I Wanna Be Literated! #126

I Wanna Be Literated! #126

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Wednesday, 14 September 2016
COLUMN

We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement
by Andi Zeisler

Have you ever looked at how feminism is being represented in pop culture and smelled a rat? Have you ever felt alone in this feeling? I certainly do. Well lucky for me We Were Feminists Once Came along and assured me that I’m not taking crazy pills. It’s frustrating talking to Beyoncé-adoring feminists at a party about how problematic she is and getting noting but blank stares back. Or even worse, “I know, but…” Are we that afraid to admit that celebrities like Beyoncé ARE the problem?

Look, I’ve already tried to write a review about this book and it read terribly, so I’m just going to say this book is good. It’s VERY good. And it needs to be read by just about everyone who’s interested in how feminism is being represented in the mainstream, whether it’s movies, music, or the market. Because the extent to which it’s has been coopted and sold back to us is astounding. More astounding are how people buy into it.

Zeisler’s writing is straightforward, coherent and remarkably up-to-date, and one can only hope that her warnings that feminism is being sold to us by companies and celebrities doesn’t fall on deaf ears. She makes too many good points to elaborate on here, but there’s one that stands out in particular and it’s that we need to have higher standards for how feminism is being represented in pop culture. Feminism is about action and a particular kind of action, so simply calling yourself a feminist and then claiming everything you do is feminist simply isn’t going to cut the mustard.

My only disappointment is how Zeisler stops short of the grand conclusion she’s been leading up to for 250 pages: Feminism, elitism and capitalism aren’t compatible. That’s why Katy Perry flipping on her identity as a feminist stinks and why Spanks’ marketing on body issues is a joke and why Dove’s ad campaign to “accept our bodies” is a sham. Because no matter how sincere these campaigns are, they are intended to make a profit for the company, and maintain the current system. The system that runs on exploiting of everyone. Instead Zeisler takes the “let’s wait and see” approach. C’mon, man…

But that’s just a personal issue I have and shouldn’t deter from how powerful We Were Feminists Once is, and my hat’s off to Zeisler for putting together such a compelling read. Books as urgent as this one come along only once in a while.

Get it here.

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