FCKH8 Exploits Little Girls In Order To Sell T-Shirts

22 Oct

Trigger warning for rape

Yesterday, FCKH8 released a video called F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Words for Good Cause that quickly went viral, and has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook alone. This isn’t surprising – it’s a video designed to hit that marketing sweet spot where people are equal parts outraged, delighted and just plain not sure what to think. I’d be willing to bet that this video has had nearly as many hate-shares and “is this offensive?” shares as it has people posting it because they think it’s great.

FCKH8’s video is carefully calculated to appeal to a certain type of young, hip feminist (as well as being designed to cause offence and outrage among right-wing conservatives). It starts out with a bunch of sweet little girls wearing princess costumes striking stereotypically cute poses and simpering “pretty” at the camera. Then there’s a record scratch, and suddenly the girls are throwing out cuss words left, right and centre: “What the fuck? I’m not some pretty fuckin’ helpless princess in distress. I’m pretty fuckin’ powerful and ready for success. So what is more offensive? A little girl saying ‘fuck,’ or the fucking unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?”

The video then has the sweet, princessified little girls tackle a bunch of feminist issues, namely the pay gap, violence against women, and sexual assault – all while swearing up a storm, of course. What FCKH8 wants you to take away from this is that society feels more uncomfortable about cute little girls saying the word fuck than it does about the very real issues faced by women on a daily basis. Instead, what I see is a video that relies on the shock value of girls in princess costumes cussing and talking about rape in order to increase its shareability.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: this video is not some kind of PSA, it’s an advertisement. FCKH8 is a for-profit t-shirt company – emphasis on the profit – that has put together an exploitative and manipulative two minute and thirty five second commercial for t-shirts. And while FCKH8 asserts that all of this is “for a good cause” (they’ve promised to donate $5 from each t-shirt sale to as-yet-undisclosed organizations) the only cause that’s being promoted by this video is their bank account.

There is nothing feminist about using little girls as props in order to sell t-shirts – in fact, I would argue that this is the opposite of feminism. There is nothing feminist about exploiting a bunch of little girls by having them swear and talk about rape statistics just so that FCKH8 can make a quick buck. There is nothing feminist about creating an association between potty-mouthed little kids and social justice – and that’s not a slight against potty-mouths, because I fucking love swearing, but rather a statement on the fact that this video plays into a lot of the negative stereotypes that people already have about feminism.

On top of all that, there is for sure nothing feminist about having girls as young as six years old discussing rape and sexual assault; I would hope that at that age, most kids have never even heard the word rape, let alone had to recite facts about it for an audience of thousands, maybe even millions. I feel sick that these children are being taught about subjects like rape just so that a t-shirt company can make a provocative advertisement. The point that especially crosses the line between “this is problematic” and “I want to flip a table” is the moment where the five little girls spout off the statistic that one in five women will be raped in their lifetime, and then ask which of them it will be. Having a little girl demand to know if she’ll be raped just so that you can sell a few shirts is so far beyond the realm of what should be acceptable that I have no words for it.

This is not how we protect our children. This is not how we empower girls. Forcing a child to ask an audience of adults if she’ll someday become a rape statistic so that your company can line its pockets with cash is definitely not the way to practice social justice.

This isn’t the first time that FCKH8 has done this kind of thing either – they recently came under fire after they exploited the events in Ferguson in order to sell “anti-racism gear.” As with the F-Bomb Princess video, the Ferguson video featured a bunch of children rattling off facts about racism before promising to donate a portion of each t-shirt sale to some unspecified charity. This is their business model, apparently: take something that people care deeply about, commodify it, and then make money. As a strategy, it’s slick and smart as hell. It’s also pretty unethical.

Feminism isn’t a commodity that can be bought and sold. Rape statistics should not be used as a sales tactic. Children do not exist to be used as provocateurs in manipulative advertisement campaigns for clothing.

It would be really great if FCKH8 would realize that using little girls as shock-value props in their t-shirt commercial is not feminist in any sense of the word. No little kid should have to wonder aloud whether or not they’ll be raped one day, and especially not just so some grownup can make money.

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73 Responses to “FCKH8 Exploits Little Girls In Order To Sell T-Shirts”

  1. Steve October 25, 2014 at 2:35 am #

    Thank you for this article. I am one who shared the video because I liked it. I had no idea that FCKH8 is a for-profit company and that this is therefore essentially a t-shirt ad. That really changes things for me.

    One point on which you and I disagree, however, concerns this part of your article:

    “On top of all that, there is for sure nothing feminist about having girls as young as six years old discussing rape and sexual assault; I would hope that at that age, most kids have never even heard the word rape, let alone had to recite facts about it for an audience of thousands, maybe even millions. I feel sick that these children are being taught about subjects like rape just so that a t-shirt company can make a provocative advertisement.”

    This is actually the part that hit home for me the hardest. When I was 6 years old, in 1st grade, I was raped by an older boy in my school bathroom. I now have an 8-year-old daughter, and I’m somewhat ashamed of myself that I haven’t yet figured out how to talk to her about rape. When I was her age, my rape was already 2 years in my past and I was just beginning to work up to talking about it.

    I’m not trying to invalidate your opinion, but just to give you my perspective. I believe we should talk about rape and sexual assault with children, because children can be the victims of rape and sexual assault. And I believe they would be better off if it was a subject that they already knew could be discussed with a grownup without shame or guilt.

    Thanks for your time.

  2. adrianne130 October 25, 2014 at 5:20 am #

    Now if only our society, including our justice system was as indignant about sexual assault as all of you are over this video. Do you hate more after you realize that it has started a discussion that needs to rise to the forefront of our society? Pretty effective method of garnering attention to a subject that no one wants to talk about.

    • Lydian DeVere Yard October 26, 2014 at 1:08 am #

      Thank you! Well said.

      • Tonyalyn April 2, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

        And the parents gave their permission so what’s the problem?

    • winingarchaeologist October 26, 2014 at 1:16 am #

      An “ends justify the means” argument? I don’t buy it. and it isn’t exploitation because it is a for-profit company, but because 6 yos (or however old they are) are being used as mouthpieces for someone else’s agenda. Agreeing with the message does not make its form appropriate.

  3. Kitty Fielding October 25, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

    Well said.
    FCKH8 also have a history of erasing asexual and pansexual people, and of stealing other people’s artwork and quotes, removing accreditation and putting a FCKH8 logo on it and posting it to their social media.
    The tumblr blog stopfckh8 does a good job of collecting the things FCKH8 has done & failed to explain or apologise for.

  4. QNetter October 28, 2014 at 5:57 am #

    if this were a play instead of a commercial, would you still have an issue with a six-year-old actress dropping f-bombs and talking about sexual assault?

  5. Courtney October 28, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

    This is so spot on– thank you for expressing your thoughts so eloquently.

  6. Jessica Malionek November 13, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    I just posted a different perspective on this over here: http://thecounterstool.me Stop by and let me know what you think!

  7. cheap custom shirts May 14, 2015 at 11:14 am #

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  8. make a tshirt cheap June 7, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    Aw, this was an extremely good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort
    to produce a good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a lot and
    don’t manage to get anything done.

  9. custom printed tshirts July 5, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

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    • Margaret Klawiter October 28, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

      You scare me. That was a wonderful video with purpose and meaning.
      But Phyllis Schafly would be proud of you. That is why you scare me. Get the fuck over a single word and see the message.

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