The Onion’s often-brilliant satire has been around in online form since 1996 and has been fooling people for almost as long. In a world that’s become such a parody of itself that cancer-causing fracking companies create pink drill bits to raise funds for breast cancer research, and Sexy Ebola Halloween costumes are a real thing, it’s becoming harder to distinguish Onion articles from reality.
Feminism has not been immune to The Onion treatment, with some stories cutting so close, it’s hard to believe they were not written retrospectively. Here are three times everyone’s favourite satirical website predicted the direction of feminism with scary accuracy.
Remember all the way back in 2001 when we would have laughed and laughed if Destiny’s Child (aka Beyonce and friends) identified as feminists?
What a difference 13 years makes.
This gem is from 2003:
"From what she eats for breakfast to the way she cleans her home, today's woman lives in a state of near-constant empowerment… Only by lauding every single thing a woman does, no matter how ordinary, can you truly go, girls."
In 2014, female empowerment is big business and no one is benefiting from it more than advertisers and marketers. We’re empowered when we wash the dishes. We’re empowered when our hair looks shiny. We’re empowered when we… well, you get the idea. “Ads that celebrate women and girls rather than objectify them have become wildly popular,’” explains the Huffington Post, pointing to Under Armour's 'I Will What I Want' campaign featuring ballerina Misty Copeland. “It’s improving the way women feel about themselves and companies' bottom lines,” they continue.
Ah yes, because female empowerment isn’t complete unless corporations make money out of it. Never mind the patriarchy, we’ve got shopping to do. Eleven years later and this celebration of women is taking the form of 'real bodies' on TV (because skinny women are all made of plastic), Photoshop-free ad campaigns and makeup-free selfies, all of which are considered heroic acts of 'bravery'.
And yet... all the while this celebration (which is definitely not objectification) blindly ignores the questionable motivations behind these initiatives. Why are all these 'real women' in their underwear? What difference does one Photoshop-free cover make? Why do women need to look pretty - with our without makeup? And wait a minute... why are women conditioned to feel like we need to wear makeup every time we go out in public, anyway? It’s almost like we are so fundamentally incomplete that we should feel ashamed to step out in ballet flats and unprimed skin.
Whoa, this is getting heavy. Quick, somebody pass me a (vegan) yogurt.
Written in 2007, this widely shared parody was brought to life last year when it was revealed that notorious “topless” feminist group Femen was formed and headed by a man. Oh, and he thinks women are “weak.”
Keeping the theme rolling along, the Australian Computing Society caused a fracas earlier this year when it announced its International Women’s Day event: 'Male Champions of Change'. Then along came Emma Watson’s “game-changing” speech at the UN launch of the He4She campaign, in which she extended men a “formal invitation” to join the cause. Because the only reason men aren’t more invested in women’s liberation is because they haven’t been asked nicely enough.
But The Onion went from satire to veritable soothsaying prophecy last week when Wendy Squires - a privileged, white, western woman - used her considerable media platform to advocate not for more diverse female voices to be heard, but for feminism to literally be “led by men”. Specifically, one man: Eddie McGuire.
Don’t yell Bingo! just yet. Not content with merely relegating women superfluous to feminism, Guardian columnist Antony Loewenstein went, even further (you didn’t think it was possible, did you? ) this week, chastising women for damaging feminism and “letting down the women who need it most”. Fed up with the “unacceptable” lack of men pontificating on women’s issues, Antony is here to tell us proponents of “feminism lite” (i.e. women) just how much our movement can benefit from a man’s touch.
Well, The Onion did tell us that “all the feminist movement needed to do was bring on someone who had the balls to do something about this glass ceiling business.” Nonetheless, this would probably be a good time for me to reveal that being a woman of colour from a Muslim, working-class, refugee background since women like me have only just been accorded a spot at this mainstream feminism table, I'm not terribly keen on giving up my hard-earned seat to a white man anytime soon.
Still, full props to both Squires and Loewenstein. It’s not easy to out-Onion The Onion.