Category Archives: Feminism

Why do I recommend Beauvoir’s The Second Sex?

by Junyi Xu

As a male, it is strange for people to hear me say that I am a feminist. Women are curious about the reasons behind this, while men think I am betraying men or have been brainwashed by feminist theory. This is a sad result, because in my view the feminist movement is an anti-authoritarian movement, and in post-modern society people often break with authority to construct new ideas, new isms. So why did men lose out to feminism? The result is obvious: an unwillingness to give up privilege. When I was a child, I often wondered about the traditional Chinese family model. I couldn’t understand why my father smoked in the house without regard for the feelings of others, why the men in the family didn’t fulfil their responsibilities as husbands but the women didn’t dare to run away, and so on, some of the absurd things that we were used to but that I started to think about when I was very young. I was later introduced to feminism, the most famous of which in China is Beauvoir and her book The Second Sex. The popularity of Beauvoir in China could not have been achieved without Li Yinhe, who brought some of Beauvoir’s ideas to China and made them very popular. Of course, Beauvoir’s past with Sartre is also a subject of great interest to the Chinese. Her mode of living with Sartre has, I think, in a way changed the way many people view marriage. As I read the book, I was struck by how many of my thoughts as a young child were echoed in the book. Some of the ideas or examples in the book were repeated over and over again in reality.

Beauvoir is considered by many to be an icon, a pioneer. My undergraduate major was in literature, and I remember that during an introduction to existentialist literature, my teacher mentioned Beauvoir and her feminist views, her most famous point being that “women are not born, they are created”. It was seeing these interesting ideas that broadened my horizons and drew me deeper into feminist theory. In The Second Sex, it is around this same idea that her research and thinking revolves. In the book she mentions several factors in reality that contribute to the low status of women as the ‘other’ as opposed to the male figure. The most subversive point for me was Beauvoir’s discussion of the law and education. Firstly, she argues that the law is an instrument of domination used to bind women, and that since the world became civilised, countries have been dominated by men. In order to strengthen the foundations of their rule, rulers enacted laws that were masculine from the outset. They were harsh on women and lenient on men. It is easy to understand that men wanted to reinforce their control over women through the law, so in early society it was easy to see that the law did not give women the right to vote or to vote, and there was a general perception that women should stay at home rather than work. Secondly, the law of marriage was another tool to keep women in check. Women did not have much choice over marriage and if a marriage was unhappy, it was the man who divorced the woman and vice versa. In modern times, of course, these incredible rules and regulations have been amended. The inequalities on the surface have improved, but the inequalities in the shadows have been slow to be resolved. I think the best part of Beauvoir’s book on the growth of women is the analysis of the teenage years. This is the period when women begin to establish their values, and education plays a crucial role. Education is divided into two parts, education at home and education at school. In school education, women are taught that a woman does not need to have a high level of education and that after a general education she should find a secure job, get married and have children. Then women lose their sense of enlightenment and stop rebelling against male authority. On the other hand, such ideas are conveyed to women in family education. One of the things I cannot understand is that the mother also plays this role. The family role of the mother becomes “alienated” from the male, with two male roles in the family educating the children. If the mother is also a victim of the education system in the traditional family, then why is it that today, some of the women who have received higher education still hold such ideas, albeit less strongly. It is inconceivable that this section of the female population still does not choose to resist when faced with male authority. Some women have become the accomplices of men.

To borrow the opening line of the book, “I hope that women and men are equal throughout the world”. This is perhaps what often moves me.


Beauvoir, S. de, Borde, C. and Malovany-Chevallier, S. (2010) The second sex. New ed. / translated by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier ; with an introduction by Sheila Rowbotham. Vintage. Available at: (Accessed: 8 March 2022).





‘’Say good-bye to gender stereotype’’: how is gender portrayed  in the lyrics of pop music?

by Stephanie Pang

Music is seen as an expressive tool where individuals can express their emotions. We often use music for many different purposes e.g. aesthetic appreciation or religious worship. However, music is often a battlefield for gender and inequality issues. Gender stereotyping is not a new phenomenon in music. During the 1980s, the majority of women in music videos were dressed sexily (Gow, 1996) while men  are seen as masculine figures and carry hegemonic masculinity.

How Males are portrayed in the songs sung by artists

When listening to music, especially songs sang by female singers, it comes as un surprising that men are portrayed as having all the power. The lyrics “I’ll be a  fearless leader and I’d be an alpha type’’ (The Man, Taylor Swift), shows that the  image of a top manager in society includes a successful man with a strong  masculine presence (Acker, 1990). Messner (2000) supported this view stating that  men usually hold position e.g. head coach and assistant coach.

Male are also seen as more privileged than females, as they are usually ‘’ranking in  dollars, and getting bitches and models’’ (The man, Taylor Swift). This shows that  men are like free spirit animals who constantly search for dreams and living the best  of their life (Hyden & McCandless ,1983). And, lyrics ‘I’d be just like Leo in Saint  Tropez’ (The Man, Taylor Swift) shows that men are like playboys, and Leonardo  DiCaprio (fun fact… Leo has a reputation for flirting with different girls, he always  takes his girl friends to have fun in Saint Tropez).

