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'F-Bombs for Feminism': A viral video exploiting girls, not empowering them

A video featuring little girls standing up to discrimination with some strong words has gone viral. While the message is clear, the aim of the video is not as much. Is the company that produced the video selling equality, or t-shirts?

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Yesterday, for-profit T-shirt company FCKH8.com released a video called “F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty-Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Word for Good Cause.” The video features five angry girls, ages 6 to 13, who express outrage at society’s sexist treatment of girls and women while decked out in princess attire.

The video opens with the girls sweetly cooing, “Pretty!” while posing in their gowns and tiaras. But three seconds later, they switch gears and shout: “What the [expletive]? I’m not some pretty [expletive] helpless princess in distress. I’m pretty [expletive] powerful and ready for success. So what is more offensive? A little girl saying [expletive], or the [expletive] unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?”

As the video progresses, the girls review the ongoing issues of inequality, systematic discrimination, and sexual violence faced by women in the US. They pepper these facts with more f-bombs, of course.

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This combination of pretty pink princesses and relentless use of the f-word is potent and clearly calculated to provoke. And provoke it has: For the shock value alone, everybody’s talking about this video.

But in all the conversation about whether the video is offensive, we need to also consider the ad from a media literate perspective and consider FCKH8’s corporate interests.Was it right for the company to script a slew of swear words into an advertisement featuring young children?

If we follow the money and consider the company’s motivations in producing “F-Bombs for Feminism,” it’s can seem pretty clear that FCKH8 is in the wrong. 

Although the video purports to be “for [a] good cause”—presumably, to raise awareness of sexism—what they’re really promoting is their t-shirts. 

By putting its bottom line ahead of girls’ best interests, the company is being exploitative.

In fact, “F-Bombs for Feminism” betrays a social media marketing perspective devoid of ethics. The video’s ethos is so steeped in a “Generation Like” mindset that having the video widely “liked” and “shared” is clearly what matters most—resulting in the company’s decision to push girls as young as age six into the roles of cultural provocateurs.

As a social media marketing strategy, it worked brilliantly. The video went viral almost instantaneously, prompting heavy traffic to the company’s website. There, t-shirts proclaiming “This is what a feminist looks like” and “Girls just want to have fun-damental rights”—as worn by the women appearing at the video’s end, of course—are up for sale.

Sadly, despite what major corporations and indie brands alike would have us believe, empowerment can neither be bottled nor sold. Commodification of feminism is not empowerment, and FCKH8 is not empowering girls or women through this video. Instead, they’re using girls as a means to a commercial end: to raise awareness of sexism to sell their t-shirts.

I would feel differently if a video along these lines had been produced by girls as a way to find an audience for their authentic voices. 

But that’s not the case here. This video was scripted and slickly produced by a t-shirt company that evidently has no qualms about exploiting girls who are too young to understand the implications of the script they’re bringing to life.

So, my advice is this. Let’s stop debating whether we’re offended by little girls cursing and focus on the heart of the matter, instead: By putting adult words into children’s mouths, FCKH8 is only exploiting girls through its advertisement.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Rebecca Hains blogs at rebeccahains.wordpress.com and the original post shared here can be found here.

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