Feminist Times can be proud of what it did in promoting a brand-free feminism

If we put up with the co-opting of feminism by big business in 2015 we will be waving goodbye to the fourth wave by 2016

Share

An anti-brand, non-brand not-for-profit that tried to monetise anti-capitalism. With what could be mistaken for Orwellian doublespeak but with the purest of ideals, Charlotte Raven’s Feminist Times wanted to save women from advertising and in doing so ensured its own downfall. After 12 months of being run as an online alternative to the glossies – with no advertising or big-brand partnerships and while paying its contributors (unlike many others) – Feminist Times was yesterday put on ice. The problem is that today’s mainstream feminists are no longer suspicious of advertising; in fact we are in an era where feminism is becoming advertising.

I was the Editor of Feminist Times for its last seven months. I’m too young to have been a libber or a Marxist feminist before the wall came down, and yet I’m pretty old-fashioned in my capitalist scepticism. I just don’t trust big business. I have this instinctual feeling that big business is bad for women. It undervalues us, sells ruthlessly to us and takes no prisoners in the name of profit or progress. Yet I am a massive hypocrite, because while I can spend hours watching disturbing Youtube videos of industrialised farming practices there’s nothing I love more after a couple of pints than a Big Mac. It’s like some knowing joke – yes I know I’m being bad, but because I know, that makes it all right. Doesn’t feel so right the next morning.

Feminist Times wanted to give women a brand-free space. Like Spare Rib before it, the founders believed that much of advertising is harmful to women. But would women pay for an ad-free alternative in Feminist Times? The answer was yes, but not in high enough numbers. If everyone who read Feminist Times had paid, it wouldn’t be on ice, it would be a hot new publishing model. But while people loved the content they didn’t want to pay for it directly and rather than this being a clear cut case of the ongoing issues of online publishing I think this is a sign of these feminist times.

Unlike feminist movements of the past, the current revival, the Fourth Wave, is not anti-big business. It is inspired by big business. By Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and the Tories’ Louise Mensch. One of the new wave’s most high-profile campaigns was to get a picture of a woman on our banknotes. Could there perhaps be nothing more telling than that?

In 2014 we like to think we can change the systems from within rather than burn them down. We are happier than ever to work alongside brand partners who “share” our values. Compromise is no longer a dirty word, it’s seen as smart campaigning move. Feminism is a long way from the ranty outsider woman, though she may be due a return.

Big business wants a piece of the f-word. Feminism is officially one of the biggest trends in marketing to women for 2015, which is why we are witnessing the phenomenon that is “feminist” shampoo and why I’ve been reduced to tears by an advert for sanitary towels. We know these brand “values” are new, so this is clearly the co-opting of the feminist renaissance. It’s hip. The only reason these ads exist is because they will work, and by working I mean sell. Feminism is being sold back to us. Feminism is big business.

I’ve learnt the hard way that trends don’t last. I’m the person tweeting about The Sopranos seven years after it ended. You thought it was tragic that David Cameron thought LOL meant “lots of love”? I still don’t know how to pronounce “meme”. It’s embarrassing. So I am painfully aware of the “what was once hot is now not” principle, and if we put up with the co-opting of feminism by big business in 2015 we will be waving goodbye to the fourth wave by 2016.

Feminism 4.0’s mantra is “choice”. We believe we choose to wear high heels or lipstick, that we can choose to work alongside big-brand partners, that the repercussions will be minimal and the benefits massive. Those old women’s libbers of the past – with their bra-burning – they seem like weirdo dictators to us now. Why shouldn’t we wear a bra? Why not advertise that bra? Hell, we’re shareholders in that bra company!

And I’m almost convinced. If I could go back in time would I try and persuade Charlotte Raven to cut a deal with some lovely feminine product? Perhaps. Would I say that the compromise is worth it and we can deal with the equal pay and the living wage later? That being fully able to exploit feminism’s moment in the limelight is the best thing we could do for women and get our message out to millions? It’s an intoxicating thought. But, like trends and beer, what goes up must come down. And what a comedown it could be. If all these brands revert to their un-feminist ways as soon as the f-word becomes taboo again it just could be the mother of all shameovers.

Read next: It’s ability that should count – not age or gender
A ban on the niqab is contrary to British values
Is this reshuffle really going to persuade women to vote Tory?  

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Hang on – that’s not how it’s supposed to be written

Guy Keleny
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test