Sunday, October 26, 2014

Response to Independent's Zoella-Bashing Article

Hi there! Wednesday night, after all the craziness of everything that happened (if you don't know what I'm talking about, here's some clarification), I was scrolling through Twitter one last time before drifting off when I stumbled upon some tweets from Zoe (better known as Zoella on YouTube) about some article on the UK's Independent. Naturally curious, I went to check out the article and wasn't very happy at all once I was done with it. Go read for yourself if you haven't already.

As you may already know, I'm a big fan of Zoe and always feel so much better after watching her videos. She shows herself as being such a happy and positive person, but also very down-to-earth. Her radiance is infectious and that's what I love about her.

Maybe you'll see this response to the article as biased because I am such a big fan of hers, but you know what? That article doesn't belong on such site as it was very thinly veiled bullying. For the most part, I find that newspapers and their websites do a decent job of maintaining some kind of subjectivity but this offered anything but.

The article starts off by criticising her "enormous" eyes and "startled bird" appearance which are very frankly attacking her physical appearance and how she looks. Despite being a fashion blogger, I would maybe be able to understand her point of view since we as a culture criticise others' fashion choices all the time. For example, whenever Gaga wears something a bit outrageous or Miley Cyrus shows a bit "too much" skin, we're all quick to act on it and comment on it. But criticising someone for how they look, how they were born, there's no way to think that that's okay.

I'm not saying that you can't think of someone as ugly as I can't control your thoughts nor do I aspire to, but if you're about to bash someone for their appearance or anything really, don't publish it on such a site and present them as indisputable facts that we all must agree with. Not only is it an unethical thing to do, you're not paid to write hate letters to public figures,

Another thing that Chloe specifically attacks is something that Zoe said at the Teen Choice Awards this past summer:

At the 2014 Teen Choice awards, where she was named the Choice Web Star: Fashion/Beauty, she told a reporter that if she could give her teenage followers one piece of advice, it would be to fret less about their appearance. “When you’re younger you worry about so many things that you don’t need to worry about like image, appearance,” she coos to the camera, without an ounce of irony in her singsong voice, as though unaware that she’s forged an entire career by prattling on to young girls about how to look good. 

Why, if she feels so strongly about the pandemic of insecurity raging through the tweenage generation, doesn’t she vlog about going to school without make-up, or encourage kids to spend their pocket money on books or days out with friends, rather than on the latest liquid eyeliner to hit Boots’ shelves? - Chloe Hamilton

If you're narrow-minded enough, I'm sure you could easily see the irony that Chloe speaks of, but think about it - she is criticising so many things here and attacking Zoe's brand, trivialising her work. What Chloe fails to see in this case is that makeup is a passion of Zoe's and that it's a way for her to express herself. Never does she tell her viewers that they have to wear makeup to look good and feel confident about themselves, but the contrary.

Take her vlogs, for example. She isn't wearing makeup for a very sizable chunk of them and one that she's recently posted speaks to being skin confident. It's hard to see how you couldn't see how someone like that wouldn't be a good role model for teenage girls.

I'm not going to go all high and mighty and pretend that I can tell you what you can and can't do because no one has the right to do that (except your parents until you're the ripe old age of 18), but bashing someone for doing what they love and getting success out of that is just wrong. Saying that women should be more focused on more "intellectual" hobbies such as reading and whatnot contrary to makeup is another form of sexism in its own. Just because a woman is interested in makeup and making herself look good doesn't undermine her intellectual intelligence.

It's sad to think that a part of our society and Chloe is only allowing a woman to either be intelligent or look good when we're more than capable of being both.

Yes, her channel is about makeup. It's where teen girls (or older) can go to find tips and tricks when it comes to doing something they love and expressing themselves through makeup. For someone to have such a large following, they must have a high level of skill in that department in order to obtain such success. She may not be a professional makeup artist, but she could very well be if she wanted to pursue such a career path. That's where society's under appreciation of kinesthetic and spatial intelligence amongst many others is showing in comparison to more fact-based types of intelligence.

If she did away with beauty tutorials altogether and instead used her soapbox solely to speak out about the pressure girls are under to look pretty all the time, or the unfair advantage given to boys who need not worry about the latest eye-liner trends, Zoe could become the face of accessible, digestible feminism, adored by legions of female fans. Her work with Mind is just one example of how influential she could be. - Chloe Hamilton

Feminism is such a tricky topic since it's been often viewed as synonymous to man-hating as Emma Watson so eloquently put in her speech at the UN. But one thing feminism isn't is hating on other women. I don't think Chloe realised the irony in her words. Firstly, feminism is subtly woven into the vast majority of all of Zoe's videos and is something that she clearly believes in. Secondly, while Chloe here is saying that Zoe could become the face of feminism after a good couple hundred words of bashing her brand for being too superficial, she isn't doing a very good job of showing that she believes in gender equality here. 

The "unfair advantage given to boys who need not worry about the latest eye-liner trends?" That's implying that boys aren't under any pressure to look a certain way or act a certain way. Boys can't be too weak, too fat, too bulky - just strong and intelligent. Girls can't be too strong, too thin, too fat - just pretty and good in the kitchen. Both genders have ample amounts of pressure to operate under, it's not just a girl thing. Gender equality and feminism would mean that girls and women can pursue whatever passions they please without having to be scrutinised and castigated for having such desires.

So is Chloe doing such a great job of demonstrating that? The answer to that is no, but for this article in particular. It's a shame because her other work for Independent isn't something you'd imagine from someone who wrote this article.

What did you think of the article on Independent? What are your thoughts on the whole feminism thing? About girls and women expressing themselves through what they wear and makeup? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!

Thank you so much for reading!
- J

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