Have you seen this video from the group FCKH8.com, which describes itself as a “for-profit T-shirt company with an activist heart and a passionate social change mission” ?
The kiddies featured have got a lot to say about women’s rights and, er, the word “fuck”, because the two go together so well. Right? Right??? Anyway, take a look:
I’ve got a few problems with this video, not least the fact that I don’t actually see why the word fuck should be highlighted in the international struggle for women’s rights. It seems, well, ridiculous to think that by giving kids a message and then throwing in a lot of swear words, you either (a) improve the message or (b) help young girls’ understanding of an adult subject.
In fact, what happens is that the message is completely lost. Everyone focuses on the swearing, and the fact that pre-pubescent girls are being encouraged to scream “What the fuck?” at the camera.
That’s not the worst of it either. One little girl – maybe six or seven at most – talks about how she “shouldn’t need a penis” to achieve pay equality with men. Well no, she shouldn’t. But she shouldn’t have to talk about penises to make that point either. There’s plenty of other articulate ways, but then they probably wouldn’t sell as well. ( Probably why one little princess is asked to scream “PAY UP MUTHAFUCKER!!!”)
And get this: the really offensive things in society are not things like the word “fuck”, but other words: “Pay Inequality”, “Rape and violence”, “Be Pretty”.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about the problems affecting the world’s women, the word “fuck” doesn’t generally appear on the top of my list. In fact, it wouldn’t make the list at all because I’m more interested in stamping out things like rape, domestic violence, FGM, gendercide. By putting that word central to this seriously ill-thought out video, all of those things have been pushed to one side.
Even rape, the most destructive crime that a woman can be subjected to, is dealt with in a soundbite that shows a real detachment from what true anti-rape activists are trying to achieve: “Start telling boys not to fucking rape.” Seriously? Is this the best that we can do? Meeting aggression with aggression and expecting that to solve anything?
There is something deeply troubling too in the ideology behind this video. Getting a group of little girls together – between the ages of maybe 4/5 – 11/12 – dressing them up in children’s princess costumes and then expecting them to scream vitriol at a camera is not appropriate. They’re not being taught anything. They’re not being “empowered”. They’re just being exploited, in this case by a company that sells t-shirts.
In an ideal world, little girls wouldn’t know about rape, or violence. They wouldn’t be sexualized at such a young age either, because kids are entitled to have a childhood and sex has no part in that because it brings far too many emotional and physical complications for children to handle. Unfortunately, in today’s world, it’s impossible for children not to know about rape and other distressing things – but the way to handle their understanding is not through something like this video, which really only sets out to shock and sell – neither of which are things that should involve children.
And at the end of it all, they’re missing out on a very important point. The two adult women who make an appearance at the end to model the t-shirts (that can be yours today – just click on the link!!!) are quick to tell us that we shouldn’t be trying to clean out the mouths of these babes; instead society should “clean up its act”. (Oh clever – clean/clean, I see what they did there and it still doesn’t work).
Here’s the point: true feminism doesn’t demand that we make choices like that. We’re entitled as women to insist that society works towards achieving pay equality for women, and that little boys are taught not to rape – not because they “fucking shouldn’t” but because they respect and care for women. But the flip side of that doesn’t involve lowering our little girls’ experiences. They shouldn’t think that they have to be “fucking feminists” because there’s no other kind. Clean up society, yes. But it’s a good thing to remember that little girls – and little boys – should be encouraged to only use language that won’t make their beloved grandmothers blush.
Imagine a video that young girls could take part in, one that would bring real awareness to women’s issues around the world. Maybe one that showed girls from different cultures, describing their lives and showing the different experiences between 9-year-olds in Manhattan and Malawi or London and Lagos. No screaming, no aggression, just a good script and a few genuine eye-opening moments. Maybe it could even ignore the irrelevant “fuck” and instead focus on “feminism” – after all, isn’t that the f-word that actually matters?