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. Michelle at The Green Study October 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    Thank you! I’m so tired of seeing “hip” advertising about feminist issues – Dove, Always, this company, being passed around like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Why are we, private, uncompensated citizens, using our personal social media capital to advertise for companies with very questionable messages? Thank you for demonstrating the critical thinking skills that many social media consumers seem to be lacking.

    • bellejarblog October 22, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

      Thank you! And as a sidebar about us being private, uncompensated citizens – man, I wish I knew how to commodify and monetize MYSELF.

  2. Amanda Martin (writermummy) October 22, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    Reblogged this on writermummy and commented:
    I felt uncomfortable about the recent FCKH8 viral video when I saw it on Facebook, even before I discovered that it was basically a promo for t-shirts. This beautifully explains why.

  3. Melissa Bird October 22, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

    You are always genius, but this commentary is beyond brilliant and is exactly what I would have said if I could have stopped myself from banging my head against a wall freaking the fuck out that this shit is even happening. Thank you for being in this world. You are my hero!

  4. espacodecelina October 22, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    Leve, alegre e jovial é esta salada que assegura um futuro idem para todos que a celebram.

  5. youbetrayedme October 22, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    You’ve put into words what makes me uncomfortable about that video, thank you

  6. ellaindc October 22, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    Ugh, thank you. This is the same company that planned to send coloring books about the child of same-sex parents to random families in Russia. NO! You could get random people arrested! Send them to Putin, leave boxes of them outside the Kremlin (both of those would be awesome, actually), but don’t risk kids’ parents getting arrested for your ill-conceived point. These also make me uncomfortable because let’s be real: where are these shirts being made and in what kind of conditions? Labor is something of a soft spot for me, and I get VERY uncomfortable when unethically produced products (especially textiles, which are connected with a lot of sweatshop work) are touted as part of social justice.

  7. samatwitch October 22, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    Reblogged this on Ponderings from a Procrastinating Prognosticator and commented:
    I do have to say that although I saw a link to this video, I did not watch it. However I do agree with everything she says in this post.

  8. Lindsey Loree October 22, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    I haven’t watched the video yet, but it’s already popped up on my newsfeed a few times. I’m glad I read this first! I don’t want to give them the benefit of another “view” of the video. Thank you for talking about this!

  9. VP October 22, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    You are crazy and have no morality! No reason to use innocent children for your disgusting money making bull! Shame on you!!!!

  10. Fannie Frankfurter October 22, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

    I’m surprised (and glad) that I haven’t seen this video on my feed yet. Thank you for the heads-up and insight into what the ad is really for.

  11. AmazingSusan October 22, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

    An absolutely DISGUSTING piece of work. I didn’t think anything much could shock me. But this piece of shit does. Not sharing. Ever. Thanks for the heads up.

  12. AmazingSusan October 22, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

    Reblogged this on a dog's breakfast and commented:
    The video to which this blog refers is an absolutely DISGUSTING piece of work. Please DO NOT share the video, but do speak out against the inexcusable conduct of this company that is shamelessly exploiting little girls for profit and publicity. Thank you, Susan

  13. Wanderer October 23, 2014 at 12:00 am #

    I was shell shocked to see a LOL on it on FB and was flabbergasted that someone found this ad funny. I was so disturbed and sad to see little girls used in this manner to sell t-shirts. They make feminism look so wrong in this. Brilliant article. I hope they apologize and stop using that ad.
    -A rare comment-er who couldn’t not comment on this one

  14. absolutelyasperger October 23, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    Reblogged this on Absolutely Asperger and commented:
    This is awesome…I’ve often said…”stop expecting me to be a princess 24/7, I’m a human being with as much right to your behaviour as you have to yours” (speaking to the other half when he complains about my anger.

  15. haddayr October 23, 2014 at 1:49 am #

    Reblogged this on Haddayr Copley-Woods and commented:
    Pretty much my thoughts on the subject. I actually yelled at the screen when the girls asked ‘which one of us?’

  16. dbp49 October 23, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    Glad to see an article from a lady with your savvy on this topic, because it sure needed to be said, and I just don’t think it would have had that same “shit, I’ve just been slapped good upside the head” feeling if it had come from someone of my gender. Just saying. Besides, I’m learning real quick that you always say these things much better than I ever could. Keep on dishing out the wake-up calls, they really are appreciated. Thanks.

  17. raisehimright October 23, 2014 at 2:34 am #

    great post, that was difficult to watch! the latest in a stream of ads using a social disease, in this case violence against women, to appear authentic and generally interested in cultural change. i hope people see this for what it is: a cheap marketing ploy to maximise profit.

  18. Melissa Bird October 23, 2014 at 3:38 am #

    Reblogged this on Bird Girl Industries and commented:
    This blog explains my thoughts so brilliantly. I don’t want my children talking about rape, especially to sell clothing.

