The Clitney Perennial and “Trendy Feminism”

by zyxonian

While at the Clitney Perennial, a “feminist take over” of the Whitney Biennial as protest for the under representation of female artists in the exhibition, I noticed a few things:

Lots of flowers
Lots of Leotards
Lots of pastel colors

Photo by Jillian Steinhauer

Photo by Jillian Steinhauer

For a political demonstration whose goal was to expose the limited variety of voices present at one of the most important museum shows in New York City, I was perplexed by the surplus of flowers & leotards & pastel colors. Surely, the dialogue and aesthetics among female artists must be as varied as their male counterparts. Today’s feminism is and should be an emancipation of gender expectations and prejudices, which encompass both male, female and all the gender identities in between and beyond. The symbols we use should be as non-restrictive and as abundant as the people who pursue a world of free, uninhibited discourse and action.

However, it did turn out to be a great photo-op. The pictures came out quite well with the market-friendly aesthetic unity. They might be published in some fancy magazines or popular blog. And perhaps this was the reason there were lots of flowers, lots of leotards and lots of pastel colors – the fashion of political demonstration.


The other day, I was reading some web blog on the new “Hot Spring Trend: Hiring a Feminist Blogger at Your Woman’s Magazine”.

The article speaks very briefly about publications, such as Elle and Cosmopolitan, and their new politically inclined editors who’ve helped such magazines go beyond “creepy servile blowjob magic” to a reputable source of reproductive rights conversations and healthy women representation. This seems like a great direction I could support; indeed, I fantasized how this “feminist trend” could shift the U.S. political scene for the better!

Aw, but then I found this enlightening Jezebel article by Callie Beusman, “What Does It Mean for Feminism if Feminism Becomes Trendy?”.

I will paste some of her potent arguments:

“. . .the problem with feminism being ‘trendy’ isn’t that interest in the movement might be ephemeral. It’s that interest in the movement might be shallow and disingenuous, an easy and intellectually-validating afterthought that one can tack on to something that ultimately does more to reinforce the patriarchal status quo than undermine it”.

” . . . Feminism as a movement is powerful because it is threatening to extant systems of power — systems that privilege maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality and wealth. Feminism as a commodity or brand strategy needs to pander to those very systems in order to remain appealing”.

“. . . capitalism will somehow co-opt feminist rhetoric and declaw it in order to market some vague idea of ’empowerment’ to women and then profit off of it.”

“Kale, argon oil, feminism . . . who cares as long as its good for you?”

This is more or less what I experienced at the Clitney Perennial – it was a fountain of good intentions, but was ultimately undermined by the very fact that it gave in to traditional (and unironically ridiculous) depictions of the “woman aesthetic”; flowers, leotards, and pastel colors all stylistically cohesive and suitable for photographers to publish in popular news outlets and design magazines that allow feminism to be easily consumable. I can only imagine this as a politically numbing process, losing sight of any authentic change.


I do not yet have an idea how to eradicate the commodification of politics and political demonstrations. But I do hope people become aware of it’s trend.

Personally, I, as a participant, want a more aggressive demonstration – Something which would have made the museum very uncomfortable – Something where it is impossible to take a “pretty picture”. A gathering where everyone drops their individualistic artistic persona for a moment.