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We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement

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4.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,629 ratings  ·  363 reviews
Feminism has hit the big time. Once a dirty word brushed away with a grimace, “feminist” has been rebranded as a shiny label sported by movie and pop stars, fashion designers, and multi-hyphenate powerhouses like Beyoncé. It drives advertising and marketing campaigns for everything from wireless plans to underwear to perfume, presenting what's long been a movement for ...more
Hardcover, 285 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by PublicAffairs
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Delaney Yes, but I feel it was done well and in a way that could lead to discussions about solutions. I feel like Zeisler was trying to inform the reader to…moreYes, but I feel it was done well and in a way that could lead to discussions about solutions. I feel like Zeisler was trying to inform the reader to be aware of the systematic issues more than anything. I think she also makes a point that a lot of the problems she addresses are benign, and do not require solutions so much as awareness. (For example, the use of the word "empowerment" in advertising and mainstream media isn't directly hurting anyone, but is annoying and should be acknowledged as something paradoxical to the overall feminist movement.)(less)
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Start your review of We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement
Thomas
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

A stellar book about feminism and how capitalism has weakened its overall political power. Feminism has gained more popularity as a buzzword than ever before: clothing lines plaster the phrase all over their t-shirts and underwear, celebrities tweet about it all the time, and companies are quick to use phrases like "empowerment" to sell their products. But how much of this feel-good feminism actually contributes to advancing gender equality? Does buying Dove's "real beauty" body lotion
...more
 ~Geektastic~
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: feminists and anyone else interested in human equality
Shelves: 2016
4/27/2016

(I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. It is due to be published in wide release May 3, 2016)

The title We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement sounds like a pretty straightforward condemnation of the sea change that has taken place in American culture regarding feminism. But as with all political movements, nothing is ever simple.

Feminism has become a buzzword. It
...more
Hannah
Jun 05, 2016 added it
I don't know how to rate this because for every statement I agreed with, there was something else I REALLY disagreed with.

The basic premise (I think) is that superficial "marketplace" feminism has become very visible, and we haven't seen corresponding strides toward actual social justice. In my opinion, her delivery and examples don't do her main point justice, and it gets rather messy. But it's hard to write a book like this that isn't self-righteous, and the messiness seems in part due to
...more
Ellie
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political MovementW is a fascinating study by Andi Zeisler (founding editor of Bitch Media) of how feminism has been transformed from a political movement to a “brand.” Embraced by celebrities and utilized by companies looking to expand markets, feminism has become a word equivalent to “choice.” Anything can be feminist-from underwear to dance moves.

Zeisler examines the contrasts between reality and sound bites.
...more
Jessica Jeffers
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
"Marketplace feminism is in many ways about just branding feminism as an identity that everyone can and should consume. That’s not a bad thing in theory, but in practice it tends to involve highlighting only the most appealing features of a multifaceted set of movements. It kicks the least sensational, and most complex issues under a rug and assures them that we’ll go back to them once everybody’s on board. And it ends up pandering to the people who might get on board rather than addressing the
...more
Arielle Walker
Quick and readable, if a little preaching to the choir. Definitely covers a lot of where I've been uncomfortable with the use of the word "feminist".

I will have a decent, in-depth review of this at some point, I promise!
Bethany Fair
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Finally! - someone is willing to let the proverbial cat out of the bag by intelligently scrutinizing the consequences and general ickiness of marketplace feminism. In some ways I feel almost creeped out by how accurately Zeisler is able to summarize my own misgivings about the general direction of an "empowerment" feminism that cares more about capitalism, consumerism and neoliberal policies than it does about actually improving the lives of women - but until now, there hasn't been an accessible ...more
Courtney McCarroll
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
I got about 2/3 of the way into this before I had to put it down. I think Zeisler does a fine job of discussing marketplace feminism and how capitalist forces co-opt the movement, but at the end of the day, this just reads like a white feminist writing about white feminism. It's basic and doesn't even really attempt to do the heavy lifting it needs to do to tell the whole story.
vanessa
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book has made me look at myself and the ways in which I have taken part in martketplace feminism, choice feminism, and "empowerment"/girl power all without any real systemic change coming from my decisions. A great book explaining these terms and how feminism shouldn't be about making us feel better (or about having fun).
Cat  (cat-thecatlady)
this book was a breeze of fresh air with all its humour and all sides of the issue analysis. the structure was messy af and it made me get lost often but overall, I think it is a very interesting and even informative read for anyone interested in the way a lot of aspects of capitalism and our modern society deal with feminist.
Veronica
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I admit I'm biased, but I think this is a great analysis of how feminism has grown into an arm of capitalism, which while it is fun to have feminist stuff to buy, isn't the point of feminism.
Dawn
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well, I was expecting more of a fluff piece but this book is actually really insightful.