Aside from that, men are portrayed as capable of breaking women’s hearts (shame  on them….). This is demonstrated in lyrics “How’s your heart after breaking mine?” (Taylor Swift, Mr. Perfectly Fine), the female singer was devastated after being left by a guy. Similarly, another lyric ‘’Pretends he doesn’t know that he’s the reason why you’re drowning….’’ (Taylor Swift, ‘I know you were trouble) conveys the same  message. Men being a heartbreaker can be linked to Click and Kramer (2007)’s view  that women are perceived to be the ones who constantly have their hearts broken  and wish for shooting stars.

How females are portrayed in the songs 

If men are usually seen as powerful and masculine? Does that mean women are  being seen to having the same characteristics as well??

Well… the answer is probably not. Women are typically portrayed as fragile and  weak in songs sung by female singers, as they tend to break down more than men  after a relationship ends. This is evident in lyrics ‘Everything that I do reminds me of  you, and the clothes you left, they smell just like you’ (Avril Lavigne, when you’re  gone). This showed that women were unable to let go of the men and she still  believes that the clothes he left smelled like him. Therefore, women are seen as  weak and needy (Lisara ,2014).

Other than that, in songs sung by male singers, women are viewed as objects that  are constantly being view by men. Sexual objectification occurred through body  representation e.g. sexy clothing, body parts (Flynn et al, 2016). This can be seen in  lyrics, ‘’Missing more than just your body’’ (Justin Bieber, sorry), ’Everyone else in  the room can see it, everyone else but you’’ (One Direction’s What makes you  beautiful). These lyrics have shown that man has missed the body of the female he  is speaking of ,and it also indicates that a woman’s body is still meant to be touched, even if the man doesn’t deserve it due to his mistakes. Once again, female is being  seen as object more than male artists (Flynn et al, 2016).

However, women are not always seen to be portrayed as weak and sexy figures.  Songs that are mostly sung by female artists themselves try to fight against  marginalization and push for equal rights as well as empowering women (Nwabueze,  2019). Lyrics ‘’I don’t need a man to be holding me too tight’ (Kesha, women) ‘’She’s  on top of the world, hottest of the hottest girls’’ (Alicia Keys, Girl on fire) showed that  women can live a better live by themselves. This is in consistent with Nwabueze  (2019)’s findings that women are seen to be able to rule and bring positive changes to the world. Yet, we can also argue that only songs sung by female artists are able  to portrayed woman in a positive way.



To our future

Men and women are portrayed differently as we live in a world where certain  activities are classified as masculine or feminine (West & Zimmerman, 1987).  Therefore, we can see that gender is socially scripted and that men and women  must perform a set of performances in order to fit into society.

I think it is crucial for us to achieve gender inequality in our society as young adults  always listens to pop music. Music will influence their perceptions of relationship, sex and gender roles. As a result, the music industry has a big impact on gender  construction. To achieve gender equality, I believe more female composers and  singers as well as more positive lyrics about women are needed.

(life is not only about competition; it is also about  collaboration between men and women, therefore, men and women must be treated  equally)


Acker. J (1990). Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of Gendered organization, Gender & Society, 4(2),  pp.139-158,

Click. A. M & Kramer. W. M (2007) Reflections on a century of living: gendered differences in  mainstream popular songs, Popular Communication, 5(4), pp.241-262,

Flynn. A. M & Craig. M. C & Anderson. N. C & Holody. J. K (2016), objectification in popular music lyrics: An  examination of gender and genre differences, Sex roles, 75, pp. 164-176, DOI 10.1007/s11199-016-0592-3

Gow. J (2009). Reconsidering gender roles on MTV: Depictions in the most popular music videos of the  early 1990s, Communication reports, 9(2), pp. 151-161, DOI: 10.1080/08934219609367647

Hyden. C & McCandless. J (1983). Men and women as portrayed in the lyrics of contemporary music,  Popular music & Society, 9(2), pp.19-26, DOI: 10.1080/03007768308591210

Lisara. A (2014). The Portryal of Women in Katy Perry’s selected song lyrics, Passage, 2(2), pp.61- 68, Available at: file:///Users/pangwingtakstephanie/Downloads/21156-47562-1-PB%20(2).pdf (Accessed: 18 March)

Messner. A. M (2000). Barbie girls versus sea monsters, children constructing gender, Gender &  Society, 14(6), pp.765-784, Available at: (Accessed 14 February)

Nwabueze. C (2009). Pop Music, literature and gender: perceptions of womanhood in Grande’s ‘’God  is a woman’’ and Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Litinfinite Journal, pp.23-33, Available at  :10.47365/litinfinite.1.1.2019.23-33 (Accessed 15 March)

West. C & Zimmerman. H.D (1987). Doing Gender, Gender and Society, 1(2), pp. 125-151, Available  at: (Accessed 7 March 2022)

Gender, the guitar and why people won’t stop calling Wet-Leg ‘Industry Plants’

by Johnny Hurst

Following CPB-London’s recent ‘imagine a’ campaign:[1] picture a guitarist. Are they a man? They shouldn’t be. Not only should you not assume a man – historically, you should assume a woman. So why has this changed? And how does this relate to the accusations of Wet-Leg being ‘industry plants’? Let’s start at the beginning…

The Guitar and femininity

The association between masculinity and guitars is a relatively recent phenomenon. Originally, the guitar was a paradigmatic feminine instrument. In 1783, Carl Junker named the guitar’s predecessors[1] as one of the 4 women-appropriate instruments (Stenstadvold, 2013). In the early 1700s, Roger North echoes this judgement (ibid). These pro-women guitar stances weren’t a stand against sexism: the guitar’s slender frame allowed women to remain elegant whilst playing. The guitar was also not a professional instrument[2] – it was an amateur instrument, played at home (Stenstadvold, 2013), accompanying[3] another instrument (Jackson, 2020). Thus, the project for modern women guitarists is not to create a feminine space in the guitar-world, but to reclaim it.

