Feminist Fridays – Pop v Academic
Today we’ve decided to do this through email because we’re both busy. Particularly because she has to revise for her exams. Which, I can only imagine means any discussion on feminism and personal politics provides the ideal procrastination, along with of course, Facebook, YouTube and all the rest of that jazz.
If I remember correctly, I started using Facebook around about the time my dissertation was due, which meant around 200 words out of 20,000 were being written per day, but I was however, getting 10 out of 10 on the ‘How well do you know Chandler from Friends?’ quiz and poking people left, right and centre (sounds like something you could catch an STI from, well, I was young, I was careless, we all do things we regret…).
Anyway on to why we are here, or more accurately, what you have stumbled upon. I generally emailed my niece to find out what she wanted to talk about and see how she is and she mentioned listening to angry music to get her through the revision period and we started talking about ‘girl power’ music. The likes of Pixie Lott and Kelly Clarkson (apparently this is music now, you see it was all about En Vogue and early Destiny’s Child in my day), so we had a discussion about girl groups and female singers as feminists and whether this is really feminism.
I recall around x-factor time and the love/hate that surrounded LittleMix (not that either lasted long, the minute the show was done, so was the support, Britain you’re so fickle). They were pitched as ‘just normal girls, who won’t steal your boyfriends’ (gees) or ‘role models for young women’. Some people loved it and others hated it. And, so started the debate of pop vs academic feminism all over my twitter feed. Admittedly it is difficult to vision LittleMix as the third wave of feminism, but is that actually what we are asking of them? No. Too much of the commentary around this debate are extremes of both ends and both are unhelpful.
“Pop culture is what modern feminism needs to be”
Well, no it’s not. If it was, then women would be even more confused of their identities than they are now. Mixed messages of ‘I don’t need a man’ lyrics alongside a video that appeals only to stereotyped male heterosexuals as a new wave of feminism is just offensive.
“Pop culture is derogatory to feminism, women should focus on radical feminism and feminist research”
Again, no. When women and young girls are bombarded with pop culture images and pressures, at what point do you think they will stop and think ‘Hey, I’m going to switch MTV off and read this book on feminist theory.’ Oh please, get off your high horse.
But there is a middle ground, one I firmly believe in. There is little point in arguing amongst ourselves about what type of feminism is best, when the window of opportunity to positively influence and create feminist activism is so narrow. We should instead be focusing on using all methods and every avenue. If a young women listens to a ‘girl power/spice girls-esq’ track (although, I hope, without any patriotic, flag related wardrobe) and feels empowered and starts to think about women as strong and not defined through a relationship with a man (music being shamefully centred around straight relationships) why can’t we embrace that rather than belittling it? I’m pretty sure, that’s where my feminism started. By saying it isn’t ‘real feminism’ we bring this back to being something only intellects can discuss, and bring it back to the issue I wrote about last week; confidence and young women feeling they don’t know enough or aren’t clever enough to talk about such things.
What we need is the bridge. The link that connects pop culture girl power to feminist debate and activism. The way we get that young women to listen to a bit of Beyonce, feel strong, but know that allowing herself to be referred to as a ‘ho’ is not ok and then make a placard and join a pro choice demo….ok, maybe I’m over reaching.
What I would love to see is feminism using pop culture for all it’s worth and this being an accepted beginning of a feminist journey; leading to the debates and leading to campaigning to make change.
I know that this appeals to my niece and probably many of her friends. It’s current, it’s simple, and it’s relatable. The hope being, that next time they are getting ready for a night out and they hear the latest single by LittleMix, they remember some of these discussions and think about it in a slightly different way, perhaps even critiquing it themselves, and feel genuinely empowered to learn more about ‘woman power’.