The Feminist Media Reader #5 - Zoella, Slut Shaming and the Changing Face of Journalism

by - Friday, October 31, 2014



If you're reading this post from within the bloglovin app, have followed my link on the #lbloggers twitter feed or I've mentioned it to you at work, chances are I won't need to explain to you who Zoe Sugg aka Zoella, is. Arguably the UK's most famous and successful YouTube star, she has done for lifestyle and beauty blogging what Susie Bubble did for fashion, and has made herself a small fortune in the process. 

As a writer myself, I can't help but be in awe of a woman not too much older than me who's carved out such a glorious niche for herself. Vloggers, Bloggers and everything in between are common currency now, but without Zoella, I have to wonder how many young girls would even feel as if the internet was somewhere where they could be themselves, write about their days and experiment with fashion and beauty as they grow and decide who they want to be. Sure, the blogging community has it's bitchy side, but I am so proud of how many friends I've made through online communities, the way it's helped my career and the girls I've seen gain confidence through sharing their hopes and fears online. 

It's a new generation, that much is obvious. Traditional journalism, in the fashion and lifestyle sectors especially, has been struggling for years as editors attempt to compete with the instantaneousness of social media, and perhaps more potently, young girls desires to mediate their aspirations through real women that look, dress and act like them. I emphasise this: Blogging is NOT always the same as journalism. It's often too intimately personal, nowhere near as researched and lacks a newsworthy edge. But that doesn't mean it's not a significant threat to the journalism industry, or that it doesn't take as much work if you're planning on doing it seriously. As I watch girls move from blogging, to freelancing, to self-creating or heading up some of the biggest campaigns in the country, it's no wonder the older generation are getting scared.

Which brings me to the Independent. Last week, they published this article about Zoella, with the sole intention of self-creating some good click-bait, no doubt. With three lines of it's first paragraph, I was outraged as both a feminist and a blogger. Deciding that Zoe's penchant for make-up tutorials and beauty projects made her a 'bad' feminist and role model, the writer went on to ridicule Zoe's appearance, belittle her achievements and rant about what a terrible impression she was making. Sounds a little hypocritical right? As a person who seldom wears make-up, I will admit that much of Zoe's output is not for me, but since when did having fun with your appearance make you instantly devoid of any value? To attempt to slut-shame a fellow woman in this way feels incredibly dated, counter-productive and at times in the article, just plain bitter and jealous.

Much of the writer's argument centred around the Zoella's recent appearance at the Radio One Teen Awards, where the blogger told a reporter that she wished that her young fans could learn to care less about what others thought, and focus on having fun over perfecting their eyeliner. This hypocrisy of a make-up blogger telling their fan base to ditch the slap was just too much for the Independent. But then thats the beauty of Zoella. She's a real person. She understands that make-up is for self-expression as much as it is for making oneself appear more attractive. Moreover, she actively encourages her audience to be themselves, in pretty and not-so-pretty ways. 

Yes her giggle is Disney-princess worthy. Yes she's impossibly beautiful. But if we're going to herald Beyonce as card-carrying feminist, why must we damn the credentials of another incredible young businesswoman who has turned her daily comings-and-goings into something that teenagers, for whatever reason, actively want to watch? Why must we dwell on her 'particular brand of sickly sweet girl power' rather than looking at the incredible power of the nearly 3 million hits on her vlog about her struggles with anxiety (see below), her new role as ambassador with mental health charity MIND or the liberation she's offered to many thousands of young girls on the internet, enabling them to put down the fashion magazines and celebrate themselves, their friendships and their passions? If that isn't feminism, I'm not sure what it is.

It may be more akin to gossiping about bras than burning them, but who cares? This is 2014. As girls, we should applaud anyone who takes control of their career, even if it isn't a career we would want for ourselves or don't want to attempt to understand because it sits at direct odds to the world we ourselves occupy. We should especially encourage young women who are successful on the internet, a realm that could once have been considered the domain of men and video-game playing boys. Whilst gamer-gate and the Zoella/Independent incident may suggest otherwise, the entertainment industry IS changing. Slowly but steadily, we're creating a world where girls can be themselves. And I for one can imagine far worse role models than Zoe Sugg at the forefront of that movement. 



You May Also Like

0 comments