Narcissism as Liberation

After feminism, both to undermine and gain profit from it, came faux-feminism in the form of “girl power” and “hot power”. Faux-feminism seems to contain feminist messages, but in reality, it is basically just empty slogans and a marketing ploy from advertisers. After the women’s liberation movement and all backlash and co-optation going on in the media during the 70’s and 80’s, and with a bit of progress both on screen and in the real world, it seemed like feminism had succeed and reached its goal. So the beginning of the 90’s was filled with young, hot and confident girls taking over the world like the Spice Girls; girls rule and girls run the world was the message from girl power, there’s no need for “real” feminism anymore because girls and women already have all the power they could possibly want! Right…?

Well, that was the illusion anyway. When girl power took over the media, it was as if it was there to say “feminism is done!” This is the biggest problem with girl power and the new kind of “hot power,” because it gives this false impression of feminism. It undermines the real feminism movement with empty slogans to sell products instead of supporting the real struggle. Women were encouraged to take care of themselves – focus on the personal instead of the social and political. Why spend your time, energy and money on fighting for rights and equality you already have when you spend it on yourself and your own wellbeing – because you’re worth it! Hot power – women getting empowered by using all kinds of beauty products to become sexy, elegant, appear successful and confident, became the new way for women to show how far they’ve come.

On the backside of this though, women feel more and more obliged and pressured to buy and use all of these products, because they are now equal to success. To be a successful woman, like the ones you see in the media and in the advertisements, you’d have to have perfect skin, great makeup, styled hair, expensive clothes, and don’t forget, a fit and feminine body! This kind of pressure exists today too, and it’s hard to break away from it. When everyone expects a woman to comply and conform to all of these “standards” of looks and appearances to even be taken seriously, when women have to worry about such superficial things instead of the real problems causing it in the first place, it doesn’t seem that women rule the world anymore, and just further proves that feminism isn’t “done”.

All of this, girl power and “hot power”- the fixation of women’s superficial “power” – is a distraction from the major problem underneath; that our society is still patriarchal. The power women seem to have is nothing compared to that of men, and especially when it’s all depending on the appearances and attitude, not on our actions – it’s a bit condensing actually. Women can do so much more, and it’s a shame that we are all so judged and scrutinized by our appearances and have to waste so much time and money worrying about all that. We don’t have much choice when it comes to power – either we get it by “hot power”, conforming and giving in to what the majority of the society requires of us, or we try to get it the male-way, but we are sure to get judged every step of the way no matter what path we take…

(Originally posted on 2014/12/09 for Melanie Klein’s class blog “Women and Popular Culture”)

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