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Everyone’s A Feminist Until There Is A Spider Around 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nanyang Tech chapter.

If you are not chronically online, unlike me, you may have been unaware of this trend using the song lyrics from Five Years by Bo Burnham. You can check out the lyrics here and take a closer look at verse 3. People have duetted the song by using the structure of the lyrics to talk about different issues that all surround the same concept: hypocrisy. 

In this era of political correctness, no one wants to appear misogynistic, racist, homophobic, xenophobic etc. in fear of being cancelled. While it is applauded that our generation no longer endorses nor agrees with such toxic mindsets, to some extent, it has resulted in superficial support for these movements. Beliefs that people explicitly endorse, may differ from their implicit attitudes, and this becomes evident when the talk doesn’t match the walk. 

Take this Tikok for example, where the Tiktok creator’s boyfriend is a Chris Brown fan. Chris Brown has a long history of violence against women; almost an icon of misogyny. Yet, he still earns money from sold-out concerts and millions of streams on Spotify simply because he produces good music. She explicitly talks about how the boyfriend is ‘against domestic violence’ and claims to be a ‘patriarchy fighter’, but still supports Chris Brown because ‘the concert will be fun’. 

People are only truly against detrimental belief systems and acts when it is convenient for them; once it poses a small inconvenience, even something as silly as missing out on a concert, their resolve in opposing the cause disappears, revealing their implicit attitudes and what they truly believe in. Everyone wants to hop onto the bandwagon of political correctness, but fighting the patriarchy or century-long racist institutions takes time, effort, discomfort and inconvenience, and no one seems to want to put in that much commitment for a movement they do not benefit directly from. 

For example, women are much less likely to attend a Chris Brown’s concert because any woman can imagine herself as a victim of domestic abuse. The threat is real, the violence is real, and supporting Chris Brown makes us sick to the stomach. But for some men, and even some privileged women, the threat and violence is far and distant. It doesn’t affect their psyche or their daily lives. It appears that they only want to appear as a feminist for social acceptability, but they have no true understanding or belief in the notion. These kinds of hypocrisy tear down a movement from within, because it creates discord. More importantly, such contradictions prove to those on the opposing side that we can never truly overthrow their entrenched belief systems. 

If you look closely at the lyrics, Burnham is talking about how his ex-girlfriend told him to “be a man” and kill a spider, which results in his iconic line: “Everyone’s a feminist until there is a spider around”. Internalised misogyny is hard to combat, especially when it comes to gender roles. Women are so used to gender-coding behaviours that killing a spider has somehow become a man’s job to do, and a masculine behaviour. There’s nothing wrong with fearing spiders — what is wrong is that she tells him to “be a man”, associating masculinity with fearlessness and bravery, the very concepts that sometimes hinder men in being vulnerable with their emotions, feelings and fears.

This is especially prevalent in white liberal feminism, where feminism only seems to exist for cis-gendered white women in the United States, and women of colour and trans-women have little to zero access to it. Even concepts such as “girlboss” can become toxic when it is all a woman can be. Being a housewife is as equally valid as being a CEO; choosing to wear revealing clothes is as liberating as choosing to wear conservative clothes. Liberal feminism makes it seem like we have to be this standard, woman in a suit, single with no reliance on men, in order to be considered a valid ‘feminist’. 

Intersectional feminism, however, or feminism for the 99 doesn’t restrict feminism like this. It looks at how multiple factors affect women, not just the patriarchy. This allows for the empowerment of women in many ways, shapes and forms. White liberal feminism makes it seem like to be free is to be lonely; because that is the most convenient way there is. No need for grassroots with other movements, or coordination with them. But we have to recognise that codependent and overlapping sections like the environment or social class make it impossible for freedom to ever be lonely. We are all inextricably reliant on one another. Liberal feminism, as a cultural by-product of individualistic Western cultures, just simply cannot comprehend that concept of interdependence. 

At the end of the day, being an ally of any movement out of convenience or “hippiness” is more detrimental to a movement than being a straight out misogynist or racist. The hidden nature of hypocrisy is what sows distrust within the community, and makes it difficult for the movement to ever progress forward.

Emmy Kwan

Nanyang Tech '25

The embodiment of a "material gworl" but with no money, if she isn't complaining about capitalism, the economy or the patriarchy, you can find Emmy in the aisles of a clothing store, ironically selling her soul to the corporations she often critiques.