You go, girlboss: a critique of Buzzfeed and white feminism

With attention-grabbing quizzes and videos like “Which Disney Princess-Soup Combo are you,” or “$3 Mac ‘N’ Cheese Vs. $195 Mac ‘N’ Cheese,” it is easy for young, impressionable viewers to fall down the rabbit hole of white liberalism that is BuzzFeed. Though BuzzFeed primarily consists of millennial staff, it has developed an infamous reputation among Gen Z, who now recognize the warped views on feminism it has perpetuated during the past decade. It is crucial to acknowledge the company’s role in obstructing the feminism movement through amplifying the victimization narrative of white women.
Whether intentional or not, Buzzfeed’s content is curriated to intrigue a younger audience. It hooks in adolescents by appealing to their desire to appear mature, while also fulfilling childish interests. Most initially become infatuated with Buzzfeed through its lighthearted content, like quirky personality quizzes and YouTube series. While this is relatively harmless, it is the root of the trusting relationship young viewers form with Buzzfeed. These young viewers then become exposed to the site’s seemingly never-endless supply of “relatable millennial content,” which bleeds into its artificial social justice propaganda. Youth consumers become fascinated with this area of media, as it satisfies their internalized need for maturity presenting itself as sophisticated content, and is often one of their earliest exposures to activism and specifically feminism. Because of this, young consumers will continue to rapidly absorb what they believe to be mature, reliable content without being capable to fully analyze or question what is being presented.

Buzzfeed’s self-proclaimed “feminism” is destructive as it caters to only the needs of white women. White feminism ignores the oppression women of color and minorities face, and instead focuses on the struggles specific to white women. It is unsurprising Buzzfeed would support this narrative considering that as of 2015, despite posing as a progressive company, 69% of its staff were white. It is important to remember that the feminism movement itself is rooted in white supremacy. Prominent figures in the women’s suffrage movement, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (Buzzfeed endearingly coins these women “girlbosses”) ingrained anti-Black rhetoric in their advocacy. That is why it is critical to support intersectional feminism, which takes into account how one’s identity shapes their relationship and experience to womanhood. Unlike the origin of the feminism movement, it acknowledges the unique oppression race, religion, disabilities, and sexual orientation cause, and how it overlaps with sexism. By not promoting intersectional feminism, Buzzfeed allows racism and exclusivism to continue to plague the movement.

Much of Buzzfeed’s content is so bizarre it feels like it was created with the intent to make a mockery out of genuine women’s issues. Videos such as “Women Try Manspreading For A Week” or “We Painted With Our Period Blood” may be assumed to be satirical, but are deemed as activism by BuzzFeed. These performative videos, along with many similar, attempt to create oppression where it does not exist. It is frustrating to see this content obtain millions of views, as it is a reminder that Buzzfeed houses a large platform that could spread meaningful social justice work, but actively chooses not to.

A quintessential example of Buzzfeed’s performative activism for women’s rights is its “How Much Of A Feminist Are You?” quiz. The belief that a five-minute quiz could determine this is absurd, and undermines the work intersectional feminists have done to achieve gender equality. The check-box style quiz is composed of statements such as “I don’t use use the phrase ‘hey guys’ when referring to women”, “I don’t think women should get VIP treatment at nightclubs and bars, just for being women”, and “I think we should change women’s bathroom symbols to not include traditionally “feminine” clothing (skirts, dresses, etc)” which unsurprisingly, are exclusively white western women issues, none of which are oppressive. Another statement reads “I have taken a women’s and/or gender class”, making the classist assumption that anyone has access to pursue post-secondary education and take such a course. Beyond the statements, the quiz lacks substance. At the end of taking it, no matter what percentage you score, there are no resources given to become further educated on women’s issues and feminism. In that sense, the quiz is the epitome of Buzzfeed feminism and social justice. To Buzzfeed, working towards real justice is insignificant; once they check a few boxes, it’s good enough.

Despite what BuzzFeed says, manspreading is not peak adversity, nor is painting with menstrual blood activism. BuzzFeed has a platform that could be used for genuine good, but instead takes the harmful performative activism route, misinforming a whole generation of young content consumers. By presenting feminism through a white women narrative, Buzzfeed continues to ignore and enable the oppression women of color and other minorities continue to face today.