Over the course of this past week, the Obvi, We’re The Ladies team prepared to take part in the #AskHerMore campaign. Miss Representation film and The Representation Project inspired our members, so we couldn’t wait to get involved.
For a while, I’ve been struggling with what’s being called “popular feminism,” or #feminism. It’s been subject to lots of criticism. The warranted criticism often comes from sources with more educated backgrounds in gender equality issues, suggesting that #feminism only grazes the surface of what’s important and makes for “hot topics.” They feel that this angle rarely promotes the goals of feminism as a larger movement.
These critiques are fair. I have been educating myself further in issues of gender equality and finding my own frustrations with “popular feminism.” I am frustrated that the title of “Feminist” sometimes seems trendy and can feel void of meaning. I am frustrated that feminism has become a word that even Time magazine suggested banning in 2015. I am frustrated that when these “epic feminist moments” take place, they are often problematic in their exclusivity.
That being said, I find myself playing devil’s advocate. I mean, if #feminism wasn’t a thing, a lot of people wouldn’t know anything about it! Viral surface-grazing #feminist posts get people to start thinking about issues they hadn’t thought of at all, and with all of the resources available these days these people have the opportunity to seek out more information on the issues they’re interested in learning more about.
I think a lot of today’s feminist conversation operates on two parallel paths. There’s the street that has the BuzzFeed list about the “Top Feminist Moments” of whatever day or event and there are a slew of brilliant people giving their (positive and negative) commentary on those events along with creating separate dialogues about issues not often acknowledged by #feminism.
This is a struggle for me because I love pop culture. I do. I love following it. I love knowing about it. I’m not ashamed of that. It doesn’t make me less of a person and it doesn’t make me an idiot. Coming from a place where I mostly-gracefully walk the line between the two aforementioned paths, I have a constant inner-monologue about the issue. My first source of information is a #feminism post just as often as it is a post from one of these more critical sites.
Sunday night, though, I experienced first-hand one of the great benefits of #feminism. Without even using the f-word, we joined the Representation Project in their #AskHerMore campaign in a very visible way. The campaign is meant to motivate Red Carpet anchors to ask more creative questions than, “What are you wearing?” We shared an Instagram post to get people pepped and interested. The picture ended up getting the attention of Reese Witherspoon, and ultimately several large popular media outlets. (It was really amazing).
As I sat watching my all-time favorite awards preshow, E! Live on the Red Carpet, live-tweeting from our Obvi handle, and awaiting E!’s action and participation in this epic movement, my excitement faded a bit. What I saw made me genuinely sad. E! wasn’t excited by this movement, they were noticeably scared of it. Not only were we confused by their questions about frittata recipes; we were confused by their lack of questions at all! It wasn’t until there were but 40 minutes left in their show that we realized we were just watching Giuliana Rancic and Kelly Osbourne talking about photos of dresses. Not only were they not asking her enough, they weren’t asking her anything.
I reluctantly switched the channel to ABC. I hadn’t watched a network Red Carpet show since the late 90s, back in Joan Rivers’ hay-day. I was amazed! My girls and I watched interview after interview where they not only asked the actresses great questions, they didn’t even ask, “What are you wearing?” It was remarkable.
The lesson we learned here is that there are benefits to #feminism. #AskHerMore is feminism and doesn’t require a BuzzFeed list to be so. It’s about wanting to hear the thoughts and voices of brilliant, talented and special women. It’s about recognizing that all women have important things to say, and that we need to give them the opportunity and visibility to say them.
On Sunday I reconciled my opinions of #feminism. This kind of activism has so much potential to create change; be it a small but important change like the one we saw Sunday night, or any of the hundreds of bigger changes the feminist movement is working towards. When we acknowledge #feminism and use it in productive ways, we can make changes for the better.