A video was recently released by the T-Shirt company FCKH8 entitled “F-Bombs for Feminism—Potty-Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Words For Good Cause.” In the video, five girls ages 6-13 are dressed up to the nines in tiaras, fancy dresses, elbow gloves, basically anything and everything princess. Then the rant begins:
“What the f—? I’m not some pretty f—in’ helpless princess in distress. I’m pretty f—in’ powerful and ready for success. So what is more offensive? A little girl saying ‘f—,’ or the f—ing unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?”
Meanwhile, Time’s Karin Agness calls the campaign “the latest example of feminism gone wrong in America.”
The video is supposed to shock. It was tailor-made to go viral. And it is shocking. I’ll give it that much. But, as many critics have cited, this is not a video about feminism. This is a video, that at its core, is about selling shirts. Feminism is having an important moment right now, and people are paying attention, and marketers know this. And that’s kind of a problem. Especially when children get involved.
I’m sorry, but who in the right mind thinks it’s okay to shove a bunch of f-bombs into an elementary schooler’s mouth and have them parrot this profanity back to a camera? Who thinks it is in any way, shape, or form cool to have a six-year-old child be a spokesperson for rape and sexual violence?
Blogger and media professor Rebecca Hains puts it perfectly: “The video’s ethos is so steeped in a ‘Generation Like’ mindset that having the video widely ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ is clearly what matters most—resulting in the company’s decision to push girls as young as age six into the roles of cultural provocateurs.”
What the company may be forgetting is that feminism isn’t just about women, but little girls too. They have the right to not go on camera and drop f-bombs to sell shirts. They have the right to not speak on behalf of issues they may not fully understand yet, in order to boost someone else’s bottom line.
In a statement to Mediate about the video being pulled from YouTube, a company spokesperson defended their intentions with the campaign:
“This censorship gets to the exact point that the girls in the video are making. . . that society finds it more offensive for a girl to say f— than they do the fact that 1 out 5 women are sexually assaulted and raped and that women get paid 23% less than men for the exact same work.”
That may be true, but the problem with video’s for-profit efforts, combined with their inclusion of children, feels so deeply wrong. Children rely on adults to protect them and we can’t eschew our responsibility to children in service of an online video, even if it’s under the auspices of feminism, and we ESPECIALLY can’t slough off our obligation in the name of selling a few shirts.