So, when did guitar’s feminine-status decline? Pinpointing a date here is difficult. Whilst the well-known Delta-Blues players of the early 20th Century are all men,[4] we have to recognise that history might be filtering out women-guitarists of this time through looking backwards with a guitar-as-masculine lens. Elizabeth Cotten writes Freight Train 20 years before Robert Johnson steps into a studio. Cotten even used a left-handed-upside-down string technique,[5] later used by[6] male-guitarists Albert King and Jimi Hendrix. Sister Rosetta-Tharpe could be seen ripping on an SG Custom in the early 1960s. So when did the change occur?

Strohm points to the invention of the electric guitar (Weinstein, 2013). This makes sense: before amplification, the guitarist had the quiet role at the back of the Big-Band. Once amplified, the guitar could take the lead role (ibid).


Enter the men. Amplification permits distortion: the aggressive sound of rock. Here we start to see the masculine paradigms work their way in. Then comes the virtuoso; the fiery and phallic displays in the late 1960s.[7] This trajectory continued: think 1970’s and 1980’s “masturbatory” (Weinstein, 2013, p. 144) guitar solos[8] – the guitar was cemented as a masculine domain.

So how did this affect guitars?

Firstly, once the guitar had been made masculine, the unspoken rule of ‘standard’ coming to mean ‘masculine’ instantiated itself.[9] The masculine way of playing guitar became the standard way of playing guitar. Deviation from this standard was/is seen as a mark of the amateur. Look at how Jett, St. Vincent and Millington[10] stand in powerful, assertive, masculine poses when performing.[11]

Masculine-as-standard worked in another way: guitars were now made for male-bodies. A standard-size guitar today is not a standard-sized guitar for a human body; it’s the standard-size for a male body. Perez (2019) talks about this problem for pianos: the keyboard was designed with only male hands in mind.[12] This can be seen in the size difference between guitar brands like Teisco in the 1950s[13] and the larger Gibson and Fender guitars that continued from the 50s onwards. Teisco guitars are shorter, so are retrospectively dubbed as student/3/4 sized[14] guitars. Perhaps they’re not smaller versions of ‘standard-sized’ guitars, they are just guitars not made for men! Moreover, guitars such as Teiscos had a revival in women-driven punk-bands. Perhaps they wanted to use a guitar that fits![15]

Thus women in the modern-age are faced with a dilemma: they must play guitar like a man[16] on an instrument that is too big for them to do so. Here enters Wet-Leg.

Wet-Leg and unapologetic rejection of normative-masculinity

Wet-Leg are a new alternative band. Neither Wet-Leg guitarist plays with the violence, aggression or domination of the instrument that the male-standardised perspective insists on.[17] Wet-Leg doesn’t need to perform masculinity to perform the role of guitarist; they perform the role of ‘guitarist’ continuously with their performance of femininity.

Against the masculine-as-standard backdrop, Wet-Leg’s deviation from masculine-styles of guitar-playing is viewed as a deviation from ‘good’ guitar-playing. One video that centres Wet-Leg’s guitar-style is riddled with comments expressing their disgust for it. So Wet-Leg refuse to play guitar like men. And thus fuels the fire of ‘industry plant’ accusations.

Inference to Industry Plants

Innumerous Tiktok comments accuse Wet-Leg of being ‘Industry Plants’.[18] Whilst there’s no single reason why, I think their rejection of masculinity-as-standard is a strong factor.

Viewers see Wet-Leg’s non-masculine style of playing, and because non-masculine is seen as bad, Wet-Leg’s guitar-playing is seen as bad/amateur. If Wet-Leg are amateur musicians, then how have they had viral hits? The answer is simple! Wet-Leg’s success is the industries work, not theirs! Thus the apparent inability of Wet-Leg’s guitarists is squared with their commercial success.

Only, the viewer is wrong; they’ve mistaken non-masculine guitar-playing for bad guitar-playing. Wet-Leg aren’t amateur guitarists, they are women guitarists who have succeeded on their own merit! It turns out, Wet-Leg are actually just a decent band!

 [1] The Lute and Zither

[2] The guitar not being part of the orchestra

[3] Read: being subservient to

[4] Think Robert Johnson, Son House, Lightning Hopkins…

[5] Seen being used by Cotten herself here:

[6] And often incorrectly credited to

[7] Think Jimi Hendrix’s wild onstage movements, and sitting his guitar on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967

[8] Think Van Halen, Guns ‘n Roses, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard…

[9] For a more detailed discussion of male-as-standard phenomena across historical data and modern society, see Perez’s “Invisible Women” (Perez, 2019)

[10] Of the 1970s all female rock group ‘Fanny’ who I recommend. Especially their cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Ain’t that Peculiar’

[11] I’m not saying here that these fantastic female guitar-players are ‘pretending to be men’, but instead pointing out that we seem to celebrate and hold in higher acclaim female guitarists who play guitar ‘like men’.

