There is a clip doing the rounds on social media called ‘Girl destroys feminism in 3 minutes’. As a feminist, I am naturally curious about how anyone can deconstruct and ‘destroy’ what seems to me a rational and ethical idea. It is important to me to challenge my own views and opinions, especially ones that have an element of intuition rather than being purely empirical.
After watching the video, there are a few main elements that bother me.
Firstly, the video is being circulated as clickbait. The person who created it had given it a different title. However it seems that she has the same goals as the people who have renamed it – gain attention. This is common on the internet, as James Gleick said; when information becomes cheap, attention becomes expensive.
It almost, but not quite, goes without saying that the title of this video is designed to aggravate, as well as gain attention. There is a current trend for overly emotional language in clickbait social media articles. This is particularly annoying to me, things like ‘The first 3 pictures brought me to tears, but the last destroyed me’, ‘wife cheats on husband but he has the ULTIMATE revenge’ ‘what this son does for his dying father is unbelievable’. This video follows a similar trend. The woman in the video is not destroying feminism, not even slightly. You can’t destroy an idea which has had such positive wide reaching social and legal implications. Well, you can, but not in three minutes. This constant frivolous use of language that is meant to describe the pinnacle of human emotion means we all gradually become numb to it, it starts losing all meaning. It is like being exposed to anything extreme for long enough; drugs, booze, violence in films – you build up a tolerance.
By framing this video under that title you are classifying it as content that is designed to make us click and move on. Not as content to be taken seriously and raise awareness for the issues it contains. The other thing contained within the title is a time limit – 3 minutes. Why bother to read reams of literature, reports and statistics to formulate your own opinion when for the low time investment of 3 minutes you can learn everything you need to justify a gut feeling! We are in the spasms of an age which is seeking to reduce our attention span. Complex issues, like gender equality and the history surrounding it, take a good deal of concentration to consider. It is increasingly common that people cannot hold their minds together to read to the end of an article. Even once it has been read, time is needed to digest it, to reflect upon it and then come to your conclusion. In our information age, you can just keep endlessly scrolling down for new images, videos and soundbites to entertain you.
The video starts by the speaker introducing herself. She explains that a few years ago she held up a sign which said ‘I don’t need feminism…’ and was then surprised when it went viral. She also mentioned that she has had a lot of hate and criticism for doing this. Creating a deliberately controversial image of yourself is obviously going to be a pathway for criticism. However, I do not think that there is really ever an excuse for hurling hate and vitriol at someone from behind a keyboard. Lots of people do it. It is cowardly. As with most things though, I have to consider – what were her motives in making this sign? We all have lots of opinions that we don’t feel the need to write on card, photograph and upload onto social media. To me, the goal was to get attention. That’s fine. It’s actually completely understandable when so many of us have confused feelings about approval, attention and validation wrapped up in social media. However, do not then feign surprise when you get stick for it.
After introducing herself, she then makes a new statement ‘Third wave feminism is not a movement for equality’. Why didn’t her sign say this? Why isn’t this the video’s title? It will not get the same attention. She then lists instances of positive discrimination and highlights societal issues that are more prevalent for men than women. As far as I can tell, this is the ‘destruction’. The clarification of the original statement she held up on card tells me that she has, since writing it, read up and educated herself. Fantastic. If you are going to post deliberately controversial images of yourself on the internet then learning about the subject you are criticising is wise.
This is the other thing that bothers me about the video. She mixes in unreferenced facts, statements without context and genuine issues. As if the truth and humanity behind concern for male rape victims somehow justifies and validates the rest. It doesn’t. For most of her statements there is a complete removal of context. What is equality? This in itself is a huge thing to consider. To some, apparently including the creator of the video, equality is treating everyone the same. Women have been viewed, and in a lot of places still are viewed, not only as different to men, but lesser than men. Placing less value on a woman than a man is still extremely common globally. I have seen this video shared in places on the internet with disgusting comments about women following it. Did the author know when she made this video that it would be used to encourage negative views about an entire gender? Feminists are not campaigning because they hate men, they are doing so because there is a huge difference between how a person is valued and how the law say they should be treated. It is only recently that we have legislation to try to promote equality between genders; it is short-sighted to think that this legislation can completely turn around how society values women.
I saw a response recently to the attempt by some to change #BlackLivesMatter into #AllLivesMatter which struck a chord. ‘Do people who change #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter run through a cancer fundraiser going ‘THERE ARE OTHER DISEASES TOO’. There are societal problems facing both genders, if you feel strongly about the issues facing men then by all means campaign on their behalf instead of trying to tear apart what others are doing. The reason that there are things like safe houses for women is that yearly 100 women are killed by a current or former partner. (UK) The figure is for men is 30, under a third of these are killed by women against whom they have a documented history of abuse. There should of course be more support for men in these terrible situations, so why not put your efforts and energies into that instead.
The video is classic inflammatory clickbait disguised as one person ‘telling it like it is’. Three minutes is not long enough to properly consider the history of these issues; it is dangerous to make statements without context and to actively engage in creating media that attempts to undermine movements created for equality.