Pop Culture’s Love Affair with Feminism

Young child holding a protest sign

Feminism has undoubtedly now become an integral part of pop culture, whether we’re willing to accept it or not. But it seems that feminism just can’t win. Back in the 80’s, the f-word was associated with women who were inaccurately stereotyped as being aggressive, undesirable and masculine. Nowadays, with celebs openly referring to themselves as feminists, it seems that the perception of a feminist now is the total opposite of what it once was.

Feminism is now associated with attractive, successful and career-driven women such as Emma Watson, Scarlett Johansson and Beyoncé, and is at the forefront of every current pop culture trend, from fashion to music and everything in between. It’s almost impossible to go into any shop on the high street or any online fashion retailer and not find a top plastered with a feminist slogan, having become the most ‘instagrammable’ piece of clothing, with celebrities like Natalie Porter and Rihanna seen sporting the iconic Dior ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ T-shirt (a quote taken from writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie).

“Young girls are now referring to themselves as feminists, so surely pop culture has done an amazing job at re-defining what it is to be a ‘feminist’?”

Pop culture’s admiration of feminism has arguable paved the way for events such as the Women’s March, and the controversial Amber Rose’s Slut Walk. So you would assume that this is a good thing, right? Many young girls are now referring to themselves as feminists and learning about gender equality, so surely pop culture has done an amazing job at re-defining what it is to be a ‘feminist’?

I would think so, but not everyone feels so optimistic about feminism’s new relationship with pop culture. Writer and fellow feminist Andi Zeisler implies that the relationship between pop culture and feminism is anything but genuine. In her book We Were Feminist Once , she also suggests that these companies and celebrities that are using feminism to market themselves is a form of what she describes as “marketplace feminism”.

“As of right now being a feminist is attractive, but as we are all aware fashion trends come and go.”

I do partially understand where Andi is coming from, as I do believe that we should be weary of the fashion and entertainment industries sudden interest in feminism. However I believe it’s unfair to not acknowledge the contribution pop culture has had on today’s feminist movement.  Yes, as of right now being a feminist is attractive, but as we are all aware fashion trends come and go, and if for whatever reason feminism becomes untrendy I can’t help but wonder:

How many of our favourite pop culture icons will still be wearing their feminist titles with honour?

Or how many of our favourite brands will still be selling feminism tees?

We live in a society that profits off the influence that pop culture has, where many young women are heavily influenced by the actions and appearance of celebrities. So it seems inevitable for young women to now take an interest in feminism, just like the figures they admire have.  Nonetheless, we can and should still question if this new found adoption feminism is here for the long haul, or just another fashion phase that will soon run its course. Only time will tell if pop culture’s feminism is genuine or just part of a cunning marketing ploy in which brands and celebrities profit from at our expense.

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