Feminism and mainstream media have a tumultuous relationship. Influential celebrities express their ignorant distaste of “man-haters” while Dove airs safe, liberal-feminist video ads in order to sell self-esteem to consumers without addressing the actual issues of feminism. The efforts of dedicated activists such as Laverne Cox are demoted to soft news Twitter links, and coverage of feminist rallies is generally limited to gay pride parades. Evidently, media see feminism either as a threat or a capitalist venture. The latter is the goal of the for-profit T-shirt company FCKH8, whose new T-shirt ad is anything but feminist. The “Potty-Mouthed Princesses” video stars young girls dressed as princesses who use explicit language to state gender-inequality statistics.
FCKH8 has clever marketing skills. This video is made for mainstream media’s usual safe depiction of feminism—general, source-less statistics with a “quirky” twist. The swearing young girls are used as a shock factor to lure consumers into watching a blatant T-shirt ad. FCKH8’s website is essentially an online store––it boasts anti-sexism, anti-racist and pro-LGBTQ-plus slogans printed on various apparel. It includes hardly any information regarding its charitable efforts.
The company successfully exploits and sensationalizes charitable causes in such a way that consumers cannot recognize its problematic disguise. The “Potty-Mouthed Princesses” are going viral because consumers truly believe they are helping a cause since they are uninformed of FCKH8’s greedy motives.
For FCKH8’s recent anti-racism campaign inspired by events in Ferguson, Missouri, the company’s website lists specific charities that receive donations from each shirt purchased. The company, however, has an extensive inventory of products for anti-sexism and pro-LGBTQ-plus causes for which no charities are listed at all.
The entire frequently asked questions section on FCKH8.com addresses sizing, ordering and shipping concerns for products, but nothing regarding who receives the rest of the “donations.”
An actress in the video explains that five dollars from each shirt goes to charities that are “fighting every day to make the world a better place for women and girls.” This is a vague statement that does not specify a feminist, LGBTQ-plus or nonprofit organization. So who receives these promised donations?
A genuine nonprofit, feminist organization should never accept donations on behalf of a company that exploits charity for capitalist gain. Supporters of FCKH8 may argue that the company is successfully raising awareness and in reference to the anti-racism campaign, is supposedly donating money to reliable organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The issue with this company, however, is larger than that.
Do we really want to excuse the manipulation of oppressed people—and honest, well-intentioned consumers—for one organization to be written a decent check? Praising FCKH8 for its ability to raise awareness despite consumer exploitation is ignorant and may set a precedent for future companies to join this new activism trend.
FCKH8’s well-intentioned and catchy slogans appeal to the casual do-gooder. But bringing together problematic mass media, feminism and capitalism directly contradicts ideals that some feminists advocate. Currently, mainstream media only accepts a watered-down version of feminism that makes consumers feel empowered and justified in buying these products.
Feminism will become increasingly more misunderstood in the future if instead of independent, nonprofit charities, for-profit companies are the ones that continue to be publicly praised. If FCKH8 were truly sincere in its endeavors, it would put money aside and actively support causes indefinitely, not just when they become popular.