We are living in a time when social causes are being used as a branding tool. It has become necessary to define who you are and to carve out your own little space in the heaving mass of people with whom we are increasingly confronted through social media. This need has meant that political causes are picked out for their brand appeal rather than for any real association with the ideals for which that political cause is known. What follows is a string of hashtags and memes and angry T-shirt slogans all of which allow the user or wearer to brand themselves. The result of which is a dilution of real political causes into something more palatable for the masses and as this happens we begin to forget for what it was that we were fighting and ideas begin to merge until the dominant ideologies win again.
"It seems both wrong for us rationally and impossible for us emotionally to fill up your form and join your society. For by so doing we should merge our identity with yours; follow and repeat and score still deeper the old worn ruts in which society, like a gramophone whose needle has stuck, is grinding out with intolerable unanimity" Virginia Woolf.
These words ring so true for the current climate of political causes and, in particular, contemporary feminism. Feminism has been taken hostage by patriarchy and it seems that the movement has begun to get Stockholm Syndrome.
These words may seem harsh as women make strides in the entertainment arena and female CEOs emerge in several companies. Women own businesses and are attaining political positions, with several female presidents being sworn into power in various countries in Africa and the world. It is sad, however, to see that these women that we regard as queens have only made it as far as they were able to mold themselves into man’s image. In order to destroy patriarchy, it must be completely dismantled. We are instead, however, simply putting all our hope into any female who finds success within the exact system they criticize by following a mandate of extreme individualism.
We are still choosing to operate within a society that is sick and diseased rather than address the problems that lie beneath all the branding. We promote women within this society hoping that their mere presence will heal the rot. We should not support a woman simply because they are a woman. We should support a person because they seek to change the way we all exist in society.
Those with money and who live in comfort can easily manipulate these ideals so that they can present to the world the image of someone who has thoughts beyond that of a shallow, capitalist consumer, while all the time attaching themselves to the consumerist product that has been generated, packaged and sold as the kind of feminism that won’t ruffle the feathers of their overtly comfortable lifestyle.
We are creating feminism that allows itself to cosy up so close to men that it shifts and adapts itself to be palatable to them so that they will still look kindly upon it. Feminism is not here to make men feel at ease with it. We are not here to pat every man that identifies as feminist on the back as if his merely identifying with it is something worth celebrating when people still suffer every day at the hands of a patriarchal system.
Using these political movements as a branding tool has given rise to the phenomenon of us praising anyone in the public eye for their contribution to causes, while we ignore those who struggle without the comfort and cushion of money and fame. A beautiful model wearing her boyfriend’s suit has not actually made strides in shifting gender normative values and a girl flashing her nipples on social media has not actually addressed the patriarchal control of every aspect of our lives.
In a world of empty social media activists and clothing that is branded with feminist slogans, people are able to live in an fictitious world where they are a hero while never having to take any real action. Their goal is not a shared one of real change but, rather, it is a goal of individual achievement and narcissistic recognition.
Writing: Anthea Taylor
Collage: Daisie Jo