[12] See Perez (2019) Chapter 7: One-Size-Fits-Men

[13] Production ending early 1960s

[14] Presumably ¾ the size of a standard male body

[15] Where more standard brands of guitar were used, female alternative rock bands often use guitar models with shorter scale lengths, such as the Fender Mustang, or Gibson Les Paul Jr (notice the ‘Jr’: it’s the smaller, younger and inferior guitar to the flagship, men-in-mind Gibson Les Paul).

[16] With deliberate reference here to Young’s (1980) ‘Throwing Like a Girl’

[17] See an example of Wet Leg’s Teasdale playing guitar here:

[18] An Industry Plant is a band/artist manufactured by a record label to be commercially successful, though presented as a grass-roots musician.


Further Reading:

Industry Plants – Another Form of Sexism in Music – Amika Moser

A nice short piece by Amika Moser on how accusations of industry plants are linked with sexism.

At First, the Guitar was a “Women’s Instrument” – Ashawnta Jackson

A short article from Ashawnta Jackson on the historical relationship between women and the guitar, which served as the inspiration for this blog post

At First, the Guitar Was a “Women’s Instrument”

“Women and the Electric Guitar” – Mavis Bayton (Chapter 3 of ‘Sexing the Groove”, edited by Sheila Whiteley

A moderately long piece on the Electric Guitar and women, touching on Gender Performance à la Judith Butler

 Rock’s Guitar Gods — Avatars of the Sixties – Deena Weinstein

An academic article discussing the image of the Guitar God in the 1960s – see page 151 onwards for Weinstein’s discussion of masculinity!

 Wet Leg’s Spotify:

Chaise-Longue is currently their biggest hit


Works Cited

Jackson, A., 2020. At First, the Guitar Was a “Women’s Instrument”. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 12 03 2022].

Perez, C. C., 2019. Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men. London: Chatto & Windus.

Stenstadvold, E., 2013. ‘We hate the guitar’: prejudice and polemic in the music press in early 19th-century Europe. Early Music, 41(4), pp. 595-604.

Weinstein, D., 2013. Rock’s Guitar Gods — Avatars of the Sixties. Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, Volume 70, pp. 139-154.

Young, I. M., 1980. Throwing like a girl: A phenomenology of feminine body comportment motility and spatiality. Human Studies, 3(1), pp. 137 – 156.



Will a woman’s work ever be done?  Not when it involves doing housework and doing gender

by Paula Lovelock

Finding myself living in a London house-share with four guys in the mid-1990s, it only took a few weeks before I went on strike with the cleaning.  I explained to them that our kitchen was becoming a health hazard and that I wasn’t prepared to work full-time and maintain basic hygiene in our three-storey semi.  Their answer was it wasn’t that bad (your stockinged feet would get stuck to the floor) and we couldn’t afford to hire a cleaner.   I hired a cleaner.

Looking back, this has become interesting in many ways.  I have never really analysed why it was me who felt obligated to deal with the housework issue in one way or another.   I had little money to spare.  But these men were all wealthy, ex-public school professionals who could easily afford to hire a cleaner.  I had to wonder if my female presence combined with my efforts at keeping us out of squalor just felt natural to them.  Why get a cleaner when there is a woman in the house?

It seems unlikely that they just didn’t see the dirt.  When participants in one experimental study were shown pictures of an untidy room, there were no gendered discrepancies in perception; both men and women evaluated the level of mess and degree of urgency to clean it similarly.  However, when the gender of the occupant of the messy room was known, moral judgments emerged, with female room dwellers held to a higher standard than men (Thébaud et al., 2019).


To investigate how these gendered notions of housework have evolved, the classic sociological paper on ‘Doing Gender’ provides insight into the way gender is constructed through our daily performances.  The authors, West and Zimmerman (1987) detail the influential sociological work of Goffman (1977) on symbolic interactions in our social lives. These practices cumulatively come to shape the broader structures of society that categorise us by sex. The model of ‘gender displays’ elaborates the socially approved conduct that rewards ‘deference’ from women and ‘dominance’ by men.

However, while Goffman sees these performances as optional, West and Zimmerman disagree.  They view that people are made ‘accountable’ for their performances in their socially approved sex categories of ‘women’ or ‘men’.  Through consensus of expected, ‘appropriate’ behaviour, people are kept in order.  In the patriarchies of the West, men top the hierarchy.  So, while gender is enacted at an individual level, these interactions are institutionally inscribed.  As a result, apparent ‘essential’ differences continue to segregate women and men in normative ways. The gendered division of labour appears to be normal and natural.  So, the fact that women’s work is never done is accepted, even useful, in maintaining the status quo.

My 1990s experiences seem fairly unremarkable according to research from the decade prior.  In one study on the housework attitudes of heterosexual married couples, Berk (1985) found wives did the majority of housework and childcare, even if employed outside of the home.  Staggeringly, in this example, both husbands and wives felt this to be a fair arrangement.


