Digital Culture

Hold My Feminism, TikTok: I’m Vibing

Elizabeth Baker

This week, in the cultural no-man’s-land of TikTok’s ‘For You Page’ (FYP), people rocked out to their favourite problematic songs. Sharing songs like Hollywood Undead’s Everywhere I Go, YungGravy’s Oops! and even Taylor Swift’s Better Than Revenge, people ‘put their feminism on hold’ for their favourite songs. 

Was this a demonstration of the totally ingrained nature of misogyny in our culture? 

Probably.

Of course, there’s a very valuable argument that embracing this kind of content only perpetuates the problematic culture it stems from. In listening to, talking and (true) writing about this type of content, we advertise and popularise it- perhaps saying that it is ok. This could be opening the market up further to this type of content. 

Yet, seeing so many self-proclaimed feminists cheerfully participate in this trend felt empowering to me. After all, it is intriguing that throughout the enjoyment of this popular content, the charge that it is misogynistic is never lost. These songs are always bracketed within an overall feminist identity.

Maybe this is a new valuable tool for feminism. 

@safthegiraffe

seeing people talk about the one song that makes them put their feminism on pause…but i got a whole playlist 😔👋

♬ oops! – Yung Gravy

TikTok feminists are strategically reappropriating this huge stake of modern culture for themselves. Through passing around popular songs with the large label ‘misogyny’, feminists reach the exact audience that could have internalised its messages. In doing this as enthusiastic fans, they popularise identifying this type of content as misogynistic- through the very means that it would usually be so insidious. They capitalise on the precise danger of a catchy song: its ability to subliminally normalise behaviour and attitudes… and use it for themselves! 

Furthermore, this approach seems to also work towards humanising Feminism. Having a guilty pleasure is an inevitable symptom of the human condition. So in owning these inconsistencies and guilty pleasures, TikTok feminists are making their ideas and perspectives visable, in a manner that reminds me of the Guilty Feminist podcast. 

Acknowledging their fanhood and feminism together prevents viewers from being alienated and seems instead to welcome them into the discussion. As a result, this trend has become a tool to insert feminist perspectives into mainstream discussion. By calling out misogyny where they see it but not dictating what can and cannot be enjoyed, these feminists bring to light these everyday microaggressions, as and when they occur. 

The fact that the perpetrating artists profit from this trend does make it an imperfect strategy. Nevertheless, it is a thought-provoking and perhaps underestimated one. Ultimately, I can’t see the value of calling out fellow feminists for enjoying what they enjoy. This would be shifting the discussion away from where it needs to be, and into a blame game between those that suffer most as a result of today’s misogynistic culture. 

What I can see the value in is listening to what feminists are saying and how they choose to say it. Looking into this trend, it becomes clear that this technique uses pop culture’s tools to further feminism’s message, with surprising efficiency.