Congratulations to feminism! No sooner does Emma Watson give a brilliant speech to the UN calling on men to get involved than men start co-opting the F-word. Trouble is, they must not have watched the whole speech because they don't seem to have quite got what it means. But hey, they've remembered the word, and that's a start, right?
First, Karl Lagerfeld (who famously called the singer Adele "too fat") sent models down the Chanel catwalk at Paris Fashion Week carrying placards reading "He for She", "History is her story", and "Féministe mais féminine". Why was it feminist, this particular show? Well, because a man said so.
Worse was an invitation that I received last week to a photography exhibition called "Empowering Nudes". It promised "an intriguing exploration of female empowerment", but on the image sheet attached all I could see were photos of young, thin, stereotypically gorgeous, female models with their tops off, alongside a few grey-haired men in suits.
In one, a young blonde with her ribs showing lies face down, legs spread, on a bed, wearing stockings, stilettos and nothing else. In another, it took me a while to spot the empowered nude female in the group of clothed, middle-aged men. But of course! She was the table from which they were eating. So avant garde! I replied to two separate (female) PRs who represented the (male) photographer, confessing that I am no expert and asking what I was missing and how these were any different from boring old disempowering nudes in which male photographers exploit women. "Which is the empowering bit?" I asked. Nobody replied.
Last week, the US Republican party came under fire for an advert aimed at women which compared voting for a candidate to buying a wedding dress – because, girls get that, right? It was a bit like the "No" campaign's Scottish referendum advert, with the ditzy women in the kitchen who said, "Och, there's ooonly sooo many hoors in the day!"
But there's a difference between men aiming things at women in a completely patronising way, and men misusing the language of female empowerment to try to sell us things that are completely disempowering to women. "Lap dancing is empowering to women!" they say. Sure, that's the same sort of empowering as porn, or stripping, or being paid less than men for doing the same work.
In other language appropriation, a newspaper that is easily shocked wrote about a female judge whom it called an "arch feminist … who is unmarried and has no children [and] made headlines by asking to be referred to [as] Ms". She also (gasp!) went to a polytechnic. I say we take back the language of feminismphobia. Let's make headlines by having no children and being called Ms! I'd do anything to be made Arch Feminist. That's if Karl Lagerfeld is prepared to give up the title.Reuse content