By the mid-1990s, research in Western societies continued to find that women performed disproportionate levels of housework, despite patterns of increased paid employment (Brines, 1994).  Such studies refer to doing housework as symbolic displays of femininity in the service of maintaining gender relations.

So, have things changed much for women since then?

It seems not.  Recent studies assert the life dissatisfaction experienced by women who work longer hours than their male partners, while continuing to do the majority of unpaid labour in the home (Flèche et al., 2020).

Indeed, YouGov statistics in February 2020 show that the majority of housework was being done by women, with over half saying they have sole responsibility for the laundry and cleaning bathrooms.  While this is clearly a very generalised depiction, it highlights how women continue to conform to gendered expectations of housework.

However, it seems the Covid 19 pandemic has made more visible the chasm of gender inequality in housework in the West.  Brigid Schulte, social policy director at a US think tank, cites the “breadwinner/homemaker” model that operates in our culture (Gross, 2020).  This is expressed through the stereotypical gender performances that sustain the inequality of domestic labour, despite the unfairness in task distribution.  Interestingly, she cites research on housework between same-sex couples that reveal that there is more harmony in their decisions over the division of household chores.  This can probably be explained by the absence of gendered assumptions over ‘male jobs’ and ‘female’ jobs.


The evidence illustrates that the dynamics over allocation of tasks between genders have broader impact.  The actions we take in our social contexts are both a cause and effect of social organisation and a means of perpetuating and legitimating gendered divisions.  Whether it is challenging partners, siblings or incredibly lazy and entitled housemates – for women, doing gender requires work on top of doing housework.  Perhaps that work can be consciously channelled in new, resistive ways.


Further Reading:

Brines, J. (1994) ‘Economic Dependency, Gender, and the Division of Labor at Home’, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 100, No. 3 pp. 652-88, November 1994

Flèche, S. et al. (2020) ‘Gender norms, fairness and relative working hours within households’, Labour Economics, Vol. 65, June 2020,

Gross, T. (2020) ‘Pandemic makes evident ‘grotesque’ gender inequality in household work’ NPR, 21st May 2020, [Online] Pandemic Makes Evident ‘Grotesque’ Gender Inequality In Household Work : NPR

Thébaud et al. (2019) ‘Good housekeeping, great expectations: gender and housework norms’ Sociological methods and research, Vol. 50, No. 3. pp 1186-1214, 2021, Sage, August 2021

West and Zimmerman (1987) ‘Doing gender’ in Gender & Society. Vol. 1, No. 2., pp 125-151, June1987

‘I’m not like other girls’

by Paige Parsons

…Hmm, not like other girls, or a case of internalised misogyny?

Since I was little, I have heard this comment voiced from many women, often as a way to distance from ‘typical’ perceptions of femininity. Maybe from women who don’t like painting their nails, or wearing makeup, but who like to drink pints, those who swear (too vulgar!), or burp (definitely not ‘lady like’- whatever that means).

This comment, escaped from the mouths of many (myself included), is both familiar and complicated. What does it mean to be like other girls? Why are you not one of them?

We know women are weak, erratically emotional, and exist to please the gaze of men, or so they have us believe. If this is what women are bound by, then perhaps I’m not like other girls either.

Now, I know this is based on a rigid framework of stereotypes, stemming from our need to label our identity to navigate the world (Delphy, 1993). But as a re-occurring observation I have made, and continue to make, it has consequences for the respect (or lack of) for femininity.

‘I’m not like other girls’ holds other women in a box of confinement (one labelled girly girls, perhaps), their box placed lower on the hierarchy of gender. Girly girls, as we know them, can be explored through an emphasized femininity (see Connell, 1987). This is the expectation of women to conform to a desirable view of femininity, an ideal characterised by subordination (to men) and heterosexuality (having sexual feelings for the opposite sex).

Now, I do not want to blame women (or men) here….everybody has been boxed by the system that is patriarchy, a social system where power is gendered so that masculinity is dominant (Johnson, 2006).

This comment does not simply undermine other women purposefully (although it continues to spread narratives that paint femininity as lesser). Rather, society has a case of internalised misogyny (Manne, 2018), where sexist ideas and disrespect towards women (and femininity) have been engrained into our thoughts.

What does this mean?

We have internalised ideas that women as weak, inferior and have certain characteristics, e.g., appearance obsessed (we might blame beauty/advertisement organisations) or needing a man to feel fulfilled (we might thank traditional fairy tales), but let’s leave that for another day.

These ideas are expressed through our actions, towards ourselves (self-regulation and objectification, see Enson, 2017) and towards other women. Let’s say… the assumption that women should have less sex than men as to maintain ‘purity’ and ‘innocence’…. (Ironic right, as women are apparently existent for the sexual pleasure of men).

Having internalised misogynistic attitudes, distance from these may foster feelings of superiority, moving one closer to ideas of masculinity. I mean, in a patriarchal society, who can blame us? We have learnt that it provides acceptance in the social world….

But, through devaluing other women, we do not increase our own value (on a wide scale, anyhow), but rather, we maintain sexist ideas that continue to mobilise the box that is femininity.

