f-bombs for feminism?
October 23, 2014 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs For Feminism (YouTube; NSFW), FCKH8's new video campaign, has gone viral - attracting both praise & criticism. FCKH8's campaigns have sparked similar mixed reactions before.

This Buzzfeed link relates in detail the content of the FCKH8 video without audio (therefore more SFW):
"What’s more offensive? A little girl saying ‘fuck’ or the fucking unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?"

Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies reacts on Facebook:
I have a lot of folks sending me the cursing princesses video asking for my thoughts. When a friend sent it to me on Tuesday my response was this: "Well, I love the message and the girls are spot on as they deliver it.
At the same time, they are being used as props. Those aren't their thoughts or words, they are a schtick. It is funny because it is so wrong that it is right, but in general adults using kids as puppets makes me uncomfortable."

Then I learned the video was meant to sell t-shirts, I was distracted when I first viewed it and I didn't realize it was an advertisement. This is not the first provocative ad from FCKH8, whose adverts have gotten them in hot water before (using Ferguson kids to sell racism t-shirts). Now it just feels icky to me.

Here's the thing at some point I hope people understand --- Using the exploitation of girls to further exploit girls is not empowerment. Girls, on their own, are quite powerful and many are passionate about issues of inequality, violence, and general societal mistreatment. I'm raising an eight year old just like that. But you know, she's able to make her own case, formulate her own argument, and USE HER OWN VOICE. If you spent time talking with girls, you'd find this to be true of many of them.
When we have adults scripting and slickly producing a video meant to shock rock itself into viral fame, we aren't empowering girls and we certainly aren't liberating anyone. Feminism works when the message is heard, not argued over.

So you can think this video is great and you can think girls dropping f-bombs is no big deal and you can clap and squeal at these adorable little feminists......as long as you see the video for what it is: child actors repeating memorized lines about some very serious topics (they may not even understand) so that a company can make money.
further reaction at Women You Should Know:
FCKH8’s “F-Bomb Princess” Video Isn’t Offensive… It’s Exploitative

FCKH8 had another recent campaign attract controversy:
Hey White People: A Kinda Awkward Note to America by #Ferguson Kids by FCKH8.com (YouTube video link)

Colorlines: This is the T-Shirt Company Making Money Off of Ferguson

DailyDot: Clothing company FCKH8 gets hate for anti-racism Ferguson T-shirt
The issue of FCKH8’s “attention-getting style” has always been a source of conflict with the marginalized groups it attempts to represent. Both as a for-profit business and as a fundraising organization, FCKH8’s main goal is to promote itself and sell more products. Inevitably, this causes some friction with non-profit campaigners who demand a more nuanced discussion of race, gender and sexuality...

There’s no doubt that FCKH8 donates significant amounts of money to worthy causes. But by simplifying issues such as the Ferguson protests, anti-black racism and LGBT discrimination into marketable T-shirt slogans, FCKH8 can expect to see more of this type of backlash in the future.
further reaction from ChescaLeigh:
FCKH8 Continues To Be Awful, Demands An Apology & Accuses Colorlines Of Being Homophobic
(ChescaLeigh previously on MeFi with Shit White Girls Say... To Black Girls)

on tumblr: stopfckh8

FCKH8 previously on MeFi for their Straight Talk On Gay Marriage video: Some Dudes Marry Dudes, Get Over It
posted by flex (32 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Good grief, it's Dance Moms or Toddlers and Tiaras for a pseudo-crusading American Apparel–knockoff.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:27 AM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


By putting adult words into children’s mouths, FCKH8 is exploiting girls in this advertisement. End of story.

This, a million times over.
posted by jbickers at 7:40 AM on October 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


"What’s more offensive? A little girl saying ‘fuck’ or the fucking unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?"

Can't two things be bad?
posted by Sangermaine at 7:43 AM on October 23, 2014 [17 favorites]


FWIW, you do not need a penis to be a man. This recently came up in a gross Sarah Silverman video put out by NWLC, but I wish someone would pay more attention to the fact that gender isn't really binary, and there are plenty of people who could be triggered by a well meaning video.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:48 AM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


child actors repeating memorized lines about some very serious topics (they may not even understand) so that a company can make money.

Like on movies and tv, all day, every single day?
posted by cashman at 7:51 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ugh, they are the fucking worst, and their social media team is so terrible that I am still wondering if it's actually meant to be performance art.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:53 AM on October 23, 2014


Social Justice is not a marketable commodity, and capitalist models for constructing a consumer demand to satisfy will never be capable of addressing it. You cannot consume the act of caring for another human being as a product, and "FCKH8" selling t-shirts does not either address misogyny or homophobia. There is so much more that is deeply creepy about this video than just children having adult concepts imposed on them being displayed like a billboard.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:54 AM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


"Well, I love the message and the girls are spot on as they deliver it.
At the same time, they are being used as props. Those aren't their thoughts or words, they are a schtick. It is funny because it is so wrong that it is right, but in general adults using kids as puppets makes me uncomfortable."


