Warning: content is mature and NSFW. Courtesy of YouTube/FCKH8.
A new video from activist T-shirt company FCKH8.com aims to prove once and for all that “feminism” is not a bad word. But the spot has proved controversial across social media because of its method — enlisting a cast of girls between the ages of 6 and 13 to spout off a litany of sexist statistics about pay inequality and female objectification, all while wearing ironic princess getups, dropping frequent F-bombs, and serving up various takes on “oh-no-she-didn’t!” ’tude.
“What’s more offensive? A little girl saying ‘f*ck’ or the sexist way society treats girls and women?” asks one of the young participants. Some stats tossed out by the kids include, “Women make 23 percent less than men for the exact same f*cking work. I shouldn’t need a penis to get paid,” and “One out of five women will be sexually assaulted or raped by a man. Stop telling girls how to dress and start teaching boys not to f*cking rape!”
FCKH8.com is the company behind other recent campaigns including “Hey, White People: A Kinda Awkward Note to America by #Ferguson Kids,” and “Old Farts F*ck Hate: Grannies and Geezers Stick Up For Gay Grandkids!” as well as a line of tees that have been embraced by celebs including Jane Lynch, Perez Hilton, and Zac Ephron. The company did not respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment about its latest spot, “F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty-Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Word for Good Cause.” But spokesperson Luke Montgomery told the Christian Post, “The word f*ck is just impolite. That’s it. It doesn’t hurt anybody. It’s not a crime, it’s not a sin. It’s just a word that is at most slightly impolite.”
Still, amidst the controversy, YouTube took down the video this week before then reinstating it on Thursday. And online commenters, from bloggers to Twitter users, have not held back with a polarized range of responses.
On the plus side, tweets declared it “Outrageously good and important!” and as well as “the sassiest thing you will ever see,” and “the best,” and noting, “I hope my kids will be this cool one day.” EJ Dickson at the Daily Dot wrote, “Yes, it’s an obvious grab for virality. Yes, the video is a paid advertisement for FCKH8, a for-profit T-shirt company, which might rub some people the wrong way. And yes, it does get a bit exploitative and uncomfortable when the cherubic little girls cite the statistic that one in five women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes and then ask the viewer ‘which one of [them] will it be.’ But it’s a cute and funny video, and it gets the point across loud and clear: We, as a society, should be much less concerned about preserving the innocence of our children and much more concerned about building a world where it’s no longer OK for young girls and women to be harassed and sexualized.”
Jennifer Baumgardner, executive director of the Feminist Press, mother of two boys, and author of books including the now-classic “Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future,” is also a fan. “I certainly didn’t find it offensive. I think it’s grabby, and a good example of having a message in a new-media environment,” she tells Yahoo Parenting, despite finding some of its direction being “cheesy and over-the-top.” As far as having young girls take on such sensitive subjects, “It’s hard to know how to talk about these things, but kids do know about them,” she says, pointing out that, sadly, many young girls in this country do know first-hand what it means to be objectified or assaulted.
Others were not quite so on board, tweeting about it being “vulgar, distasteful, wrong and misguided,” and noting, sarcastically, “thanks, FCKH8, for making people associate feminism with little kids swearing. YOU ARE REALLY HELPING THE CAUSE HERE.” Jessica Valenti, feminist author, founder of Feministing, and a blogger for the Guardian, tweeted, “Late to this, but I am the only one who really didn’t like the fckh8 feminism video? I don’t mind little girls saying ‘fuck’, but ‘rape’?”
Jean Kilbourne, a sexism-in-advertising expert and coauthor of “So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood,” and “What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids,” tells Yahoo Parenting she found the video to be a mixed bag. “Overall, I’d say thumbs down, but it’s not quite as simple as that, as it’s not to do with prudishness, but with the actual little girls,” she says. “It’s very funny and it certainly grabs you and makes the point. But I can’t help but wonder what is this really like for the girls, and who are their parents?” Plus, Kilbourne adds, the constant f-bombs may have just been going overboard, considering the video’s overall power.
“The idea of girls wearing princess dresses and talking about feminism is great,” she says. “I’m not so sure the language is even necessary.”