The appropriation of Feminism has exploded in mainstream media, which I argue has led to a societal (mis) representation of which feminists have fought against the social, oppressive and patriarchal ideologies since the 1800s. As a women’s studies major and a feminist, I observe the appropriation of the “feminist” label – most notably in mass media engagements such as, TV, movies, music and magazines. As such, feminism has massively transformed the ways in which women and men fight together as feminists. Over the past 20-years, the shaping of consumer packaged, feel-good feminism pushed through the media is uncritical, is without flexibility and thus sets back what real feminism was set out to do, ideologically and politically. To be clear, I’m not saying mass media ruins all feminism, I’m saying like with anything there are a few bad apples that regress the real revolution so to speak. No more clearly is the (mis) representation of feminism showcased in today’s society than Jennifer Lopez’s new song I Ain’t Your Mama. I’m asking you to think beyond consumerist propaganda and focus on greater issues like environmental degradation, equity, violence against women and the list goes on and on. The feminism we seem to receive with grand vigor is (mis) represented and (mis) understood.
If you have heard the song and seen the video, you may ask yourself, what IS so wrong with refusing to be the stand in for a supposed ‘mans’ mama’? I bet some of you may ask yourself, ‘Isn’t being a housewife the antithesis of feminism’? I’m going to ask you to be critical and to question your visceral reaction to JLO’s catchy tune. This means going beyond the kitschy imagery, and rhythmic be-boppy-ness of the song itself. JLO’s I Ain’t Your Mama” is problematic. Here’s why…
1. JLO asks, you want to start a revolution?
JLO uses language like, “revolution”, and implores us to “get mad”. What exactly is she asking us to be mad about? Her feminism is riddled with stereotypes, judgments, hyper-sexualization, thus providing her captive audience with a watered down version of feminism. There is a blatant assumption that all women do not and should not want to be housewives. Her portrait of the apparent housewife is riddled with judgment, mainly that if a woman is or aspires to be a housewife, there is something intrinsically wrong with this picture. I know plenty of strong, brave and intelligent women who choose (gasp, JLO) to stay home. The ways in which she depicts men is despicable. The generalization of one type of masculinity for starters, meaning a man can only be expressionless and emotionless or angry and aggressive. Finally, her video hyper-sexualizes the housewife – those women I speak of… whom choose to stay home – they ain’t wearing red lipstick, high heels and a low-cut dress at home. My feminism fights for more than the simplistic representation in this video, namely releasing women from the shackles of cooking, cleaning and ironing. It is critical and pushes the envelope against the mainstream. Feminism is a fluid ideology that casts no judgment on how one leads one’s life. Feminism must be lived every day without prejudice and disrespect. And this is exactly what JLO’s song and video does not accomplish.
2. JLO says, you gotta get mad!
Hells ya, I am mad! But it’s not because of cooking and cleaning. I’m angry that JLO’s representation of feminism is at best weak. Feminism isn’t about getting angry over her watered down version of a so-called revolution. Nor is it about asserting your apparent inner-bitch just to be heard. I’m mad that she is complicit in (mis)representing a feminist politic (Let’s face it what has she really done to advance an all-inclusive and anti-oppressive feminism?) Her so-called revolution is outdated and furthermore plain rude. Feminist ideals never included disrespecting another human being – for instance dumping a roast over your partner’s head. I’m mad that she is co-opting feminism in such a way that it becomes meaningless – and all in the name of making a buck. She leads us to sing and dance to a highly uncritical expression of feminism and what’s worse is that much of society is complicit in groveling in this feminist (mis) representation.
3. Living feminism – it’s a responsibility.
The way I see it, is that JLO is another celebrity jumping on the feminist bandwagon. This bandwagon is highly lucrative for one’s personal celebrity gain and JLO is well aware of this fact. It will help make JLO millions of dollars. Saying that one is a feminist (with nothing to back it up) is so kitsch at this moment… perhaps JLO is fighting for a way to be relevant within a loud media space. Certain behaviors or so-called feminist stances make headlines. Women are applauded or retaliated against for stating the obvious. I guess it’s like the old adage, “There is no such thing as bad publicity”.
I can’t speak for JLO or any other self-proclaimed feminist. Who am I to do so? What I can do is be critical and unafraid to question the irresponsible appropriation of feminism that is thrown at me every day. Living feminism in your daily life is to be a good citizen and human being. To be a feminist you must be critical of the type of image we put out into the allusive social media space, moreover to think about the ways in which we use our words. My feminism is caring for every living organism, it is brave, and it is inclusive. It’s important to own your interpretation of what you know to be true and be able to back up what you put out in to the world. It’s the reality one lives, but I certainly can’t see JLO spending a day with an ironing board, can you?