That is a complete argument against this video that requires no additional documentation or support.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:06 AM on October 23, 2014


Cursing by children? Second only to chimpanzees in butler outfits.

Delightful!
posted by jpe at 8:29 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Well, I love the message and the girls are spot on as they deliver it. At the same time, they are being used as props."

It's a commercial. They're actors.

These girls are no more or less "props" than adult women would be in the same PSA, or than these same girls would be in a Barbie commercial.

If you're opposed to this, you're pretty much opposed to children appearing in any media at all. Or maybe you're opposed to actors stating things that sound like they could be opinions. It makes no goddamn sense.
posted by Sara C. at 8:30 AM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


I oppose things that begin when someone says, "how can get some edgy synergies?"
posted by jpe at 8:31 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


child actors repeating memorized lines about some very serious topics (they may not even understand)

Oh, c'mon, you think these kids are growing up in a bubble? I'm sure they've already experienced sexism in some form.

And did no one here grow up in a small town? Little kids dropping f-bombs on the playground was pretty much an hourly occurrence back home.
posted by tantrumthecat at 9:11 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've never liked this schtick of adult commentators delivering their commentary from kids' mouths because it's dishonest and manipulative. The kids aren't actually saying those things themselves. Even Pink Floyd's kid chorus going "we don't need no education" irritates me.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:16 AM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


(And of course there's a certain irony in "leave them kids alone.")
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:18 AM on October 23, 2014


I love that it's 2014 and we still think there's some inherent, mystical danger in swear words. I think this is a cute beginner's entry into feminism.
posted by Mooseli at 9:19 AM on October 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


Also, I remember being pissed off when I was a kid (they're not all totally stupid, you know) about how I was treated and how I was expected to act just for having been unfortunate enough to have been born with a vagina. Featuring children in this kind of action highlights that we need to get our shit together now so the upcoming generations will be treated a little better.
posted by Mooseli at 9:22 AM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


If f-bombs were good enough for Emmeline Pankhurst -
posted by IndigoJones at 9:41 AM on October 23, 2014


As a former foul-mouthed, angry little girl, I like this. Because yes, this was exactly how I felt when I was told I needed to be quiet and demure while the boys were allowed to run around and scream.

Or when I was told by my music teacher that "girls don't play the drums, why don't you try playing the flute?"

Or when I was told that it was good I was smart because I was overweight and unattractive. Because you see, that meant I had no real value to society and would have to find a means of surviving without the "pretty" safety net required of girls.

Or when I was sexually assaulted during recess by a group of boys in the 4th grade and the teacher on duty just told them what they were doing was "dirty" and they should stop. Not that violating me was bad, but the act itself was "unclean". Boyis will be boys, after all...

Yeah, I can honestly say that there were many occasions as a girl where I would have loved to have stood up in a princess dress and yelled FUCK at the world as loudly and proudly as I could.

If you think these little girls don't understand the world we live in, you are blissfully ignorant about the world they live in.
posted by evilcupcakes at 10:12 AM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


@Blasdelb: "Social [j]ustice is not a marketable commodity". That's where you're wrong. There's just as much branding to social justice as there is to any other trend in society (since it's market toward youth probably a whole lot more than other political ideologies or movements). You should never underestimate capitalism's ability to commodify anything nor conflate social justice with being the equivalent of caring. To whit: look at all of the arguments about how sex work is empowering or revolutionary for women. These arguments essentially boil down to how being able to commodify your body and what is an inherently personal and private act is the engine of identity politics transformation of society! Capitalism has been appropriating the left wing for a long time now and large segments of the left wing are fine with it.
posted by koavf at 10:20 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


These arguments essentially boil down to how being able to commodify your body and what is an inherently personal and private act is the engine of identity politics transformation of society!

Arguments for the pro-sex-work side are coming from a place of personal agency - that it's their own business what they do with their bodies.
posted by divabat at 10:38 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, there's been some pro-sex work activism that are coming from a labor-oriented point of view - arguing for workers rights and protection from the worst of capitalism (unfettered objectification), which seems pretty Socialist to me.

But this is a derail.
posted by divabat at 10:40 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Arguments for the pro-sex-work side are coming from a place of personal agency - that it's their own business what they do with their bodies.

Also, there's been some pro-sex work activism that are coming from a labor-oriented point of view - arguing for workers rights and protection from the worst of capitalism (unfettered objectification), which seems pretty Socialist to me.

There *is* also a line of argument basically that a lot of non-commercial sex is actually transactional and therefore (like other womens' work) unpaid labor, etc. etc. which makes unabashed sex work comparatively empowered. One could dispute whether that's really pro-capitalist though, and certainly "all the arguments" are not.

Sorry, you're right that this shouldn't take over the thread I just think it's an interesting approach to the subject and possibly what koavf was thinking of.
posted by atoxyl at 10:55 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


A while ago a teacher emailed me to ask to use one of my comics on harassment in her classroom, but needed the swear word 'fuck' to be taken out of it or else she would get into trouble, and asked if I would be offended if she blacked it out.

