Entertainment

The New Vulgar Feminism

So you want to take a stand; do you have to be so nasty about it?

The feminist movement has come a long way since the days of suffragettes in long skirts who spawned a powerful grassroots movement that turned into a wildfire and swept the nation. Now, that once-vaunted crusade, which led to women’s suffrage and the Equal Rights Amendment, has been overcome by a wave of vulgarity that hardly reflects the movement’s roots.

Despite this increasingly common archetype in the media, there are many women who promote equality and empowerment and don’t agree with the increasingly crude uptick in what is being called feminism.

The celebrities and activists who have emerged as the modern “thought leaders” for feminism have traded in the movement’s history for a new brand of in-your-face feminism that preaches raunchy sexuality and vulgarity. Everywhere you look — be it on TV, Internet, or a magazine cover in the grocery store aisle — there are examples of women toeing the line between “empowerment” in the name of feminism and just plain cheapening of women’s worth.

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In the media and in pop culture today, those who are seen as modern feminist voices continue to charge at the ever-dissolving line of what is promiscuous and what is permissible, pushing a new wave of feminism that boasts crass over class. 

Last year, rapper Wiz Khalifa’s ex-wife and former stripper Amber Rose hosted the first “SlutWalk” to, ironically,  create a “completely inclusive space” with a “zero-tolerance policy on all hateful language.” Zero tolerance except for the word “slut” — for inquiring minds, Jezebel.com apparently explains the difference between a “good slut” and a “bad slut.”  

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And if you think calling someone a “slut” doesn’t align with a movement that stands for the empowerment and dignity of women, think again. While young women are proudly proclaiming the title of slut, others are scoffing at the label of “female,” calling it archaic and riddled with sexist undertones, according to a recent Time Magazine article.

For a movement that bases its identity on the word female, this may just be one of many indications that the movement is losing its way.

A string of television shows and films based on the single, promiscuous, and raunchy woman lead character have dominated the screen lately, solidifying the formula-like narrative that is becoming so commonplace. On TV, shows including “Girls” and “Broad City” center around women bumbling through their life in big cities, taking their sexual mishaps in stride, with nothing off-limits.

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Comedian-turned-actress-turned-pop-culture darling Amy Schumer, famous for her brash statements on women and sex, has become a symbol of this new feminism. Her show, “Inside Amy Schumer,” picks on the media’s portrayal of what it’s like to be a woman, which she combats in outlandish, no-holds-barred fashion. In “Trainwreck,” the movie Schumer co-wrote and starred in, she portrays a brassy woman writer who shuns monogamy and beds all in her sight, including the subject of one of her interviews.

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In her 2015 acceptance speech for Glamour’s Trailblazer of the Year award, a speech Entertainment Weekly praised as “filthy, empowering,” and a “must-watch,” Schumer proudly reminded her fans and critics alike, “I’m like 160 pounds right now, and I can catch a d*** whenever I want.” Vogue calls Schumer “the feminist the world needs right now,” and credits her as really having “changed the game.”

Outspoken actress and activist Lena Dunham has been heralded as one of the leading voices of feminism today — even launching her own website and newsletter, Lenny, that tackles social and political interviews and has boasted high-profile interviews with Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. Dunham’s advocacy is tinged with same provocativeness and raunch as that of her “Girls” character. Rolling Stone praised Dunham’s show for summing up “the miseries of youth: drugs, diseases, abortions, disastrous jobs, worse sex,” and hailed her as ‘the voice of a generation of women.'”

Critics of this trend of brash over-sexualization and raunchy empowerment point out the disservice it does to young women who see these shows, movies, and women in the media around which they are getting their understanding of feminism. The vulgar strain of new feminism teaches a “willful ignorance as to how [life] actually works,” notes a commentary from the Chicago Tribune that calls Dunham’s “brand of feminism” scary and dangerous.

Yet this increasing trend in the entertainment industry has not gone unnoticed. “Trainwreck” brought in $40 million on its opening weekend. And while “sex sells” isn’t a new concept — society is undeniably more vulgar and secular than ever — it’s the notion that this kind of woman represents the modern movement.

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Comedian and actress Whitney Cummings told The New York Times, in an article about raunchy women characters in movies and TV, that “when a guy writes a scene where a woman does a deviant sex act on camera, it’s objectifying.  But when a woman writes it, it’s feminism.”

Despite this increasingly common archetype in the media, there are many women who promote equality and empowerment and don’t agree with the increasingly crude uptick in what is being called feminism.

Activist Danielle Butcher calls the feminists’ cry on the “right to bare their bodies, march proudly in ‘slut walks,’ and glorifying hookup culture” a double standard and “ironically oppressive at worst.”

Butcher says, “It’s all about empowering women to do whatever they want — until of course it doesn’t fall in line with their way of thinking. Everything is okay, until you dress modestly, and then suddenly you’re oppressed.”

Over the decades, the title “feminist” has come to have many meanings and has evolved with the leaders who pick up the flag and take on the cause. Yet with each transformation and redefinition, never has it been as bold and crass as we see it today. The feminist movement was at once combative, needed, angry, and revolutionary, but now it seems to be just downright vulgar. Is this the New Feminism?

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