  19. theISHfeminist October 23, 2014 at 4:48 am #

    I appreciate what you’ve written as your opinion. But, I have watched it, and posted about it, and I don’t agree. Shock value has always been a winner. However, I didn’t instantly think “damn i’m going to buy a t-shirt now”. I could care less about their t-shirts, it’s the message I loved.

    We can’t shield children from life, it gets them nowhere. I know many people who would have loved to know what rape was before they unfourtunately became the “one-in-five”.

    Life is what it is. Why hide it from children? They’ll have to experience it one day, one way or another. There’s a popular saying “knowledge is power”.

    In saying that, thank you for your piece, another interpretation is always good.

    • Mama M October 25, 2014 at 1:35 am #

      And the point is you CAN’T hide it from children. Do you want them learning about it from another kid at school? I wanted to protect my daughter from learning about rape until she was “old enough” in my opinion. A seven year old at her school ended up talking to her about it and she didn’t tell me until years later because she knew I didn’t want her to know about this. I talked to her about lots of other things and was glad she heard it from me. I made a mistake with not talking to her about rape when it came up – even at such an early age.
      Knowledge IS power. It may be the best protection we can give.

  20. Rebecca Hains October 23, 2014 at 5:53 am #

    Exactly! I agree–it’s exploitative. My thoughts:
    http://rebeccahains.com/2014/10/22/fckh8s-f-bomb-princess-video-isnt-offensive-its-exploitative/

  21. Maddy October 23, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    Thank you for writing and sharing this article, it was a wake up call. I first watched the video on Upworthy and unfortunately didn’t find anything wrong with it and shared it on my Facebook page. I obviously see things differently now, so thanks again for taking the time to point these things out.

  22. Anonymouse October 23, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Yeah, I am SO not surprised by anything terrible FCKH8 does. The Ferguson video was hardly the first time they’ve profited off of exploiting marginalized people. They’ve been profiting off of the MOGAI (LGBT) community for years now. Not to mention stealing people’s tumblrs posts to sell on t-shirts and other items, saying nasty stuff about bisexuals, pansexuals, and asexuals (only to backpedal when they realized it was more profitable to exploit those groups), and a bunch of other stuff too numerous to list here.

    I have a feeling we are going to see a lot more terrible things from this company in the months to come.

  23. Karen October 23, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    I think the ad is brilliant. it makes a very strong point…. that seems to be missed by many hear. the point is .. woman and girls are judged on what they wear, do earn less, are abused and raped and nothign is happening.. its getting worse. And frankly I will support anything that tries to address this. for a bucket of swear words over a few mins… if it brings the problem to more peoples attention then Im all for it.

    its not like these kids do this all the time.. it was for an ad.. and a damn good one.

    .. and Im not a hip young thing, and Im not in marketing.. Im well educated and am in a job where I luckily earn the same money as men.. and Im over 50.

    sometimes in your face is just what we need to wake ourselves up.

    • Anne Beitel October 24, 2014 at 6:45 am #

      Thank you for being a rare voice of reason on this. Let’s recalibrate here. Are all kids who act in advertisements (or anywhere) exploited because the thing they’re in was created in part to make money? No. The girls in the video do not look exploited, they look like they’re having a rip-roaring good time. Of course, behind the scenes they may actually be starved, enslaved, abused. You know, like people who actually ARE exploited. But I doubt it. My girls and I watched this. We thought it was great. It made us think, it made us laugh, it made me cry tears of delight at the concept and tears of sadness that there’s still so far for the world to change to become better and more equal for women and my daughters, teenagers, will soon go out into that world. Slightly bothered by the idea that the organisation hasn’t yet specified where the $5 per shirt will go, but that certainly doesn’t tip my assessment of this to “Oh my god, what a travesty, those poor little girls, they’re being exploited!” This video will make some people think about feminism and rape and inequality who hadn’t given it much of a thought before, or make some people who have thought about them think in different ways. Must something discussing or promoting feminism always be dreary and worthy? It can’t be hip? Can’t be funny? How sad and counter-productive that anyone should think so.

    • Sara October 24, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

      Are we outraged for the right reasons here? The children were never exploited and knew very well what it is they were saying, as did their parents. Ignorance and keeping our children ignorant about this stuff is why sexual predators get away with what they do! I learned far more about swear words, sex and drugs by the second grade, than any adult had ever told me; and it was that knowledge that allowed ME to not be a victim of rape myself when I was 13.

      Women and children are expected act a certain way, are treated unequally and are expected to just shut up and take it.

      Knowledge is power.

