Zoella Isn't Part of the Problem, She's Part of the Solution

26 October 2014

A recent Independent article slamming Youtube personality Zoe Suggs for being 'anti-feminist' has caused many angry reactions from her fans. I am not a vlog subscriber - and I had only heard of Zoella in passing, so I watched some of her videos to see what the fuss was about, as there are many vloggers (such as Trisha Paytas - is she a parody? I still can't tell.) who truly are anti-feminist, anti-women and just idiotic in general.

Zoella blogs about fashion and beauty, she lives in a perfectly neutral colour coordinated house by the British coast, has a giggly voice and frankly, her videos are rather mediocre, emblematic of the 'starbucks pumpkin spice latte' brigade, and as a friend on Facebook said 'about as radical as pink frosted cupcakes'. Still, I can see why they would appeal to younger girls: as a girl who was always interested in fashion and beauty, there is nothing better than looking at someone else's wardrobe or make-up collection (activities that lots of girls do anyway, just this is via the interwebs).

Zoe is also an ambassador for a mental health charity - and whilst I'm usually skeptical of celebrities who associate themselves with charities and the amount of good they actually do, it cannot be denied that talking openly and unashamedly about mental health and anxiety is a good thing for a young audience of mainly girls. When the younger generation watches Youtube as we watched the TV after school, this is a great way to reach people and encourage debate and sharing of content. If this doesn't already constitute what we can call a 'positive' role model, then I do not know what does.

Furthermore, We have to stop believing the being interested in fashion and make-up and having high self esteem are mutually exclusive. Make-up is worn by many people not as a 'mask', but as a creative way of altering their appearance and experimenting with their own identities.

If we are concerned about female role models being restricted to celebrities and super models, Zoella is not the figure to go after before everyone else. Yes, she is a caucasian female who is considered attractive - and she is technically a category of woman who we are bombarded with images of every day in magazines, online and is therefore not 'refreshing' or 'different.' She is, however, not airbrushed and frequently appears on camera wearing natural, or little make up. She also speaks frankly of her flaws. Her online life may be carefully curated and edited, but she still has less room to hide behind Photoshop and a manufactured persona when she has gained her following through being your average English teenager, and having a 'girl next door' image.

If we want to attack negative female role models, we should start with those at the very 'top' of the celebrity hierarchy, whose reach and influence is much further and greater than any Youtuber (at least, thus far). Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj have all been critiscised for various reasons - and although they may be subverting the beauty standard to some extent, they are also promulgating harmful sexualised images of femininity to young people - and this is, in my opinion, far more of a concern than a girl with a high bun, in an oversized knit jumper talking about how she stores her extensive lipgloss collection.

Finally - if we want to change the sort of women who appear in the public arena and become role models for younger girls, seeing increasingly 'normal' girls such as Zoella is the only way to go to work towards a more diverse celebrity sphere. If we continue to criticise every girl who slightly challenges the status quo, we will be left with an unchanging parade of supermodels and popstars, and girls will be more concerned about having a thigh gap than anything else.