I know that many feminists will read the title of this article and immediately think “well feminism is personal, so how can she miss the point of her own feminism” and I totally understand that. Her feminism is not the same as mine and I can respect that. However, that doesn’t mean that I cannot critique it.
We live in a world where freedom of expression and speech is promoted, with no boundaries, so although feminism is personal, it is fine if one holds different feminist views to another and makes a point to provide a reasoned argument as to why this is so.
I personally love it when women advocate for women’s rights and jump on the feminist wagon, and use their relevant platforms to promote gender parity. Amber Rose’s slut walk although a small fragment of what feminism stands for, is a great initiative and she has used her position in the entertainment world where ‘sex sells’ to generate a platform for advocating equality when it comes to sex and sexualization. However, I did not completely believe in Amber Rose’s feminism and I was struggling to put my finger on the exact reason, until I read an article by Lauren McNally titled “Agency is Magic and So Is Twerking”.
In her article McNally touched on some very thought provoking topics which I will share and dissect.
Feminism is a multifaceted movement that is just so complex. Yes it is about equality for the sexes, but it is also not that black and white. McNally does an incredible job of highlighting the complexities of feminism and mapping out the ways we feminists can unconsciously feed into a sexist climate.
As feminists we use our platform to derail instances of sexism, and what we shouldn’t be doing is inadvertently maintaining patriarchal structures by way of our modes of feminism. I thought it was interesting and it made me think about Amber Rose.
The first (and major) problem I have with Amber Rose’s feminism, is her constant contradiction of the concept. Think back to when she had a Twitter altercation with Khloe Kardashian, who mentioned that Amber was a stripper at 15. Amber retorted by with the following:
Additionally, Amber is famous for using the terms MILF to describe herself, and this can be quite problematic for the feminist conception.
The point I am drawing from both these instances is the blatant contradiction that exists in Amber’s feminism. From what I understand, the basis of her feminism is to promote gender equality when it comes to sexualization and to eradicate the disgusting victim-blaming culture, as well as certain derogatory terms that only relate to women, such as hoe, slut and thot. Essentially, she is trying to send out a message which states that women should be comfortable as sexual beings and should do so without having to be labelled and held up against double standards. However, in her response to Khloe, she calls Kim Kardashian out for being a ‘whore’ for her family, which most probably alluded to her sex tape and various relationships.
As a woman who is against double standards and name calling, why would her go-to ploy be to say that Kim is in a sense a ‘whore’?
How is that statement a derivation from the double standards that society places on women?
For a woman who now celebrates people addressing her as a whore or a slut, why would she then address another woman in that same way, but with malicious intent?
During the slutwalk, she made an emotional speech, which a lot of women can relate to. However, in that speech, she played the victim and went on to say that she forgave those that had hurt her and categorised her as “nothing but a stripper”. But what about the woman who was once a victim of her own slut shaming? Why didn’t she use that platform to address that and apologise to Kim? She describes herself as an advocate for women empowerment and mockingly calls herself a whore to empower herself, yet in the same breath (tweet) uses the same term to discredit another woman. Amber’s feminist stance preaches towards the eradication of those detrimental double standards when it comes to sex so why would she refer to Kim’s sex tape as an augmentation of her ‘whore’ comments? Is that not joining the masses of people who label women as whores simply because they have a sex tape; something men do not go through? Is that not simply maintaining that double standard that she is so against? It is just hypocritical.
Also the term MILF is just as damaging as ‘hoe’ ‘thot’ ‘slut’ and ‘whore’. It just feeds into the patriarchal system and maintains a dichotomy. The term itself pertains to a mother who is sexually desirable to a man. The word in itself creates a ‘them – the sexy ones’ and ‘us – the physically less desirable ones’ dichotomy, which stems from the male population’s ultimate approval or disapproval in terms of being a MILF. Designating oneself as a MILF is in essence declaring to the world that you have acquired a stamp of approval, that has been authorized by the male population. The term exists as a result of a patriarchal society which is ultimately maintained by those that use the term as some kind of a compliment and something to flaunt. As McNally so aptly put it, such a term is
“(D)esigned to control and silence women and they are no more or less acceptable whether they are hurled by misogynists on YouTube or from self-described feminists.”
So why would Amber as a self described feminist monster don herself with that kind of title, when really it is just another form of categorizing women, which emanates from the male population. It is no more damaging and sexist than the term slut.
My next point relates to something which Amber is now famous for, which is twerking. We’ve probably all seen the twerking videos and she does her thing, which I personally don’t mind. However, as a self prescribed feminist, the twerking does a disservice to feminism, women and young girls in particular. Of the twerking and pole-dancing trend we have now become accustomed to, McNally elucidates
“(It) has nothing to do with female sexuality, and everything to do with strip club culture — i.e. male culture, i.e. performing sexualization for the male gaze. It does not, in any way, threaten the (sexist) status quo.”
“(It) not only celebrates the sexist status quo, but it glamorises sexual exploitation. Research conducted by an ex-stripper showed over half of the dancers had experienced digital rape on the job as well as other forms of verbal and physical assault. More recent research shows that dancers are expected to maintain conventional beauty ideals, often resorting to dangerous surgeries and extreme weight loss measures in order to do so”.
She then goes on to brilliantly highlight the following:
“Tacking the idea of “equality” onto a system that is founded upon structural inequality does nothing but solidify and disguise the inequality. The idea that women must “feel empowered” in disempowering situations is nothing but victim-blaming with a new name.”
A few weeks before the slut walk Amber posted this on instagram.
She is 100% correct that her dancing does not make her a whore. However, twerking for views and likes on social media, is simply another way of sustaining patriarchy.
Then to imply that women must feel empowered while dancing in a sexualized manner is doing nothing to break down the patriarchal system, but is actually asking women to seek pleasure under patriarchy, instead of eradicating patriarchy. Furthermore, the message that it sends to young girls is – as long as you have agency while twerking, you are a strong independent woman, who is taking ownership of her sexuality.
But the unfortunate reality is that, so long as that sexuality is being expressed in a way that appeals to a male-centred market, that sexuality is in fact not under a woman’s ownership, but that of a patriarchal society, in the grander scheme of life.
So what then have we achieved with regard to breaking down sexist and patriarchal restrictions? How have we broadened the feminist scope in a positive way and how are we derailing the disparities that feminism aims to derail?
Additionally, instead of seeking pleasure under patriarchy, why don’t we look for alternative means of celebrating and expressing our sexuality as women. As McNally states
“Indeed, as it turns out, some people can envisage a sexuality that doesn’t require market-driven, male-centric, or porn-fueled performance.”
In closing, I will not go as far as to say that Amber’s feminism in disingenuous, although I would say that it is not well informed, which results in it being marred by contradictions and adverse effects. As I stated earlier, her stance and slut-walk initiatives are laudable ones. However, I do believe that she needs to go back to the drawing board in terms of mapping out avenues for her stance to result in positive and tangible effects. There is a stark difference between patriarchal exploitation and empowerment, and as feminists we have to be able to differentiate the two, so as to not blur the line between feeding into a sexist society and diminishing a sexist society.