  24. Judi Jones October 23, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    I don’t agree..Iwas raped at age 12. If someone had educated me in any of those years since age 6, I may have known what was going on and been prepared to do something about it. Instead I kept it to myself for the next 40 years (not healthy). Everything in a capitalistic country can be a commodity (no, I didn’t buy a shirt). At least they are asking people to think. not everyone will like this, but if it changes one person’s g thinking, I think it’s worth it. We need lots of ways to get the message out, this is only one small brief example.

  25. Still like the message. October 23, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    Alright. I see your points, and I wouldn’t buy the tshirt anyway. My personal opinion, putting the selling t-shirts aside, I love this fucking video.

  26. Amy October 23, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Thank you and I agree!

  27. SW October 23, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    I agree that FCKH8 is exploiting feminism and making this video for the express purpose of using the issue to make money. FCKH8 is a horrible sexist, racist, transphobic, manipulative company.
    However as a survivor of child abuse and childhood rape, I think the assertion that young girls (and young boys) shouldn’t know about rape and sexual assault is very dangerous and harmful to them. You don’t protect children by keeping them ignorant of real threats. Rapist and abusers use that ignorance to normalize their behavior and to manipulate children. As soon as you start teaching children about body parts you can start the discussion about healthy and unhealthy touch. I wish had learned from my teachers and parents what sexual abuse and rape was and my abuser wasn’t able to use that ignorance to his advantage.

  28. Mandie October 23, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    I watched up to the point when the girls were asking which of them would become a rape victim, and then switched off. I’ve tried to avoid the conversations going on about it as don’t want to a) give FCKH8 the benefit of my energy and time and b) get myself upset by the people who think it’s ‘funny’ … or maybe they just think they are being ‘cool’ to say that. For me it’s not cool – it’s child abuse and, whatever your views on feminism, children shouldn’t be used to get these messages across, especially in such a disgusting way. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Well done for speaking out so well against this add. Thank you.

  29. Wilson October 23, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Wow I actually agree with everything in this post.

  30. Dave October 23, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

    This is fantastic! what a great video and message. Don’t listen to the pseudo psychologist’s and all the sooki sooki la la who cry to mummy everytime they hear the word FUCK!

  31. Shauna841505 October 23, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    Totally agree! So sick of people being “activists” to make money. It’s ridiculous. And the millions of people that follow them are just as bad.

  32. divorcedandsingleblog October 24, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    I’m wondering what parents allowed their children to take part in the commercial and how would they explain to them that cussing is ok on camera but not ok in every day life.

  33. Mother fkr October 24, 2014 at 4:14 am #

    Many children in various countries know exactly what rape is at this age-don’t just ‘analyse’ from your personal experiences and write as though this is everyone’s reality. Realistically many young girls swear (their parents probably don’t think they do) at this age, certainly many young boys do. Also to suggest children of this age (some are teenagers) would not and should not understand these issues is incorrect and frankly dangerous – when should girls have an understanding of these issues?

  34. doelbe October 24, 2014 at 4:40 am #

    Wow, seriously? Your pigeon-holed perspective that this ad is coming from a ‘for-profit’ company, and using young girls to make a mint, paints the picture that this little t-shirt company is the Exxon of t-shirt companies polluting the innocent minds of young girls everywhere all for the sake of profit. To me that just sounds like another princess story where someone needs to come along now (preferably a prince) and save them from their oppressors.Really? Do you really believe that the writers don’t actually have any other point for this advertisement? And furthermore, why is it so bad for a 6 year old to understand the meaning of rape? Rape exists! It’s not something of the past that these young girls don’t ever need to know about. Sadly, some six year olds learn about rape through experience, not a t-shirt advertisement that allowed them to shout out their own disgust in a world that they are inadvertently inheriting. And as far as I can see, THAT was the point of this ad. Knowledge is power people. You may not like it when ugly, dark things are presented to you, especially when the messenger is someone who usually only presents you with kisses and niceties. But WAKE THE FUCK UP! These little girls are exactly what they said they are because they know the truth: they are powerful.

    • Wilson October 25, 2014 at 1:11 am #

      You’re an idiot, honestly you should swallow a mouthful of buckshot.

    • Lydian DeVere Yard October 26, 2014 at 1:28 am #

      I think your point is excellent.

  35. lillielle October 24, 2014 at 6:56 am #

    Reblogged this on The Fragility Inherent in Strength.

  36. emma October 24, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    Did a male or female write this article?
    The points made are valid in their own way but the bigger point is anytime somebody tries to make a feminist move forwards, somebody HAS to find a reason to break it, pick it apart, and condemn it. why? stop missing the point these moves are important and are valid. if you’re a female there is a high chance you have thought to yourself “will i ever get raped? i wonder when”. So whoever wrote this article can get off their high horse and be supportive and maybe mention in future this is how we could do it in a way less susceptible to critique. f*** you.

