Friday, December 20

Fourth Wave or Fashion?

Feminism is so hot right now. In today’s online media, you can’t swing a cat gif without knocking over ten ‘click to vote’ campaigns and a handful more #shoutingback Tweets. It seems that in the last few years, something remarkable and widely unforeseen has occurred; feminism is now trendy. 

Fourth Wave is making a splash in the media. Lena Dunham is making award winning television for a younger generation of feminists, Beyonce featured Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk in her latest album, even ELLE magazine are embracing modern feminism with their new ELLE Feminism campaign. And I’m not complaining. Long have we suffered under the ‘angry feminist’ banner, disregarded as man haters or bitter cat ladies - which we may well be but, come on, you’re missing the point. As the age old adage goes, any publicity is good publicity, right? So as long as we're in the papers and we’re tweeting with blind fury, everything's progressing and we should be happy. 

That’s the idea anyway, but in reality, despite the tentative success of innovative, high profile campaigns such as No More Page 3 and Everyday Sexism, we’re still not winning. In 2013 it was reported that women in the UK still earn a staggering £5,000 less than their male parallels, so maybe mainstream pop culture references aren’t doing us all the good we felt they were. 

It may appear that what this new found vogue actually allows for is a plethora of contradictions, generalised sweeping statements and downright confusion of what feminism means. If feminism can be seen as a fashionable trend, it can also be seen as transitory, a flash in the pan. People who are pro-human rights aren't seen as trendy liberals, they're seen as morally sound - so why does it seem that feminism is still falling under a different category?

Instead of being viewed as a default moral position, feminism is being presented as a chic choice with a leaning towards the left, which paints Fourth Wave highly exclusionary. Today’s feminist media is white, middle-class and educated. This cliquey, feminist matriarchy isn’t for everyone - and that’s why it isn’t feminism. Instead of equality and respect becoming popular, we’ve developed an restrictive and often judgemental space in popular media in which a handful of women are encouraged to speak for their entire gender. 

While I’m endlessly grateful of the newfound media interest in Fourth Wave, we can’t allow ourselves to become complacent. The feminist agenda of many doesn’t seem to stretch past making sure to never miss an episode of GIRLS, and it appears that feminism is everywhere except in our politics. So in our new, novel position in mainstream popular culture, instead of having a reductive two or three public figures be our voice, couldn’t we work to expand that? Whoever asked one man to speak for all men? Perhaps then we could indulge in a little more discussion of equal wages, support for working mothers and anti-domestic abuse campaigns, and a little less talk of our bikini lines.

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