• Cheek

What the F is: Convenient Feminism

A definition

A pretty self explanatory term, 'convenient feminism' refers to taking on feminist ideals or messaging only when and if it's convenient. A convenient time for feminism might be International Women's Day or when a #MeToo story is making the rounds on social media. A convenient feminist might be a conservative politician who needs to secure some women's votes.

The more research I did into convenient feminism, the more I found it was often tied to money or gaining something, whether that be cash, votes, or attention in the media or on socials. A convenient feminist will jump onto the latest women's issue because they will receive validation or support from a target group, or get sales on their latest 'women's' product.

An example

Looking for a solid example that doesn't put us at risk of a dangerous defamation case was tough, so here's a completely hypothetical example. A clothing brand runs a huge campaign for International Women's Day that features a diverse group of models and shirts that depict slogans such as 'the future is female,' and 'this is what a feminist looks like.' For the rest of the year, they don't sell the shirts, don't use diverse models, and don't speak out on any women's issues. But every time IWD comes around, they see an opportunity and jump at it. That's convenient feminism.

Only when it affects me

Another way you may see some convenient feminism is the 'when it affects me' people. While it is true that, for many people, issues are only understood when it hits close to home, at this point in time, it's most likely a poor excuse. Conservative women in politics are often seen doing this. I can't count the number of times I've seen conservative politicians silent on issues of gender-based discrimination or violence, only to later, and often after they leave politics, make a splash about how unfairly they were treated as women in parties dominated by men.

Who does it?

Big businesses are a major one, and can be often seen using #feminism to run a campaign or sell a product. Celebrities, politicians, and public figures are often guilty, as are all the rest of us ~regular~ people. Anyone who utilises a special event to 'shout out all the amazing #girlbosses in my life,' but remains silent on issues affecting women and girls across the globe for the rest of the year, is probably a convenient feminist.

Is it more harmful than helpful?

You could argue that any feminism is good feminism if it reaches the right people, but this particular 'brand' of feminism, I would argue, isn't going to be helping many people at all. The convenient feminists usually come out at the same time: International Women's Day, or after a particularly harrowing story in the press. Those are the days that every person and ally is out talking about the same issue, but likely from a more genuine and knowledgeable perspective. So yes, maybe more noise on social media will help get a hashtag trending and an extra day of media coverage, but what difference will a day make when these same people won't show up for the rest of the year? Convenient feminism may not always be completely harmful, but it's definitely not helpful to the movement.

The difference between convenient- and pseudo-feminism

Pseudo-feminism is probably the more evil cousin of convenient feminism. Let's take it back to the definition above. If a brand uses convenient feminism to sell #girlboss T-shirts one month out of the year, then a brand practicing pseudo-feminism used a sweatshop full of underpaid and overworked women to make those shirts. The two are not the same, but probably go hand-in-hand and are often practiced by the same kinds of groups. It's probably likely that one could morph into the other.

In conclusion

While some convenient feminists out there probably mean well, 'just want to get involved,' or are brand new to the movement, it's not the way to boost and contribute to the goals of feminism. But it's never too late to take in to the next, more genuine, level. If you know someone who's been guilty of convenient feminism, or perhaps you have been yourself, it actually can be a great starting point. If you take the next step. Don't leave your feminism relegated to a handful of days in the year, consider women's issues and feminist perspectives more often. Look past the inspirational one-liner quotes that Instagram favours, and delve into deeper issues. even though the mainstream media only publishes about women's gender-based issues when there's a sensationalised story to be written (talk about convenience), there's plenty going on all over the world every day. You just need to find it.