  37. xinyan7 October 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    Personally I don’t like swearing because it promotes vile language that upsets people because of the meaning of the words and the anger they are spoken with. There are a few reasons why I didn’t like the video (most of which have been mentioned by other viewers and bloggers alike), but I do not think that children as young as six should be taught to swear. It was obvious that everything was scripted and sure enough there were the “Did she just say that??” -pause the video moments- but first and foremost since the campaign is feeding off the idea of dropping the Fbomb, these children will be conditioned into thinking that swearing is okay. We already live in a society where people unnecessarily embed swearing into their sentences without understanding its weight, but movements like this will further the use of such angry language and create a more hateful society.

    On a side note I couldn’t think of where else to ask you, but I wanted to ask for your thoughts on how the ‘Bell Jar revalues women’s experience?’ as part of my research for a piece of writing I am due to complete. Thank you.

  38. Grandparent Alienation Is Not Natural October 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    The video is exploitative and abusive. However, there is one very, very huge problem with the logic used: “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.” Sadly, the reality for all little girls in this country is that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. 90 percent of them by someone they know, love and trust. 50 percent of them before the age of 8. That is the reality! That is why every single parent should be talking about the subject of sexual abuse with their girls and their little boys from the day they are born. And, we should be talking about it too! I also ‘feel sick that these children are being taught about subjects like rape just so that a t-shirt company can make a provocative advertisement.’ What gives me the sickest feeling is that provocatively thrusting these young girls before the public to sell t-shirts purported to bring awareness to adult social issues and feminism is just another way to ignore the elephant in the room. Sexual abuse and the exploitation of children for adult entertainment purposes is not only a child’s biggest problem, it is our problem. Feminism isn’t going to fix it. It is time to wake up and break the silence for all children.

  39. Lyla Michaels October 24, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    Reblogged this on Conversations I Wish I Had.

  40. Lydian DeVere Yard October 24, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    I have mixed feelings about the video, by I do have an issue with your statement that little kids don’t need to know about rape. Yes, they do. It would be nice if we didn’t have to tell our children about something so horrifying, but you do know that children can be victims of sexual assault, correct? And teaching kids about crime, right and wrong, starts with parents and others who care about kids. They need to be educated about this stuff, so if it happens to them or someone they know, they have language to tell someone about it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. There Are Far Worse Words in the World Than “Fuck”. | The Scarlett Woman - October 23, 2014

    […] video was to spread awareness of the inequalities and atrocities women and girls face in the world, it was actually made by for-profit t-shirt company FCKH8 who would donate $5 from each t-shirt sold … (presumably charities benefiting women). Capitalism aside, the video begs the question, what’s […]

  2. Did the princess F-bomb video go too far? - Today's Parent - October 23, 2014

    […] the one piece of criticism that really got me thinking was a blog post by Anne Theriault of The Belle Jar. In her post, she argues that the t-shirt company’s video is, in fact, the opposite of feminism. […]

  3. Little Girls Drop F-Bombs To ‘Empower’ Feminism – Video | PA Pundits - International - October 23, 2014

    […] FCKH8 Exploits Little Girls In Order To Sell T-Shirts […]

  4. FCK(exploitation of children in the name of feminism) : Blog a la Cart - October 23, 2014

    […] my friend Meg shared a link to this post that unpacked so much of that […]

  5. FCKH8’s “F-Bomb Princess” video isn’t offensive—it’s exploitative. | Rebecca Hains - October 23, 2014

    […] blog “The Belle Jar” made a post that elaborates in greater detail as to why the FCKH8 ad is exploitative, and I highly recommend […]

  6. The problem with FCKH8 videos has nothing to do with swearing | The problem with FCKH8 videos has nothing to do with swearing | Social Dashboard - October 23, 2014

    […] conflating swearing and raucous wording and attitude with equal rights for women. As the writer Anne Theriault aptly said on her blog, “There is nothing feminist about using little girls as props to sell […]

  7. NEWS FLASH: Feminist Feels Torn! | We Are More - October 24, 2014

    […] it’s a pretty natural state for most of us). Many advocates of women’s rights have spoken out very harshly against the ad. Personally I found the ad cheesy and forced. The video relied  heavily on it being shocking to […]

  8. FCKH8 Exploits Little Girls to Sell T-Shirts - October 24, 2014

    […] This article is reprinted with permission from The Belle Jar. […]

  9. What The Fuck Happened? This week on the web | Foxcore - October 24, 2014

    […] was: a passionate call to action against sexism. Those girls will grow up to be women you know. Calling it exploitation (granted it was made by a for-profit company to sell t-Shirts) is a real shame because a lot of people saw that video and heard a message we are all committed to […]

  10. Is “F-Bomb Princesses For Feminism” The Most Unethical Ad Ever? | Ethics Alarms - October 25, 2014

    […] Sources: FCKH8, University of Miami, US News, Rebecca Haines, Bell Jar […]

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