Most people would agree the gender wage-gap is bad. But is it more or less bad than profit-motivated adults instructing little girls to curse for a viral video?
That is, in a nutshell, the false equivalence at the heart of a new and wildly controversial video by the T-shirt brand FCKH8, which since Tuesday has racked up more than 100,000 views on YouTube alone. The video consists of girls, ages six to 13, dropping frequent F-bombs in a discussion of pay inequality, stereotypical gender roles and sexual violence — a concept far more dangerous to the six-year-old mind, some might argue, than any casual curse words could be. (The swear words in the video below have been bleeped out.)
Presumably, if you do find the girls’ language offensive, you’re not a very good feminist. And if you don’t find the girls’ language offensive, you are — to paraphrase one breathlessly horrified conservative blogger — an Occupy Wall Streeter, an atheist, or a “sexually confused and anti-American angry woman.”
So regardless of your feelings on f-bombs, feminism, and the viral-industrial complex more generally, nobody wins here. Except FCKH8, of course, which is kind of the whole idea.
FCKH8 is, after all, a for-profit company, owned entirely by Synergy Media — a corporate branding studio that specializes in (whaddya know!) marketing. Each T-shirt FCKH8 sells retails for between $15 and $37, five dollars of which the company promises to donate to charity. After FCKH8’s last campaign — in which the company had children from Ferguson, Mo. read statistics on racism to “white people” — that cut went to the Mike Brown Memorial Fund and the NAACP. Critics, of whom there are many, were not impressed.
“Everything, it seems, can distilled, packaged, bought and sold — including racism,” wrote Colorlines’ Aura Bogado, one of many to fault FCKH8 for making money off Ferguson’s tragedy.
This new campaign, with its new feel-good issue, doesn’t stray too far from that script: It’s still about provoking solely for provocation’s sake. There’s the age of the girls in question. The fact that they’re all dressed like “pretty princesses.” The casual deployment of phrases like “pay up, motherf***er,” which just rings gratuitous. (FCKH8 has, for its part, defended the video as a strong statement against sexism.)
Nevermind that the video would have made a far more credible point about rape and gender roles and the wage gap — not to mention, social and moral norms — if adults starred in it instead of little kids.
“What’s more offensive?” FCKH8 tries to ask. “A little girl saying f***, or the sexist way society treats girls and women?”
But what they’re actually asking, of course, is this: What’s more offensive: The way society treats girls and women, or a little girl dropping f-bombs according to a script, written by adults to sell T-shirts?
Whatever the answer, it’s clearly good business for FCKH8: The company has built a veritable empire by throwing the veil of social good over more capitalist ambitions. Power to you, guys. You’re clever businessmen. Just don’t expect us to laud your grand stand for feminism — been there, done that, will not buy the T-shirt.