Girl Revolt

For our parents, liberation started with burning bras. What will it be for you?

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In November, culture jammers everywhere will rupture consumer society. In seven nights of carnivalesque rebellion, teachers will join with punks, churchgoers with pranksters, and homeowners with hobos to shake the foundations of the global consumerist tyranny. But there is one group in particular that has the potential to spark widespread revolt.

Girls, females between the age of 13 and 19, are perhaps the most oppressed group in consumer society. As a previous generation of feminists made clear, Western culture is marked by widespread violence against women. And despite the media blackout, which continues to this day, most people know at least one female who has either developed an eating disorder or been sexually assaulted. I'll never forget my first-year orientation at Swarthmore: We were warned that nationwide the first six weeks of university are considered a "red zone" because rape is dangerously common.

The feminist critique is still valid but it must also go deeper. Even for girls who are spared the terrors of anorexia or rape, there is still the debilitating psychological war waged by advertising.

Consumerism is the new patriarchy. The beauty industry is the beast. Advertising constrains the horizon of female aspirations, gendering their dreams before they're hatched. Girls, even when they are still a fetus in the womb, are the target of an unrelenting image assault. Pretty little girls is what this society wants and it gets it through a flood of erotically charged marketing that propagandizes half the population, and their parents, to sexualize femininity at an early age. Of course, boys get the message too. But their assigned role is as the aggressor party. Girls, on the other hand, are told that weak and vulnerable is sexy.

But all this gives girls a tremendous power. Even the smallest tremors of rebellion can start an earthquake. Beginning now, and peaking in November, girls will revolt. Break the chains of advertising, overthrow the patriarchy of consumerism, blockade the libidinal economy. A week without makeup, stink bombs instead of perfume, public burnings of Cosmopolitan… any of these could be enough to start a chain reaction against consumer capitalism.

For our parents, liberation started with burning bras. What will it be for you?

Micah White is a contributing editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He lives in Berkeley and is writing a book about the future of activism. or micah (at)