So, through saying (and believing) ‘I’m not like other girls’, we continue to fragment femininity, creating competition and tension between women. Consequently, the patriarchy is supported as well as the division that is central to its power.

Let’s not forget, gender is fluid (Beasley, 2005). An individual may express the comment as to genuinely explore and signal a lack of alignment with the female identity. We must reflect on comments, thoughts, and actions as to question how and why we position ourselves and others, particularly as meaning is communicated through the language we use (Crawford, 1995).

Who are these other girls?

The other girls… Are they able-bodied? Are they white? Are they black? Are they young? Are the old? Are they slim? Are they fat?

These are important questions. The answers reflect the way normative (and emphasized) femininity has been presented to us. Whether that is through the media, television, books, or beauty industries. The way we recognise the ‘other’ girls can impact how we reconcile, respect or celebrate feminine identities.

Juliehangart 2020


So, although an innocent comment at first, ‘I’m not like other girls’ reinforces femininity as an inferior identity. These repetitive interactions nurture misogynistic attitudes (Manne, 2018), shedding light on the ways women are subtly subordinated.

Remember, men have internalised this too. It is not masculinity vs. femininity, but rather patriarchy vs. us all.


So yeah, I am like other girls: strong, diverse, intelligent, interesting, wonderful, and complexly unique; remembering that one expression of gender is no more valid than another.


Beasley, C. (2005) Gender and Sexuality: critical theories, critical thinkers. London: SAGE Publications.

Connell, R. W. (1987) Gender and Power. Society, the Person and Sexual Politics. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Crawford, M. (1995) Talking Difference: On Gender and Language. London: SAGE Publications.

Delphy, C. (1993) ‘Rethinking Sex and Gender’, Women’s Studies International Forum, 16(1), pp1-9.

Enson, S. (2017) ‘Evaluating the impact of hyper-sexualisation on the lives of young people.’ British Journal of School Nursing. 12(6), pp. 274-278.

Johnson, A.G. (2006) Privilege, Power, and Difference. 2nd Edn. New York: McGraw- Hill.

Juliehangart (2020). Available at: (Accessed on 7th March 2022).

Manne, K. (2018) Down girl: the logics of misogyny. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rajagopalan, H. (2017). Comic: What is Intersectional Feminism? Available at: (Accessed on 7th March 2022)

Stanford, Q. (2019) Available at: (Accessed on 7th March 2022)

Vector (2021). Available at: (Accessed on: 7th March 2022)

#MeToo Social Movement and the Improvement of Women’s Awareness about Gender Equality

by Wenjie Huang

Can social media drive a new wave of feminism?

I believe that social media has made the new wave of feminism becomes possible now, as it facilitates the growth of women’s connection and empowerment. For individuals, developing awareness is important. Perception of people influence their intention and even actions. When individuals all realise that they need to fight for equality in the society, they will become a strong group that sparing no efforts to improve women’s social status. A lot of youngers have realised that they are of no difference to men. This motivates girls and women to pursue the life that they want.

 The power of social media in driving social movement

We all know that the media environment has been evolving, while social media have become popular communication tool since early 2000s when Facebook was launched (, 2020). I am interested to argue that #MeToo social movement plays an important role to improve women’s awareness about gender equality. Of course, women’s social status might still be an issue, especially in the countries and regions where women are still considered less valuable than men.

With social media, people now have the opportunity to generate and publish information to the public as social media has the feature of user generated content (UGC) (Luca, 2015). The creation of #MeToo movement was initially just personal sharing, which it attracted attention of women and men who share the feelings that women need to voice up and get united to seek equal rights for women. The #MeToo movement was started by a sexual assault survivor and activist named Tarana Burke but it did not attract much attention in the beginning. After actress Alyssa Milano twitted about #MeToo, this hashtag went viral and got 6.5 million tweets in 3 months (Chou, 2018). The success of this social media movement lies in its viral effects. Information can be circulated virally in the social media communities, which makes information spread within minutes.

What is the power of social media community?

An extended community is created when people share their opinions using #MeToo (Manikonda et al., 2018). People grow their intention to use social media to share useful information that help women. The power of this hashtag was elevated when the scale of followers and users is large on social media (Leopold et al., 2019). Women who suffer from inequal treatment and sexual harassment are given a space to express, which is a relief of people. More importantly, this empowers women to enhance their awareness about the importance of gender equality. Gender is a concept constructed through cultural and social means (Zimmerman and West, 1987).

Anonymity is an important principle on social media, which drives honest sharing of women about their experience (Elbagir, 2020). Clark-Parsons (2019) brings up that networked feminists emerge after #MeToo. Feminist activities have been organised for women to pursue gender equality, as it is still a general issue recognised (West and Fenstermaker, 2016). The development of social media provides a new platform for feminists to share their opinions and help women to seek their equal rights. Before the introduction and availability of social media, people can only have access to news through TV or newspaper. As these media are controlled by either governments or private owners, individuals have no access to authentic information of individuals. What is worse, people’s opinions are not heard on these news networks.

