Bitch Media co-founder and creative director Zeisler (Feminism and Pop Culture, 2008) ruminates about how the current wave of feminism does not “challenge beliefs…so much as it offers nips and tucks.”
Fifteen years into the new century, feminism has come to occupy a complex, highly visible place in American popular culture. But according to the author, though the celebrity and consumer “embrace of feminism…positions it as a cool, fun, accessible…identity,” the inequities that gave rise to the movement are alive and well. Celebrities like Beyoncé and Katy Perry transform feminist sentiments about independence and self-respect into hit songs that make them millions while doing little to promote real change. And while women seem to be appearing more prominently in big-budget Hollywood films, in 2014, only 12 percent of all leading roles in the top 100 grossing movies were for females. Clothing brands like Spanx attempt to make a connection to female professional success with slogans like “Re-shape the way you get dressed so you can reshape the world!” Though apparently positive, advertisements such as these subtly play on women’s insecurities by suggesting that the only thing standing between them and success is a properly controlled physical appearance. As Zeisler astutely argues, choice is really for women with the socioeconomic status that can support it rather than "the vast majority" stuck outside the halls of privilege. The author makes clear that no great strides have been made in changing the prevailing capitalist structures that suggest women’s liberation—for those who can afford it—can come through consumerism. Despite her critiques, however, Zeisler makes it clear that however much it has been co-opted by capitalism, popular culture can still be a tool to promote feminist ideas to a mass audience. But until marketplace feminism can disentangle itself from surface marketplace glamour, it is still a work in process.
Spirited, witty, and ferociously incisive.