Little Mix’s Complicated Relationship with Feminism

By Elizabeth Stebbins

Though only formed in 2011 during the eighth season of The X-Factor UK, British four-piece girl band Little Mix has already released two albums, headlined a tour, and planned another for 2014. While certainly more popular in the UK, through a connection with fellow X-Factor successes One Direction, their American fan base, comprised mostly of young girls, has grown exponentially.

Their most recent album, Salute, is noteworthy not just because the group co-wrote it, but also because it celebrates individuality and independence. The title track, a call-to-arms for “ladies all around the world” to “represent the women,” is pretty cool—despite its tacky premise. How often is an album about being a woman, instead of about a woman’s relationship with a man? How often do female pop stars promote unity, friendship, or sisterhood?

I remember being utterly distressed as a girl when I read that Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan hated each other—Aaron Carter, you bastard. Of course, this situation is far from unique; the media often pitches female stars against each other. They made it easier to believe Lindsey and Hilary hated each other than that Aaron Carter may have betrayed them. They degrade female friendships, despite their importance—Sororities are so superficial! Girls spend all their time gossiping! They compare makeup tips and fill their compliments with insults!—But Salute is different: it may talk about break-ups and boys, but it also emphasizes independence, positivity, and sisterhood. They are female role models that focus on their love for each other and themselves.

However, what’s upsetting about Little Mix is their rejection of feminism. In an interview with Confidential magazine, when asked if they were feminists, the group not only completely missed the point of feminism, but also potentially alienated members of their fan base from the idea: “I wouldn’t say we’re feminists; we don’t hate our men.” Feminism is not misandry; it’s not a rejection of “our men.” It’s about equality, and respect for other women—something Salute advocates. So, why denounce feminism when it’s only about progress? Unfortunately, there’s a stigma attached to feminism: a feminist, because she wants to be equal, must automatically be against men. Maybe Little Mix’s management is afraid they will lose customers by assuming that stigma, but imagine the impact more role models could have if they were feminist and proud of it.

We live in a world where women feel constant pressure to be “beautiful,” but can’t actually say, “I’m beautiful.” People who know their worth and demand equality aren’t asking for too much, but when you give it a name – feminism –suddenly it becomes bad. I want every person to answer the question with a “Yes, I’m a feminist;” Little Mix had that opportunity, but, instead, they let me and thousands of young girls out there down.

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