UGC allows individuals to share their comments and feedbacks, especially because of its interactive function. Individuals are not only audience of news content, but they have become owners of media. Authenticity and trustworthiness of social media are perceived high. Feminism becomes popular following the social movement of #MeToo, since some critical principles about gender equality are circulated and reinforced on social media (De Benedictis et al., 2019). Neoliberal feminism also grows, which is a trend for  powerful women to discuss about gender equality as they find it morally worthy (Ghadery, 2019).

Following the influence of #MeToo social movement, there have been changes in legal system in the US to protect the benefits of women (Tippett, 2018). This example suggests that social movement like #MeToo contributes to changes in the society. Law protects people in the society, while law is not of no bias. This is evidence to show that #MeToo has the capacity to make law makers think of optimising the legal regulations to better adapt to the changing world and changing needs of women. Seeing that there is improvement made for women to improve their situation is very inspiring and encouraging.

References (2020) History of social media Available at:,integral%20part%20of%20our%20lives.

Chou S (2018) Millions say #MeToo. But not everyone is heard equally.

Clark-Parsons R (2019) “I see you, I believe you, I stand with you”:# MeToo and the performance of networked feminist visibility. Feminist Media Studies. 1-19.

De Benedictis S, Orgad S and Rottenberg C (2019) # MeToo, popular feminism and the news: A content analysis of UK newspaper coverage. European Journal of Cultural Studies 22(5-6): 718-738.

Elbagir Y (2020) Anonymity helps # MeToo movement extend its reach.

Ghadery F (2019) # Metoo—has the ‘sisterhood’finally become global or just another product of neoliberal feminism? Transnational Legal Theory 10(2): 252-274.

Leopold J, Lambert JR, Ogunyomi IO, et al. (2019) The hashtag heard round the world: how# MeToo did what laws did not. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal.

Luca M (2015) User-generated content and social media. Handbook of media Economics. Elsevier, pp.563-592.

Manikonda L, Beigi G, Kambhampati S, et al. (2018) # metoo through the lens of social media. International conference on social computing, behavioral-cultural modeling and prediction and behavior representation in modeling and simulation. Springer, 104-110.

Tippett EC (2018) The Legal Implications of the MeToo Movement. Minn. L. Rev. 103: 229.

West C and Fenstermaker S (2016) Doing difference. Routledge.

Zimmerman DH and West C (1987) Doing gender. Gender and Society 1(2).

Discovering an Old Classic Book: “Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism” by Bell Hooks

Book review by Hameedat Ogunlayi



As a budding young feminist, I decided to read and review an old classic book “Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism”, which was one of the ground-breaking contributions to black feminist scholarship in the 20th century. This was the first book published by Gloria Watkins in 1981, better known by her pen name, Bell Hooks. She is an American author, professor, feminist and social activist with over 30 books published and numerous scholarly articles mainly focused on race, gender, class and capitalism.

During the period that this was written, mainstream feminism was dominated by white middle-class women and the plight of black women was ignored as it did not serve their opportunistic interests. As a result, much of the feminist literature that existed then were both racist and sexist. Hooks described that white feminist scholars “simply ignored the existence of black women or wrote about them using common sexist and racist stereotypes”. White feminists also failed to challenge “the racist-sexist tendency to use the word ‘woman’ to refer solely to white women”. Therefore, Hooks was adamant for black women to take up their rightful space in the feminist discourse.

This book covered a wide range of subjects with key historical context, including the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the feminist movement and the involvement of black women with feminism. In this book, Hooks writes about the extent of the negative tropes used to devalue black womanhood and how this evolved from the 17th century to the 20th century. The most dominant negative stereotype was that black women were “sexually depraved, immoral and loose” which originated from slavery but continued to have lasting impact long after. This trope was used to justify the sexual assault of black women by both white and black men, as they were seen as available and eager.

Hooks also discussed the rift that sexism caused between black men and black women. This became most evident during the civil rights movement, where black women were conditioned to believe that “to cast a vote in favour of women’s liberation, was to cast a vote against black liberation” as written by Hooks.


Therefore, the black liberation movement became a movement pushing for the establishment of black patriarchy and a tool for black men to regain their ‘masculinity’, while the suffering of black women was disregarded.

As a relatively novice reader of black feminist literature myself, I found this to be a great introduction into the theory of black feminism. The book provided an in-depth insight into the plight of black women. Although, some beginners may find this to be quite a dense read, so the section I would most recommend is the first chapter on ‘Sexism and the Black Female Slave Experience’. I found this to be the most enlightening, as it explains how the subjugation of black women originated and how they were equally oppressed by sexism and racism.

Despite the fact that this book was published over 40 years ago, I was still able to relate to some key aspects. One part that particularly resonated with me was that notion that majority of black women in the 20th century felt the most oppressive force in their lives was racism not sexism. Mainly because black women were often forced to pick between their race or their gender. To which hooks wrote “the sad irony is of course that black women are often most victimised by the very sexism we refuse to collectively identify as an oppressive force”. This was before the concept of ‘intersectionality’ was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, who also acknowledged that black women were often excluded from feminist theory and anti-racist politics, even though they were the most marginalised within these groups.

Personally, as a young black woman, reading this book has empowered me to defy the roles and tropes that have been assigned to black women in society. It has altered my perspective and has made me revaluate the extent to which I view sexism as an oppressive force in my life. Therefore, I implore all black women to read this book to gain further understanding of the origins of our struggles. I also think this is an important read for non-black women and black men who are keen to understand more about intersectionality and how their struggles differ from that of black women’s, who are doubly impacted by racism and sexism.

