Has the word "feminism" lost its weight?

It’s hard to believe in the world we live today that the idea of feminism was an issue even 20 years ago. Dubbed as “the f-word”, those who considered themselves to be a feminist were labelled as being hairy, ugly, over-educated lesbians with their own personal voodoo vernacular. Saying you were a feminist and owning the label came with an incredible amount of negative connotations and as small-scale activism was still very taboo, you were immediately thought of as being a part of some kind of cult which didn’t need to be around.
The rise of the celebrity feminists changed that though and with the introduction of girl pop bands in the 90s like the Spice Girls, the public’s opinion towards feminism started to change. Granted, feminists still weren’t seen as people who had the right idea and were instead seen as (mostly) women who were being wildly fanciful, but it was a step in the right direction after the backlash that had come before it. Flash forward 20 years and feminism has become a label that many wear proudly – perhaps because doing all of these once-negative things is now cool, so people are much more open about embracing those negative connotations – but it’s a good thing no matter which way you look at it. Female media icons like Beyoncé are extremely open about their support for feminism much like other influencers like Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling, but some see this as a negative thing in our progression as a feminist community.
Beyoncé performing at the 2014 VMAs
Andi Zeisler – author of We Were Feminists Once – calls this celebrity feminist phenomenon “marketplace feminism”; a convenient packaging that brands and pop stars can use to make themselves seem more inclusive, forward-thinking and supportive. She also notes that the Bechdel test has become a commonplace thing for moviegoers to look out for and that the idea of thought processes that were once exclusive to main-steam feminists becoming mainstream makes Zeisler worry that they have started to lose their meanings. According to Zeisler, the word “feminism” has become synonymous with words like “strength” and “power” being used interchangeably with the two, thus being thrown around without very much weight behind the phrase whatsoever.
She believes that this new kind of modern feminist enjoys watching female-centric TV shows like Orange Is The New Black while sat in her “granny pants”, but seems to ignore the fact that women who defend themselves from sexual or domestic abusers are being locked up every day. The point that Zeisler is trying to make is that women are picking and choosing the kinds of feminism to support; instead of thinking about the serious legalities that come in the way of feminism, they are choosing to simply indulge in this “surface layer” kind of feminist material that is now so readily available instead of properly educating themselves.
Maybe this is true of Zeisler to say and perhaps more feminists should be taking the time to explore the issues for themselves, but this new idea of “marketplace feminism” is hardly a bad way to set people off. If watching addictive Netflix TV shows while wearing a particular style of underwear is how a certain person chooses to embrace feminism then there is no problem in that. Feminism doesn’t have to be a driving force where everyone is on the same page – let’s be brutally honest here and think about how many people would not be active and proud feminists if every single person was pushed to address every single legality put in front of them. It is of course admirable that a lot of feminists are willing to be the frontrunners for that, but it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have moral support from the people at the back.
An Always feminist advertisement, which Andi Zeisler argues is demeaning the term.
My understanding of feminism is higher than the country’s average for my age group I’m sure, but my circle of friends definitely help to stimulate that. Whilst we don’t analyse and discuss every single feminist legal issue put in front of us, we still cover a heck of a lot of detailed topics as well as the surface area “marketplace feminism” that Zeisler isn’t a fan off: that doesn’t make me any less of a feminist than Zeisler herself. The same applies to someone who is willing to just say they’re a feminist when asked, or to the person who has it written in their bio on Twitter: we are all a part of the same collective.
As we all march forward in this battle for equal rights, it’s important that we support each other and help educate one another further on the topics we’re discussing. It’s inspiring to see other people proudly open up and support this cause together no matter what the setbacks might be, so it’s disappointing when some are quick to push others off of the horse cart. Zeisler’s idea of “marketplace feminism” is a fantastic stepping stone into this world of equal rights, but we need to make sure we support one another no matter how far into our journeys we are. We need to follow-up the basic understanding that we get from mainstream media with more weighted arguments to find our footing in this fight as a team. After all, we are all in this movement together.

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