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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > No. 147 > This is what a feminist looks like

This is what a feminist looks like

Feminism has never been more fashionable, but are beauty brands eroding its substance, or indeed authentically championing female empowerment? Perdita Nouril investigates

real beauty

Feminism has always come naturally to me. As a teenager, I devoured literature by Sylvia Plath, Germaine Greer, Susie Orbach and Angela Davis. At college, I promoted Men Against Sexism workshops and applauded as Emma Watson cited that there was $28 trillion missing from the global economy due to gender inequality. Most recently, on International Women’s Day, I marched the streets of London with thousands of other women to protest against the rise of president Pussy Grabber’s (sorry, Trump’s) global gag rule on family planning. Everywhere I look, it seems feminism is top of the cultural agenda, refashioned into a solidarity movement lived out through social media. ‘The future is female’ or ‘Girls just want to have fun-damental rights’ is scrawled across T-shirts and make-up cases – yet the resistance at the root of these catchphrases has been, ironically, obscured by their ubiquity.

Has marketing spin usurped the politics? If feminism is increasingly in danger of become a self-serving brand, nowhere has that been more apparent than in the beauty industry. ‘This is an industry that is primarily driven by profit, and aims to tap into cultural trends’, says psychologist Vivian Diller. ‘If brands can meet women where they are, they’ll be more successful, therefore marketers are paying attention to the gains in female empowerment and, as a result, there has been a push back against the preoccupation with perfect, youthful looks and an increased interest in health and wellness.’ It’s no surprise then, that a brand’s captivating feel-good mantras can take o. on Instagram and Facebook, while most also side-step the issue of political inequality and gender disparity. Sisterly support is encouraged through likes, shares and 15-second stories – an easy way to get us to follow the movement, and the brands pushing it. Worryingly, the nuance that confidence and self-worth are what the feminist cause is missing appears to be seductive to consumers. Yet, women are becoming savvier about whose message is substance, and whose is merely surface.

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About Psychologies

This month, we’re urging you to ‘trust yourself’. Wonderful words but, not especially easy to put into practice. That’s why we’ve dedicated 18 pages in our dossier to discovering how to do exactly that – exploring everything from to how to turn up the volume of our inner wise woman, to looking at the latest research on making the best decisions. And it’s not what you think. Be inspired and get ready to move forward. Plus, how to reinvent your career and 10 of the best budget boltholes.
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