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The Dangers of TikTok Feminism


According to Simone De Beauvoir, “the defiant position American women occupy proves they are haunted by the feeling of their own femininity.” By saying this, Beauvoir isn’t shaming women or being anti-woman, but she is asserting that women must stop trying so hard to be perceived as men. By doing this, we deny our feminine frailty for men and it prevents us from being liberated.

Earlier today I was scrolling on TikTok (as one does) I was witnessing a new wave of young women speaking and behaving just as Beauvoir warned us not to. Many girls want to be trophy wives and more sexually promiscuous in an empowering and “feminist” way. Much of this movement has girls under the impression that it is possible to use systemic barriers to their advantage. The notion that patriarchy and promiscuity can allow women to escape from capitalism and take advantage of another’s money is understandable, yet very dangerous and counter-productive. It also does not take into account that it is an approach that many black and brown women have been denied, thus perpetuating white feminism. 

When mainstream feminism criticized trophy wives as counterintuitive and not philosophically uplifting because it did not align with feminism’s theoretical objectives, it failed. Instead, the narrative should have stated that this is a risky and dangerous situation in which to be. Nobody should criticize trophy wives based on an ideological empowerment metric. However, it should be noted that being completely financially reliant on a man renders one a million times more vulnerable to material abuse.

If your partner is in control of all of your money, you haven’t had job experience in years, you have no friends outside of their circle, and your place in their life is increasingly dependent on your adherence to a suffocating beauty standard: you’re screwed. It was for this reason that revolutionary feminists began to criticize and fight that role in the first place. It wasn’t because they wanted to work, but because they were dying in large numbers. But that message was co-opted, de-radicalized, and turned into a near-purity test.

I get the impression that people want to subvert these purity tests by finding empowerment in traditional roles; however, there is a tangible reason why those roles were resisted in the first place. Now, social media — which often uses dark humor to criticize these practices — is dangerously close to convincing women that submitting yourself to men and treating sexuality as a commodity is a shocking, funny, and valid form of protest.

Women aren’t just trying to find power in financial dependence; they are also trying to find empowerment in female promiscuity as a way to erase the sexual double standard. While this intention is coherent, it’s essential that women are aware that adopting a male model of anything isn’t female freedom. Many girls, especially on TikTok, believe that they should be able to have as much sex as possible and “own” their sexuality, while also being honored for it the way that men are.

Realistically though, doing anything with the intention to be equal to or similar to a man is not liberation. You also rarely ever hear men say that they own their sexuality; that’s because their sexuality is not a commodity. I encourage us to examine what we’re doing by using language that implies that sexuality and women’s roles are a commodity because, often times, our language and actions are misaligned.

When we act in a way that contributes to our own systemic objectification, one of the most empowering delusions is to employ language and actions that convince us we’re belonging to ourselves. Popular examples of this include statements such as “asking not what you can do for the patriarchy, but what the patriarchy can do for you” or “owning” your sexuality. Historically, an integral part of constructing male sexuality — particularly white male sexuality — has been through literally owning a woman and her sexuality. I believe this illustrates how language — specifically that which is made popular on TikTok — and the actions paired with it are a product of liberal feminism. Instead of discouraging us from treating sexuality like a commodity at all, the language empowers women to nominally own it like men always have. 

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