feminism in modern media



There is a need to constantly critique imperialist white patriarchal culture because it is normalized by mass media and rendered unproblematic. These words said decades ago, shamefully, still true to the modern day and whilst there’s been some progress in the fight against patriarchy, we seemingly are slipping back down to traditional values and reinforcing the misogyny that is still rife in our society.


You only have to look as far as your TV or social media to see that patriarchy is an ongoing plague to society. America elected a president that’s openly harmful to feminism, who won votes through inciting hate and even when recordings of him being sexist emerged, it still didn’t dent his campaign. Trump was backed by media outlets such as Fox news and this pattern of the Right-wing media normalising characters who would be divisive for society, is not uncommon in western politics. Rupert Murdoch’s publications in the UK have come under criticism for decades but it appears not enough. While newspapers such as The Sun and Daily Mail have continuously filled their front pages with harmful rhetoric, they seem to still be influencing British society. They feature a front-page headline that screams a lie, normally something about how socialists will kill your loved ones, then follow up with an apology stuffed at the bottom of page 33 the next day for being inaccurate to avoid being sued. They won the vote for the UK to leave Europe by filling the minds of the working class common electorate with drivel about how the UK would “TAKE BACK CONTROL”, but leaving the country in less control than ever. When the real heroes for the working class come along, like Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour party in England, they are slandered and ridiculed for standing up for their beliefs and genuinely wanting to aid the people of the government. Similar things are happening in France, where Marine Le Pen is running a campaign off the back of the grief of recent terror attacks in Paris for her own political gain, backed by yet again, surprise, the French Right-wing media. So, with the obvious agendas and the hate that sells these papers and gets the viewers, why are vast numbers of people still being controlled and manipulated?


An ally to the cause against the manipulation of the media is our friend Feminism. Whilst this friend should never have gone anyway, you may have lost touch but rekindled the friendship when Emma Watson made that speech at the UN or when you rediscovered you had morals. Feminism doesn’t just represent the fight for women but equality of the sexes and fronts, for me, the main challenge to mainstream values and traditions in society and in the media. We have real politicians that are feminists and have policies that aid feminism, like Bernie Sanders and the mentioned Corbyn, who if they were in a position of power then the need for this article would be less but are constantly victims to right-wing propaganda.


The new wave of punk music has brought a fresh challenge to patriarchy in recent years. The punk movement has always challenged misogyny and patriarchy, with iconic figures like Joe Strummer championing for gender equality and publicly identifying as a feminist. From its inception, punk gave women the ability to refuse patriarchal and capitalist modes of expression, even if they were not provided with positive alternatives. Punk refused patriarchy by estranging female roles as objects of the male gaze through parody or refusal. In the modern music industry, feminist punk is stronger and more popular than ever with bands such as Pussy Riot, Riot Grrrl and Chastity Belt being vocal for women’s rights. They bring a new outlook on contemporary issues and discrimination women face with observational first person lyrics and shocking visuals. Most notably, Pussy Riot have been at the forefront of the fight against patriarchy in music. The Russian band use graphic lyrical imagery and protest to promote feminism and have been subject to much harsh treatment and even imprisonment in the East because of this. Drawing influence from the openly misogynistic government and way of life in Russia, Pussy Riot are a threat to Russia’s machismo culture and fast becoming the bane of Putin’s existence.


This is exactly what we need in the media, a challenge to the norms set by old rich white males that are exposed to millions. It is interesting to observe the different ways in which feminism is portrayed in the mainstream news as it seems to reinforce the exact misogyny the Pussy Riot movement were fighting against by representing it as aggressive and harmful. Punk’s sublime negative aesthetic is one of sublime fear; often feminist punks are the objects of moral panic. In the eighties, a wave of mainstream talk shows and sensational news depicted punk as a dangerous subversion.


Patriarchy is also fought through independent broadcasters and streaming services that have produced shows that have included feminist ideas or challenged misogyny outside of the mainstream. Orange is the New Black is a Netflix original series that is one of the most notable modern shows that goes against typical typecasting. It tells the story of a white woman who is imprisoned and follows her story as well as other characters within this all-women prison. The show has been hailed as it has a heavily dominated female cast and producers and covers issues to do with race, sexuality and sexism. While it is used by some men, presumably still living with their mothers and actually enjoy Ed Sheeran’s music, as an example of how harmful feminism is, it is the complete opposite. The characters represent a number of minorities that exist in our society but do not get representation in the mainstream media. Refusing the conform to stereotypes, the show's writer Jenji Kohan embraced the diversity of the show to expose how much the rest of mainstream media is dominated by two-dimensional, mainly heterosexual, white female characters. It blatantly and proudly challenges mainstream norms and values within the media, with Kohan saying, “these women are unapologetic for their flaws, for being in your face, for making mistakes and speaking their mind”. We need more shows like this and we need them to be available to millions more than just paid subscribers. By starting off with something as ‘small’ as creating strong independent female characters or male ones that identify as feminists proudly, then we start to seep feminist ideals into the minds of the people and transform feminism from a ‘dirty word’ to a necessity for our society. It empowers women rather than gives them a place, as she suggests the mainstream TV industry does. Kohan states “TV had been afraid to show this side of women up till now. Hollywood and TV networks are a big misogynistic machine and it wants you to aspire to the perfect female form, and the perfect man seducing her, with the men pulling the strings”. The shows that continue to get coverage and investment as ones like Sex in the City, that on the surface is a show for women about women but instead is bad for feminism. It creates this illusion that all women are obsessed with men and their only purpose is to please us, shown by the plots revolving around relationships and sex and obsessive behaviour. But this is presented as cute and quirky and relatable to women because, oh lord, Carrie wears nice shoes. This is an outdated view in the media that we really need to get rid of, it is starting with independent media broadcasters but really needs to feature on mainstream TV channels. We need to educate people like Paul Joseph Watson who actually have an audience of hundreds of thousands of lads who support misogyny, and have a footballer as their avi on twitter- Well Imagine My Shock.


There is an air of optimism and awakening, exposing the media for its own agenda that has appeared in recent years on social media. Where we don’t believe what we read straight away, although admittedly not on a major scale. We should challenge mainstream ideals and media, through the fight against patriarchy and encourage more awareness of the fight against racism, classism, and homophobia and lead us into the direction that we should be leading towards as a contemporary society. As we realise we have the power to change things if we unite, then issues become simpler to solve. If we keep buying into Right-wing media publications and their harmful rhetoric then we just do the opposite and society continues to become more divided. Trump may be the president but he doesn’t need to be your president. ✉


article by: jack wager

visual by: noisey

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