She writes about the marketing of feminism to sell a wide variety of products that make us feel better about ourselves but which also seem to make us still feel like we're not good enough. Like Spanx, powerful support for powerful women. But we still need to smooth out those lumps and lift that ass. Or Dove, real women with real bodies. But hey, you need this skin cream to fix those blemishes.
And do we
...more
Sarah
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism, politics
A book on the commodification of feminism. Feminism has become more popular recently, and corporations have jumped at the opportunity to use feminist identity as a tool to sell products. Beauty products advertise their products as “empowering”, brands on facebook align themselves with feminism, celebrities wear “Feminist” t-shirts.

A few days ago McDonald’s turned its logo upside down “in honor of” International Women’s Day (or alternatively, McDonalds used IWD to get free press)

For Chanel's
...more
Shayla
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, feminism
A good book if you don't know anything about marketplace feminism, a bit redundant if you spend a lot of time reading things that aren't of the libfem variety.

I liked all the stories and examples and history a lot, and I thought it was all very clear. I definitely felt like I was the choir being preached to, but that was fine. It IS hard reading this though when your top feminist priority is violence against women/male violence (name the problem!). There are so many article titles referenced
...more
P.
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: half-read, nonfic
This was so hard for me to make myself read and also just to read. It's a collection of mini-essays on different sections of pop culture and how Zeisler sees them co-opting feminism, I think? So when it was due back at the library I didn't really try to finish it. Each chapter reads like a thinkpiece gone on way too long. Zeisler picks one seemingly random example to dissect for each subject but often argues both sides or argues contradicting points without acknowledging that it's happening so I ...more
Allie
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
this book is so brilliant
I want every eyeliner-so-sharp-it-can-kill-a-man-kim-kardashian-is-a-feminist-icon-if-you-don't-like-another-woman-it's-internalized-misogyny-my-fashion-is-a-feminist-statement feminist to read this book !!!
Melania 🍒
4,15/5

Not an easy breezy read for me by any means but it changed so much the way I see things. It was everything I’ve expected it to be and more.
Britt MacKenzie-Dale
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Andi Zeisler (co-founder of Bitch Media) offers a refreshingly nuanced look at marketplace feminism and the ways in which it serves to undermine what feminism strives to do--that is, disrupt a patriarchal and oppressive status quo. Instead, marketplace feminism adheres to capitalism, but does so slyly, in a way that might feel unsettling but is difficult to pinpoint or critique. Zeisler does so expertly, offering a brief history of pop culture in the 20th and 21st century, marketing campaigns, ...more
Elise (TheBookishActress)
This book is about the commercialization of feminism and how it's often turned into a marketable thing rather than activism. I somehow forgot to mark this last year but it's REALLY IMPORTANT. It's interesting that seeing Dove beauty products marketing as being about feminism is commonplace. I do think one of my main issues with this book was the lack of intersectionality - there were a few instances in which societal privilege was really ignored and glossed over. But I still enjoyed this just ...more
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Originally published on my book blog, TheBibliophage.com.

In We Were Feminists Once, Andi Zeisler deconstructs recent incarnations of feminism,
especially as it connects to pop culture and advertising. She mixes acerbic wit and interviews
with both fellow journalists and researchers. But the crux of her work is her specific and insightful
interpretations of the marketplace, social and cultural trends, and their impact on the short and
long-term future of the feminist movement.

If this sounds a little
...more
Ericka Clouther
This is a great collection of examples of the corporate co-opting of feminism for decidedly unfeminist goals. I enjoyed reading it and zipped through it very quickly.

