Before reading this article, please watch the following video:
When I watched FCKH8’s video ‘F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty-Mouthed Princesses’, my initial thoughts were “YES! THIS IS BRILLIANT!’- I loved the tenacity, the humour; and the great, big, fucking sweartathon. I wasn’t offended by the language or the content of the video, neither were the people who shared the video with me. I must confess; I didn’t even register that it was an advert for a clothing company. Fellow Belle Jar writer Rose shared my reaction, that the video was effective and subversive. However, it was through social media that we both discovered that people had a genuine grievance with FCKH8’s video.
Hardly anyone was offended by the swearing; but several people expressed disgust at the content, stating that it was irresponsible ‘feminist propaganda’ that was re-enforcing negative feminist stereotypes, and giving feminism a bad name. I immediately tried to reason against these views; saying they had missed the point of the video, that FCKH8’s agenda wasn’t as sinister as they thought; but upon re-watching and researching further via the internet, I began to wonder; had I missed the point? Was the video a great big, enjoyable ‘UP YOURS!’ to the patriarchy, or was it actually a very misguided, sinister advertising effort?
Another Belle Jar writer, Louisa, suggested I read this article, which outlines some of the issues the public have with FCKH8, the company who produced the video. Anne Thériault articulates the adverts’ motives perfectly:
“it’s a video designed to hit that marketing sweet spot where people are equal parts outraged, delighted and just plain not sure what to think”
Anne does, however provide further insight in to FCKH8 as a company:
“FCKH8 is a for-profit t-shirt company—emphasis on the profit—that has put together an exploitative and manipulative two-minute-and-35-second commercial for t-shirts. And while FCKH8 asserts that all of this is “for a good cause” (they’ve promised to donate $5 from each t-shirt sale to as-yet-undisclosed organizations) the only cause that’s being promoted by this video is their bank account”
This is not the first time FCKH8’s motives have been questioned; Anne also provides a link to an article about how the company exploited the recent events in Ferguson, USA, in order to sell “anti-racism gear”. FCKH8 are not the only company guilty of using a ‘good cause’ to make a profit though. Louisa pointed out that Unilever are equally contradictory in their advertisements; they openly promote a healthy body image with their Dove range, whilst simultaneously promoting their skin-lightening creams in Asia. Perhaps, as Louisa pointed out; we put pressure on advertisers to take a feminist stance, but when they do, we denounce them for using feminism to make a profit. It’s a tricky situation.
The contradictions in FCKH8’s company values are only part of the reason why the video has offended so many people. One of the main grievances people have is about the section of film that includes the statement ‘teach men not to rape’. Fortunately, most of the men I know do not need to be ‘taught’ not to rape. They have told me that the very idea of being told not to do this makes them feel simultaneously patronised and accused of something they are never going to do. I genuinely believe that most men are equally as appalled by rape as women are. I am, however, consistently unsettled by the casual misogyny/rape jokes I see on social media sites, and often hear on nights out; all of which come from young men. I am also painfully aware that I live in a culture that consistently blames the victims of rape, not the actual rapists; just look at the recent Ched Evans case. Some men cannot see past the supposed ‘blurred lines’ of sexual consent. The fact that I can quote a song that openly questions/trivialises women’s, consent shows that there are some men who need re-educating when it comes to rape.
I think FCKH8’s statement was designed to address the lack responsibility placed on rapists and the unfair amount of blame that is placed on rape victims. After re-watching the video, however, I realised that the words ‘…teach men not to rape’ actually come immediately after the words ‘Stop telling girls how to dress and…’, but no-one had remembered this, post-viewing. Perhaps FCKH8 could’ve used better terminology, one comment on the original video suggests that ‘teach everyone what consent looks like’ would be a more appropriate statement. The original statement is attacking both the privilege of men who do not condone rape, as well as those who do. Beneath the video on facebook, one girl highlighted this in a comment responding to other comments left by men:
“In these comments where guys are calling this bullshit all I hear is:
I AM AN UPPER MIDDLE CLASS WHITE MALE. WHY ISNT THIS ABOUT ME?! WHY AM I BEING PORTRAYED AS A BAD GUY?! THIS SHOULD BE ABOUT ME! I RUN THE WORLD!”
Some people don’t agree with the ‘check your privilege’ argument, but I do feel it has some relevance here. Either way, this statement has angered and alienated both men and women.
A further grievance audiences have with this video is the use of the young girls as mouthpieces for adult feminist issues. I have seen several comments that express concern about the manipulation of these young girls, some are as young as seven years old. Mim, a fellow writer for Belle Jar, made a valid point: the views clearly aren’t those of the children, so the overall effect of the statements being made is jarring and insincere. She is not alone in these views; most of the online comments endorse a similar outlook. Again, no-one is really offended by the swearing, which, according to FCKH8; is what society inherently finds more offensive than talking about sexual harassment or pay inequality.
I agree that some of the girls used in the video are very young, and that they do not understand the full context of the script they are reading from. Their parents, however, do; and it is with their consent that this video went ahead. Many comments below the video said this was bad parenting, whereas others endorsed the decision. This video truly has people split in their opinions. As much as I believe we should delay conversations about rape and sexual harassment with children, I also believe that we often forget how incredibly smart and resilient children are. I feel uneasy speaking on behalf of the girls in the video; but I imagine they had an absolute ball swearing their little tiara-ridden heads off, and acting up to the camera. I imagine that if they did have questions about the content of their script, their parents and the crew on set would be able to explain it in an age appropriate way. I imagine they went home, and carried on being children; doing the things they did on a daily basis before any of this happened. Perhaps my imagination is too optimistic, and my vision princess-tinted? Again, I feel uneasy thinking about it.
Ultimately, FCKH8’s Potty-mouthed Princesses are one of the most talked about things on the internet at the moment. Perhaps their advertisement is a cynical, misguided attempt to sell clothing, or perhaps it is a hilarious and subversive attempt to raise awareness about gender inequality. Whatever you think, we are now having another public discussion about gender inequality, sexual consent and the role of young girls in the media because of this video; and that is surely a good thing.