Opinion | Consumer feminism must change | I


Photo Courtesy of IMDB

Rachel Bloom and Britney Young act in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend which aired in 2015. Columnist Rayna Wuh shares her thoughts on feminism in our society.

By Rayna Wuh, Columnist

The relationship between popular culture and perceptions of social movements is an intimate one. In recent years, feminism has gone mainstream and, after becoming more fun and flashy, has appeared in everything from music videos to advertising campaigns.

However, while selling the shiny idea that feminism is sexy bolsters the movement’s popularity, it also effectively waters it down and distorts the message. Now, even when the prevailing rhetoric empowers and uplifts women, the reality often does not match. 

The CW musical comedy-drama “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” centers around Rebecca Bunch, a New York lawyer who, despite her success, feels like something is missing in her life. When offered a promotion, she denies it and moves across the country to a small town in California where an ex-love interest just so happens to live.

Rebecca often views her life as a musical and each episode features several musical numbers. In one instance, Rebecca feels dejected after failing to get her ex’s attention and is consoled by a group of teenage girls who decide to give her a makeover.

The song, titled “Put Yourself First,” satirizes the tendency we have of uplifting women only to the extent that is convenient and acceptable in a patriarchal society. While the song starts with the lyric “put yourself first, girl worry about yourself,” it quickly shifts to “put yourself first in a sexy way” and “put yourself first for him.”

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Rebecca quickly points out the irony of the makeover where she “push(es) them boobs up” and “wear(s) six-inch heels” allegedly just for herself. Mid-song she interjects asking “If I put myself first for him, then by definition aren’t I putting myself … second?”

She is correct. Our notion of female empowerment, as presented in pop culture and the media, is less about the women themselves. Instead, it hinges on their relations to others, namely heterosexual men. While the girls in the song respond, “don’t think about it too hard, too too hard,” this idea is worth investigating.

It can be empowering to display women exhibiting agency and autonomy through the reclamation of their sexuality and by making themselves look good for the sake of it. However, in practice, this is often done within the confines of what is desirable for men instead of being based on what women want. This practice not only upholds the illusion of empowerment but also allows for the continuation of oppressive gender norms.

The daydream music video also features a photographer taking pictures of the girls with the label “male gaze.” The term refers to the objectification of women through the perspective of heterosexual males for viewing pleasure. While it was first coined by critic Laura Mulvey in the context of films, it also applies elsewhere. 

The “male gaze” photographer that appears in the video looks eerily similar to Terry Richardson, a photographer once known in the fashion world for his provocative shoots. In 2017, it was revealed that several major magazines had cut ties with Richardson after over a decade worth of sexual abuse and harassment were brought to the forefront. 

For many years, he was celebrated for his edginess and was known as an artist for his sexually explicit work. However, behind the scenes, Richardson utilized his position to manipulate and exploit young girls and women with minimal repercussions. Unfortunately, Richardson is just one example of predators abusing their power to objectify and take advantage of women.


Rayna is a sophomore in LAS.

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