I believe this is still a very relevant and revolutionary piece of work and I encourage all those who claim to be feminists or advocates of women’s rights to have a read. For those interested in reading more on black feminist literature, an extensive reading list can be found here.



Hooks, B., 2014. Ain’t I A Woman: Black women and feminism. New York, NY: Routledge.


Crenshaw, K., 1989. Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. u. Chi. Legal f., p.139.







Choice Feminism in the Age of Instagram

Grace Baker

A couple of years ago third wave feminism, particularly choice feminist movements, were being questioned and discussed. It may seem outdated, then, to be rehashing old problems. However, in light of new Instagram community guidelines (yawn), Instagram has become a sort of microclimate of society. It highlights the ever emergent problems of choice feminism.                          

So what is choice feminism?

The original fight against choice feminism began in 2006 when Linda Hirshman coined the phrase in order to denounce it. It puts a label to concepts that had taken over feminist movements in the 1980’s. It pushed back against the strict idea that women should neglect the home and get to work. Instead, this new ideology purported that after years of oppression women should be able to make whatever choices they want. Deciding not to work, having a plethora of children, being promiscuous or not, shaving or not and the list goes on.

Women should simply be empowered in their choices and all such empowerment is deemed feminist under the choice feminist banner.

It can be seen as arising out of criticisms levelled at feminism; that it is too radical, too exclusionary, and too judgemental (Ferguson 2010). Choice feminism, instead, does not really challenge society. It ensures that everyone can be included in feminism (we wouldn’t want to lose any allies!). It also guarantees that people cannot be judged since all choices are valid and, therefore, not open to moral indignation. Choice feminism is, thus, increasingly used by women in order to present their empowerment as feminist.

For example, Emily Ratajkowski recently published an article ‘Buying Myself Back’ and not too long ago ‘Baby Woman’. She claims that her empowerment is, quite simply, owning her body and presenting it however she wishes. This has been framed as feminist activism. I think this is dangerous.

Choice feminism has the ability to take feminism out of context.

It skims over the intricacies involved, especially within intersectional feminism. Kimberlé Crenshaw highlighted the important ways in which race, gender and socio-economi

c background intersect in the lived experience of women. This theory has since been broadened to include a wide range of different disadvantages people may face. Such intersections are highlighted when we contrast the way in which @emrata, as she is known on Instagram, is able to post empowering pictures compared to Nyome Nicholas-Williams.  

Nyome (@curvynyome) posed topless wearing black bicycle shorts only. This picture was frequently taken down by Instagram as it was deemed to ‘break their rules’. This resulted in the circulation of the ‘I want to see Nyome’ campaign.




In comparison, Emily can pose fully naked but for a flower over her vulva, among many other risqué photos, and yet these pictures are not removed.

Both images comply with the Instagram guidelines as neither show full nudity nor nipples. However, Instagram explained that it was a former policy on ‘boob squeezing’ that had caused Nyome’s photo to be taken down. In my opinion, Nyome’s photo does not include any more ‘boob squeezing’ than Emily’s. Instead, she is attempting to cover more of her bigger boobs. The rules, therefore, have been applied unevenly. I think it is worth looking at why this may be the case.

Emily has white privilege, pretty privilege, skinny privilege (to name a few). Her posture is also more open and alluring whereas Nyome’s is closed off which could be seen as intimidating. Nyome’s buzz cut hairstyle also presents as more androgynous. Therefore, it can be assumed that Emily fits better into the economy of the male gaze.


Thus, though it can be incredibly empowering to freely express your sexuality and make money from it, not everyone is given this choice.

It seems impossible, then, to say that Emily’s choices are feminist.

They still buy into the commodity of women, into the male gaze, and into what society deems to be beautiful. Such ‘choice feminism’ clearly hides important aspects of intersectionality. In this case being a black, plus-sized, less womanly (on societies’ standards) individual means her choices are lacking.

So what is the solution?

We need to delete choice feminism and actually create a feminist political stance.

This includes making judgements, creating change in society, and in some cases excluding those stuck in the status quo. This is okay.

We may not always get it right. Judging is a political skill and we all need practice. It is the skill of defining and explaining what actions and choices actually benefit the feminist movement. It is creating arguments for the case and hoping other people jump onboard. We may fail. If we do, we need others to hold us accountable. Therefore, we need to be open to the risks of being political, feminist activists. We need to find ‘pleasure in politics’, as Ferguson advocates, even when it feels incredibly uncomfortable.

It is time to embrace not just feelings of empowerment in our choices, but the uncomfortable feeling of being in the realm of risk.

Emily Ratajkowski’s articles:

Instagram Community Guidelines:[0]=Instagram%20Help&bc[1]=Privacy%20and%20Safety%20Center


Ferguson, M. L., (2010), ‘Choice Feminism and the Fear of Politics’, Perspectives on Politics, 8(1), pp.247-253

Hirschman, L. R., (2006), Get To Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, New York: Viking

Crenshaw, K., (1989), ‘Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine’, University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989(1), pp.139-168