The title of Scottish pop band CHVRCHES’ Sept. 25 release Every Open Eye is a little surprising given that lead singer Lauren Mayberry seems to be walking into the political arena with her dukes up and both eyes shut tight.
Though Mayberry is experiencing her 15 minutes of feminist fame, she is using her time in the spotlight unwisely—choosing to focus on trivial and even questionable instances of misogyny rather than on more pressing issues.
During a concert at Central Park Summerstage in New York City on Sept. 29, a male fan screamed out, “Marry me,” and Mayberry responded with a series of call-outs and eventually a middle finger.
“What’s the hit rate on that?” she demanded. “When you go to public places and ask women you don’t know to wed you … does that work out well for you, sir?”
I would argue that it is not really misogynistic of a crazed fan—joking or not—to ask a pop star to marry him. Certainly we do not call it misogyny when thousands of crazed teenage girls at One Direction or Justin Bieber concerts ask their idols to marry them. The fan is not truly hitting on Mayberry either—he’s just one member of a huge audience, with rows and rows of people and a whole stage between him and the object of his affections. Mayberry did not have to get so intense about something so trivial.
This concert callout comes after a years-long history of Mayberry bashing so-called misogyny on the Internet. In September 2013, The Guardian published an article in which she deconstructed the harmful nature of cruel feedback she received from countless “Internet trolls.” Mayberry brought up some very violent comments that she received as well as some valid points.
“I absolutely accept that in this industry there is comment and criticism,” she wrote. “There will always be bad reviews: such is the nature of a free press and free speech.” In the next paragraph, however, she wrote that she does not accept “that it is all right for people to make comments ranging from ‘a bit sexist but generally harmless’ to openly sexually aggressive.”
People in liberal media outlets frequently bend over backwards to hold up anyone spouting a message that puts so-called bigots and haters on the spot. According to MTV.com, “CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry Is Still Demolishing Sexist Trolls,” while Radio.com says “CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry Drops the Mic Against Sexist Instagram Comments.” Even if Mayberry were a perfect embodiment of feminist ideals, the issues she addresses are of extremely low priority when compared with sexual assault, reproductive rights and workplace equality.
Additionally, this practice of liberal sensationalism—which certainly applies to more than just gender issues—causes unnecessarily extreme political polarization. This then makes it more difficult for people who are afraid to call themselves feminists for fear of being associated with “man-hating” or left-wing politics to speak out about gender inequality or other stereotypically liberal issues that may affect them.
Mayberry appears to advocate the exact kind of feminism that makes women feel that they don’t need feminism. Righteous Tumblr posts simply don’t incite positive, real-world change. At best, these instances are superfluous; at worst, they are harmful to both women and men. If—as feminists—we are supposed to trash our biggest supporters, then I don’t even want to know how we are supposed to treat our detractors.