Click-bait Feminism: How it Hurts Feminism & Women

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I am the outspoken feminist that Pat Robertson warned you about.

Many have said that we’re entering or already in the fourth wave of feminism with this fourth wave being internet feminism. Even if we’re not in a new wave of feminism, we have to admit that a lot has changed since the start of the third wave. The internet has afforded the opportunity for feminist communities to develop and for like minded people all over the world to come together and discuss their beliefs.

People also say that internet feminism isn’t as valuable as the type of activism that the feminists who came before us were involved in. Those fighting for equal rights during the first and second wave of feminism were engaging in protests and sit-ins. But before you write off internet feminism, think about it this way: Since most people, particularly young people, are heavily engaged in social media, the internet is our most powerful tool to reach a new generation of potential feminists. The internet and social media help shape the way that young people think about and experience their world. They take what they learn from reading articles at feminists sites and interacting with feminists online out into the world with them. Learning about intersectionality, gender roles, sexism, and racism is truly eye opening in a world that socializes us to believe that the “isms” don’t exist anymore, especially for folks who live in parts of the United States (and the rest of the world) where feminist beliefs aren’t popular. Internet feminism is valuable for all those reasons and that’s why we do what we do here at TRN. So, when I see how internet feminism is being reduced and perverted by click-bait articles, it outrages me. It angers me that this could be the legacy of this potential fourth wave and I don’t think we should allow it.

Click-bait is defined as such:


noun: click bait
  1. (on the Internet) content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page.

Allow me to explain where I’m coming from. (It’s about to get very meta up in here as I talk about the choices that people who are responsible for feminist websites make.) Not that this is anything new but this week, I noticed that there was an increase in the number of click-bait feminist articles circulating around the interwebs. You know the type, the articles that declare that some woman isn’t a real feminist because she said something bad (often something taken entirely out of context or misquoted by an interviewer). This week’s victims of click-bait feminism are Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus.

Let me set the scene: Last month, Nicki expressed her feeling that women of color do not have equal chances of winning awards in the music industry. Miley Cyrus was then asked what she thought of Nicki’s statements during an interview and she gave her opinion. It doesn’t matter what she said and it doesn’t matter whether or not you or I agree with what she said. The only reason I bring it up at all is to make a point. The articles that I saw (and I follow a tremendous amount of feminist sites on social media by virtue of what I do) had click-bait titles like “Miley Cyrus Whitesplains to Nicki Minaj!”

There are two natural consequences of click-bait articles:

1. Click-bait articles pit feminists against women. Prior to the Nicki-Miley articles, on the same sites, I saw articles about both Katy Perry and Sarah Jessica Parker who had committed the crime of not identifying as feminists. These articles, which offer nothing valid to feminist conversation, afford feminists the opportunity to align against these women and rip them apart in the comments section.

2. The articles take the focus off what could be a real issue. Even though the articles about Nicki and Miley were claiming to highlight how wrong “whitesplaining” is, they missed the mark. The articles focused entirely on Miley and what she thought and how she reacted and what we should think of her. Does anyone even remember that Nicki Minaj made a statement about women of color in the music industry? Nope. We’re too busy over here reading about what Miley Cyrus thought about it. The focus is then placed on their conflict, reinforcing the idea that women are always “cat fighting”. The message these articles are sending is “It doesn’t matter what Nicki said about women of color in the music industry, let’s talk about the Nicki-Miley feud”.

The way I look at internet feminism is like flowers. If you plant a few in your yard, a few people might notice them. If you plant a whole fucking garden, a lot more people are going to stop and look. So rather than think of other feminist sites as our competition, we think of them as partners, other flowers if you will.  The more feminist sites that are cranking out good information, the higher consciousness will be raised, the more we can engage another generation of feminists–but not like this, not when some of the most well known feminist sites on the internet are regularly more concerned with clicks than content.

Going back to Miley and Nicki: There was a story here. The story was Nicki’s. Her feelings about being a woman of color in the music industry and how she feels women of color are passed over for awards. Per usual, her voice was silenced so that feminist sites could talk about a white woman’s opinion of Nicki’s statements. That should never happen. That is not intersectionality. That is not what feminists say they care about. Furthermore, an article could have been written about Nicki’s concerns about racial inequality in the music industry without even mentioning Miley Cyrus*. This is like writing a story about the black lives matter movement but not talking to any black people, just asking a white person what they think about it. But yet these articles keep coming and people keep clicking.

When we started this site, we knew we would never be huge because we won’t compromise our principles and get in the mud and that’s OK. I don’t mean to claim that TRN is better than other sites or that we always take the high road. Every site has mis-steps and we’ve had them, too.

What I am doing, though, is challenging feminist sites to stop.

Stop trashing women for clicks.

Stop telling famous women they’re not a real feminist just to get clicks.

Stop pitting women against each other for clicks.

Stop sending the message that the opinions of white women are more important than the experiences of women of color for clicks.

Stop for a second and realize what a wonderful opportunity we have right now. Many, many feminists before us worked their asses off so that we could have a voice today. We have the best medium to raise our voices that we have ever had and it’s being squandered for clicks. Use your powers for good, feminist sites!

I assure you that your traffic will plummet but you will sleep better at night.


*If you would like to read an article which addresses Nicki’s claims about the Video Music Awards and racial bias, click here. It’s blissfully free of white opinions except for a mention of Taylor Swift but I’m beginning to think that it’s required for every piece of writing–book, magazine, or pamphlet–to mention Taylor Swift.