pretty fuckin’ helpless princess in distress. I’m pretty fuckin’ powerful and ready for success. So what is more offensive? A little girl saying ‘fuck,’ or the fucking unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?” But at the end of the day, even as a feminist, this video just doesn’t sit right with me. “F” in this case, is the grade I would give for the video (and no, I don’t mean F for fabulous).
I have two main problems with this video. First, is their intention. Yes, FCKH8’s video is causing quite a lot of commotion and awareness, as Rebecca Haines describes an ethos steeped in “Generation Like”- a mindset of sharing and liking content on the Internet. We may be sharing because we think its cute or funny or even appalling, but as we continually share, the message of the video is spread like wildfire. So, then, what message is being spread? Yes, part of it is the foul-mouthed, strong little girls talking about feminism. Remember, though, that FCKH8 is a tee-shirt company. They sell a product in order to make profits. In fact, the last couple minutes of the video are about buying feminist clothing for an exorbitant amount of money ($15-32) and ONLY $5 will be donated to an undisclosed non-profit organization for women’s rights. So many issues. What organization is my money going to? How do we know that they are inclusive and fair? Also, then, FCKH8 is making a profit off of women’s inequality. (Oh yeah, remember when they sold anti-racism shirts in the name of Ferguson? Sound familiar?) The extra $10+ is going to the organization to make more shirts, videos, and who knows what else. Why can’t all of my money go to women’s equality? FCKH8 is steeped in capitalism. What about the shirts themselves? Are they fair-trade, anti-sweatshop? Because there is a fair amount of literature that discusses the feminization of globalized labor for cheap products…
Speaking of feminization, that brings me to my second point. The point of the pretty, pretty princess costumes is to challenge this idea that girls, well, need to be pretty and that their value is based on looks. But, this video also perpetuates many stereotypes in and of itself. Beyond the girls wearing makeup and dresses, the adult women are both feminine, which establishes that there are only certain types of women that are acceptable feminists. Additionally, the hand-gestures of the people in the video alone are hyper-exaggerated and feminized, with finger-pointing, hand on hips, etc. Then there is the actual language. If you can get past the swearing, they keep referring to “girl” and the like, making me recall “Valley Girl” type language. Why must our language lower females to the status of only “girl?” Then, once again, these lovely shirts with, of course, pink print. Just again and again this video, while trying to challenge the hegemonic patriarchy, is actually reproducing inequalities.
And that doesn’t even get me started about the inclusion of a boy. Yes, I acknowledge the presence of patriarchy, but patriarchy isn’t just men vilifying and regulating women, just as feminism isn’t just for a certain type of woman. The fact is, feminism is for everyone: boys and men, and people in between and not on the spectrum too. Where is the discussion of transwomen and men? Gender-nonconforming? Masculine women? Feminine men?
Basically, while trying to shed some light on gender inequality, FCKH8 is in fact perpetuating a binary gender system, complete with gender roles, while completely erasing the existence of any form of difference.
Pieces to Read:
D’Enbeau, Suzy and Patrice M. Buzzanell. 2001. “Selling (Out) Feminism: Sustainability of Ideology-Viability Tensions in a Competitive Marketplace.” Communications Monographs 78(1): 27-52.
Einstein, Hester. 2005. “A Dangerous Liaison Feminism and Corporate Globalization.” Science & Society 69(3):487-518.
Gibson-Graham, JK. 2006. The End of Capitalism (as We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Meehan, Eileen R. and Ellen Riordan (eds.) 2002. Sex & Money: Feminism and Political Economy in the Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.