I offered to produce a 'swearless' comic for her (and as a resource for other teachers), and asked for some clarity
"I know you need 'fuck' to be replaced, but what about the terms like 'bitch', 'dyke', 'fatty', 'slut'- should I modify those too?".

No, she said, it was ok to keep those, just 'fuck' please.

And I did it, but I was sad that the offensive word 'fuck' had to be obscured, that it was the one that she would get in trouble for, and it was the only word there that was not an example of a slur against marginalized people.

When I hear about children and swearing, I think about that classroom and the language that is forbidden for children to be exposed to, and the language that isn't.
posted by robot-hugs at 1:54 PM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


Sara C.: These girls are no more or less "props" than adult women would be in the same PSA, or than these same girls would be in a Barbie commercial.

If you're opposed to this, you're pretty much opposed to children appearing in any media at all. Or maybe you're opposed to actors stating things that sound like they could be opinions. It makes no goddamn sense.


Are you really incapable of seeing the nuance here? A girl in a barbie commercial is advertising to other children for one.

This is adults writing scripts for children to perform, where the end product is targeted at adults and the children are being used entirely to make it more attention grabing/edgy/controversial/o-no-they-didn't. It has a certain gross "from the mouths of babes!" quality of "look, even these little girls get it!" that just feels really gross and manipulative.

I think you can be grossed out by this while also being fine with having children in other media for reasons that aren't hypocritical, and all it takes is not looking at this in some incredibly superficial way to see that.

And it gets especially worse when you look at past projects by this same organization. They're completely in it for the money, and hitch their wagon in really tiresome attention grabbing ways to whatever they think they can get trending on social media based on what is trending. It's a money grubbing me too, and they've done this awkward "lets use children in our video to make it seem more authentic!" thing in the past.

The children are absolutely more props than adult women. It's like arguing that a scantily clad woman isn't any more of a prop than a scantily clad man. That's just... not how it works.
posted by emptythought at 3:19 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is adults writing scripts for children to perform, where the end product is targeted at adults and the children are being used entirely to make it more attention grabing/edgy/controversial/o-no-they-didn't.

Have you ever seen television before?
posted by Sara C. at 5:02 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


So you honestly can't see how this is different than a child actor in a tv show, or a commercial for toys? Because it seems like you're just not engaging at all there.

Because yes, I've seen plenty of television. It's not like this has never been done before, but it's not the norm, and it's not some flat plane where it's all either exploitation or not.
posted by emptythought at 6:31 PM on October 23, 2014


Not only is this the norm, this is actually pretty mild, even uplifting/altruistic by most standards.

Children are hired to play victims of abuse in media all the time. Something very obviously more fucked up than this video. For that matter, it's absolutely not unusual to hear statements like "Can you call casting and have them replace all these Hispanic kids with Asian kids?" or "This girl is OK, but we were looking for someone with more of a tragic refugee kind of look."

Have you ever seen a movie or TV show where a baby cries? How do you think they got the baby to cry on cue? (Hint: they pinched or deliberately scared the baby.)

Have you ever seen a commercial where cute kids are used to shill products that aren't blandly uplifting socials statements? (Fast food, cars, cosmetics, whatever.) Why is that OK while this is not?

Most fashion models are barely pubescent girls, many of whom are recruited in poor countries and brought to the US and Western Europe for this purpose.

Some little girls getting paid to speak truth to power barely registers on the child exploitation meter.
posted by Sara C. at 6:52 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Given FCKH8's past, that it's them doing this already leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I can't even seem to see this as "speaking truth to power." I'm not sure how the kids as props makes me feel at the moment. I associate that kind of gag with Jimmy Kimmel who I do not like at all. It feels like children being paid to "speak" at a target market. It's not uplifting even if the message of the branding is slightly different than the norm.

Maybe if the kids themselves had written the scripts or something and the for-profit motive wasn't so present here, I'd feel differently.
posted by sparkletone at 8:48 PM on October 23, 2014


I don't know. This ad seems like a slap on the back for the marketers and will only preach to the converted.

The real people who need their minds changed- the conservative mindset- aren't even going to click on the play button. Just another example of a liberal culture in moral decay.

So the only thing it succeeds in is selling tshirts . Maybe.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 11:34 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Social Justice is not a marketable commodity, and capitalist models for constructing a consumer demand to satisfy will never be capable of addressing it.

Really?
posted by huguini at 2:02 AM on October 24, 2014


I never heard of FCKH8 before so maybe they're pure evil. But in general I'm ok with a company selling a good message AND making a few bucks at the same time. It certainly beats selling sugary drinks and beauty pageants and other stuff that actively harms kids.
posted by night_train at 6:31 AM on October 25, 2014


The problem is that they alternately co-opt and then trample over the experiences and opinions of the people they claim to be helping. And they're doing so for profit.

Like it's honestly really hard to believe they understand or care about the waters they're treading in. BUT HEY EASY "PROGRESSIVE" TSHIRT BUX. It's gross.
posted by sparkletone at 10:01 AM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


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