The problem is, who is this book for exactly? She talks at length about how the younger generation does not understand the complexities of feminism. This is very true, I'm only recently starting to grapple with and understand all the issues related to feminism and I still don't have much of a complete picture. I can't really
...more
Robynne
Four-and-a-half stars. An excellent assessment of market feminism, celebrity feminism, choice feminism, lipstick feminism and the like. Through strong, intersectional, analysis of film, television, marketing, fashion, celebrity culture, and other areas that have co-opted feminism and been influenced by the markets that "feminism" can open up to corporations, Zeisler reminds us that feminism is not just about choice, although the fact that women and men have more choices available to them today ...more
Andrea
Does a good job unpacking marketplace feminism and reminding us to exercise critical thinking when engaging in mainstream brand of feminism as delivered by celebrities and corporations. I wish that structurally it was a bit tighter, and a clearer message would have been much appreciated, but We Were Feminists Once totally played into my own cynical worldview, so I am appeased.
Erin
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
ARC for review - EPB - May 3, 2016.

We Were Feminists Once is a book in two parts - the first half deals with feminism in pop culture today through examinations of film, advertising, fashion, TV, music, etc. while the second provides and overview of recent feminist (or "feminist") history, the current state of the movement in 2016 and a look at the differences and distinctions between "marketplace feminism" and more substantive equality or right feminism. Both halves are interesting and both
...more
Melissa
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: badass-ladies
A very accessible examination of the commodification of feminism through the last 30 years or so. A lot of thought is given to "choice" feminism and how that plays into brand marketing. The takeaway here is that it's much easier to put on a pair of sweats that say "feminist" on the butt than go to a march or have a nuanced discussion. Because "feminists" are still portrayed as baby-eating family-wreckers in the media rather than humans with equal standing (see also: the ERA).
Alexis
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
This was well-written and well-researched, and made me feel angry. But because I'm the same demographic as her and grew up reading a lot of the same stuff, I didn't feel that I was the ideal target for the book.

A lot of it seemed like stuff that I already knew. But I would still recommend it.
Kris - My Novelesque Life
RATING: 3 STARS

(Review Not on Blog)

This book had interesting points on feminism in the sense of how it is "sold" as a commodity. It swung from being a bit academic to an editorial.
tortoise dreams
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A survey of the various ways that the corporate world has exploited, trivialized, and distorted feminism.

Book Review: We Were Feminists Once covers a such a wide range of issues and approaches to feminism that it left me a little breathless. The subtitle is "From Riot Grrrl to Covergirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement." It could also be called "a practical guide to feminism in everyday life." Within her central theme of the many ways that feminism was co-opted by cynical
...more
Maura
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: white feminists
Shelves: to-own, non-fiction
When I picked up this book, there was a dark cloud over it. I had checked out some reviews and most were critical, citing that the book was too problem-focused and blaming. My personal history of the heaviness I feel when reading Bitch Magazine didn't help too much either. I was bracing myself to slog through an academic text that left me feeling less motivated than I already do (at this point you may be asking yourself...why read it? Well, it's a book club selection).

But dang was I wrong! And
...more
Divya Shanmugam
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Liked this for how it positions feminism today with respect to what it’s been in the past — previously didn’t understand the differences between first, second and third wave feminism and what precipitated each one.

this book’s good fact: if a group is 17% women, men perceive it as 50/50; at 33%, men perceive they are outnumbered
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #29 We Were Feminists Once by Andi Heisler 1 2 Jul 09, 2017 08:00AM  

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Andi Zeisler is a co-founder and creative/editorial director of Bitch Media, a nonprofit feminist media organization based in Portland, Oregon. Zeisler's writing, which focuses mainly on feminist interpretations of popular culture, have been featured in a variety of publications including Mother Jones, The San Francisco Chronicle, Utne Reader, The Women's Review of Books, and Ms. She is a former ...more
“Treating feminism like it's a personal accessory that just isn't appropriate anymore obscures the places where feminism hasn't made strides for people who still need it.” 8 likes
“The rise of feminist underpants is a weird twist on Karl Marx's theory of commodity fetishism, wherein consumer products once divorced from inherent use value are imbued with all sorts of meaning. To brand something as feminist doesn't involve ideology, or labor, or policy, or specific actions or processes. It's just a matter of saying, 'This is feminist because we say it is.” 5 likes
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