Let’s Talk Feminism

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Posted: January 21, 2015, 2:41 p.m.
by Katie Foster Howard.

As a public relations student, I initially wrote this blog about how the feminist movement should be branded, as a kind of Feminist Movement micromanager. I thought, “We need one central organization, that represents the global spectrum of women, to determine the definition of feminism once and for all! We’ll create PSAs and literature and celebrity endorsements! We’ll educate the masses! Huzzah!”

This, of course, is an unrealistic way to solve such a complex problem — especially with the brevity of a blog post.

Photo by Laura Forest (via Flickr)
Photo by Laura Forest (via Flickr)

First of all, trying to define feminism is a slippery, slippery slope. Sure, there is the textbook definition: “the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” But assuming that this seems black and white to you, there is still a vast grey area of what feminism means to each of its supporters and protestors. Still, this hasn’t stopped people from trying to brand the movement. And again, as a public relations student, I understand that effort — but it’s not exactly what feminism needs.

Branding a product involves targeting a demographic and creating a consistent brand identity. Translation: you sell a specific definition of a product or service to a clearly defined group of people. And when I say clearly defined, I mean gender, race, age, location, purchase history . . . and the list goes on and on. While most feminists can agree on the basic definition of feminism, there is no realistic way to accurately represent the different ways that feminism is interpreted.

Photo by kcochran06 (via Flickr)
Photo by kcochran06 (via Flickr)

For example, Beyonce, the Queen Bey herself, has openly and frequently defined herself as a feminist. Even with this full acceptance of the term, people denounce the “type of feminism” that Beyonce is representing. She celebrates her body too much, she invites men to ogle, she depends on her husband — just a few of the arguments against Beyonce’s particular brand of feminism.

Photo by Oxton (via Flickr)
Photo by Oxton (via Flickr)

The way that feminism has been branded in our minds is also problematic. Feminists are bra-burning, hairy man-haters. They are cold, calculating and militant. In fact, “feminazi,” a term coined by Rush Limbaugh, describes a “militant” type of feminist – as if anyone associated with the movement is comparable to those who actively exterminated a race of people.

So what does feminism need? One of the basic principles of public relations: good, old-fashioned two-way communication. A dialogue, if you will. Branding the movement as Beyonce, or Lena Dunham, or Emma Watson, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great way to determine brand recognition, but it doesn’t solve the problem of brand retention. Brand retention doesn’t depend on these celebrities – it depends on you. You, the person who believes in the political, economic and social equality of the sexes, can start that dialogue and turn a “dirty word” into discussion and action.

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