I posit that as this brand of feminism-by-any-other-name-please-god-just-don’t-scare-off-our-advertisers picks up steam and infiltrates our collective mind (that is, social media) we lose touch with actual, fuck-your-adsales-feminism.
It’s possible that these websites still spread the core messages of feminism to a certain degree, but they also manage to pull off shit like Jezebel’s blatant body shaming (see: their gleeful exposure of Lena Dunham’s unretouched photos) or Bustle’s weirdly male-centric content and headlines (“Don’t worry lads, she’s still single” was used as a headline for a piece about Anna Kendrick, for example.) Sites like these somehow still encourage us to believe that their content is essentially egalitarian, and woman-friendly.
Millennials who identify as feminists appear to be more engaged than ever. On the surface this is absolutely true (a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in the United States in 2013 indicates that while only 20% of Americans identify as feminists, 82% say that they believe “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals,” making them, in my consideration, feminists, at heart if not in name) but unfortunately with a shallow understanding of what the ideology is about, comes a sort of e-tribalism that we all have to see unfold daily on our screens.
Millennial feminists, meet Millennial MRAs, members of the Men’s Rights Movement, a loosely-connected collection of websites, forums, and small communities. Much has been said about these (predominantly male, white, and Western) ‘activists,’ but I truly believe that modern, young feminists turning away from the roots of the movement has allowed the Mens Rights Movement and other anti-feminist movements, to grow, twist and become misshapen.
When tabloid-esque sites become the only mainstream reference points for a generation of women and men (some of whom may be attracted to the MRM because of… well, your guess is as good as mine) they come to know feminism exclusively as websites with pink headers celebrating kitten videos, nail polish and celebrity news. They may take serious issue with the hardline, radical feminism that defined the second and first waves of the movement, but the candy-coated glitter of third-wave fauxmenism makes it an easy target for ridicule.
There is certainly nothing inherently harmful about enjoying cute cats or celeb gossip, and there is power in women enjoying these things without judgement. Regardless, nothing is to be gained from accepting that such content dictates our feminism, especially given that the sites in question steadfastly refuse to align themselves with the ideology.
Millennials deserve better. We owe it to ourselves to create and help existing websites succeed that are directed at women that do not pander, ask us to celebrate selfishness, or exist to create clickbait articles for us to post on Facebook to start arguments with friends from high school.
Or maybe we could start writing books about feminism again.