April 02, 2014

Feminism Isn’t A Brand. It Doesn’t Have A Logo

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A week or so ago, I was sat on the train leaving London, reading the April issue of Marie Claire. Before I go on, I must stress that I do truly love this magazine, but the editor’s letter this month jarred with me for some reason. I tried to ignore it and give the benefit of the doubt, but it kept on niggling at me and I had to write it down.

It read:

“It may be the explosion of social media, or it could be the straightened circumstances young women find themselves in thanks to the past five years of economic downturn, but feminism is, to put in mildly, having a moment”.

I had to really dig into my brain to figure why it made me feel a bit funny. It might be because it sounded like a flippant fashion trend, such as: “It may be the cold rainy weather, or the watery circumstances that young women find themselves in thanks to the unsheltered shops on Oxford Street, but flip flops are, to put it mildly, having a moment”.

It was the fact that I kept reading blog posts or articles that were hinting at feminism being on #trend. One magazine said it was “hot right now” another “in fashion” because of the feminist slogans appearing on jewellery and t-shirts. But this is a movement not a picture of an effing pool-slide shoe.

Maybe it was also because feminism is also suggested in the above quote to only really have a proper look-in because ‘of the past five years’ of shitty economic mess or the fact that we can all rant and rave on Twitter. I don’t think I’m going mad here, but feminism is NOT just “having a moment”. Feminism has always been ongoing. Women have always been fighting the battle. This also suggests it is “here now, gone later”. It worried me, that it would be in the magazines now because it was having a “moment”— but hey, maybe they can’t make any promises for their future issues. Equality is cute and all, but something else might be more on trend then.

Aided by Caitlin Moran’s book How To Be A Woman published in 2011 and subsequent whirlwind of think-pieces, memoirs and TV shows like GIRLS the WORD feminism is having a very big media moment, but it’s not to say that it didn’t exist before, or that aspects of feminism weren’t already going on around us. I certainly wouldn’t want feminism to be thought of as something that’s currently on trend or populating the ‘what’s hot’ list. Or overhear someone suggesting “let’s put feminism on our style barometer!”

It IS good that fashion magazines are talking about feminism, it really is. In particular I love the debates that ELLE have had recently and I was lucky enough to attend an event last year about how women can be feminist AND feminine. I love the conversations around the fact that it’s totally possible to wear heels and be a feminist or wear floral floaty dresses but still stomp around a board room in the same professional manner as men. In a 2013 issue of Glamour magazine Zoey Deschanel said: “I’m just being myself. There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap that they 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 fucking what?”

Talking about feminism, I was reminded of the Spice Girls the other day and I smiled when I remembered how they were the biggest feminists of the 90’s but didn’t take themselves too seriously. No one sat around writing long essays or screaming at other women on Twitter. They just publicly misbehaved and challenged stereotypes and inspired a nation of young girls to buy massive platform shoes, shout about Girl Power and feel invincible and truly equal to men. I liked how casual the term was — it wasn’t offensive or aggressive or serious — it just succeeded in making young girls feel like they can do whatever they want to do, and have fun whilst doing it.

If I ever had to sit down with a young girl now who was looking for advice, (like I was in the 90s!) I would want to inspire her to explore and believe in feminism and say “I can do it”. I wouldn’t want to approach the concept of equality or feminism in a way that is deemed to be “fashionable” or “a brand” or something that will ever have an expiry date. I would encourage her to think about gender equality even if it’s not being covered by her favourite magazines that month.

No Responses

  1. eleanor says:

    This is so well written I want to send you a card just in appreciation for saying everything i have not. the idea that feminism could be a trend is laughable. equality between genders is not a ‘fad’ that could blow over when the next ‘hot’ thing comes along. ah, you said everything perfectly. all of the applause to you, friend!!

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