How does media trivialise feminism? – Discuss the need to groom our pubes.
We are just emerging from a period that has seen a new generation embrace feminism in a way that the capitalist post-feminists of the 1990s could scarcely have imagined. Much of this has been powerful and positive: the conversation about the importance of sexual consent, for instance, and how it operates within a culture that continues to trivialise rape, has never been louder and more energetic. The fightback against street harassment has been equally inspirational. But at the same time a strand of feminism in the media has spent the last few years concerning itself with issues that many would dismiss as trivial, including pubes, and footwear, and 50 Shades of Grey, not to mention that perennial question: is Beyoncé a feminist or not?
As a writer, I have been guilty of entering into some of these debates. With an internet media run on opinion, feminist polemic can feel like one of the few journalistic avenues open to the young, aspiring woman writer (critiquing media sexism is how I began, and I am grateful to it, but I have said my piece on blogs before). For a long while, talking about the more trivial aspects of the feminist debate – as opposed to, for instance, boring old domestic violence – was the only way to get feminism covered in the mainstream media.
But as time has gone on, the focus on the fluffy – so often to the point where it appears to be given equal billing to more urgent and distressing issues affecting women – has irked me, and I’m sure other feminists’ writers, more and more. Perhaps it is because I have been in this game for a while now, and have thus seen the same topics recycled several times over with very little new being said. Or perhaps it is because I have grown up a tad in the past five years. But more than either of those two things, I would reason that this is a time when the need for feminism is making itself acutely obvious in all manner of ways. There is so very little to laugh about, to the point where even the notion of a “freedom foof” fails to raise a smile.
Donald Trump, a man with so much obvious contempt for women that it feels almost unbelievable – like watching a fictional dystopia play out on our TV screens – is now president. It is abundantly clear that there are millions of people who would rather have a fascist than a female as leader. We are told that women can achieve anything in this day and age – “so what am I whining about?”
The personal is political, the feminists of the 1970s told us, and this has morphed into a strange kind of choice feminism where women are encouraged to examine their clothing, their footwear, their grooming, their behaviour, every little choice that they make, in order to assess whether it matches up. But the big picture is now so alarmingly vivid that it obscures these trivial questions. Freedom is never so easy to imagine as when it might be taken away. Most women know that our bushes have very little to do with it.