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We sold feminism to the masses, and now it means nothing

Marcie Bianco writes, "These days, feminism is on fleek. Touted by everyone from Dove to Barbie to Taylor Swift, consumer capitalism has made feminism sexy, fun, cool—and remarkably easy to claim as your own. But the price tag has been the meaning of the movement itself.

Bitch magazine cofounder Andi Zeisler describes this phenomenon as 'marketplace feminism.' 'Marketplace feminism is in many ways about just branding feminism as an identity that everyone can and should consume,' she writes in her new book We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement. Tarnished by conservatives in the 1970s and 1980s who equated feminism with misandry and bra-burning, the movement has undergone an ideological shift to make it more palatable to the mainstream. This brand of feminism lite has been called a variety of things over the years, from 'pop feminism' to 'white feminism,' to my personal favorite (and coinage), 'cupcake feminism.' Because the ideal feminist is the image of a woman double-fisting cupcakes. 'Riots not diets!'

Browse through Etsy, and you’ll find any number of items that allow you to showcase your feminism in the form of what Zeisler calls 'empowertising.' But, she asserts,'Feminism has nothing to do with your underwear, and anyone telling you it does probably wants to sell you something ($45 underwear, most likely).'

It’s easy to understand the appeal of T-shirts emblazoned with images of Rosie the Riveter and slogans like 'This is what a feminist looks like.' Visibility is the first step in any civil rights effort, and feminists should be able to buy clothing that they are proud to wear. But visibility filtered through capitalism does the not necessarily further the cause."

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