In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, students of magic battle a boggart, a creature that manifests itself as your worst nightmare. With a flick of their wand and the word ‘Riddikulus,’ students disarm the boggart by turning it into a joke, thus rendering it powerless and nonthreatening. This is exactly what Steven Greenstreet, creator of the Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street tumblr is doing: By turning activist women into non-threatening ‘hot chicks,’ he not only makes a mockery of their political struggle but also attempts to strip them of power.
In the same way that ‘ethnic’ women are exoticized and fetishized, politically active ‘alternative’ women are apparently the new hot thing. On Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street, you will find high-quality images of women with tattoos, nose studs, headscarves, asymmetrical haircuts and racial diversity. I asked Greenstreet if these women gave their consent to be photographed or for their images to be put online via Twitter, but received no response.
The simplest way to turn a powerful, activist woman into a nonthreatening woman is to sexualize her. When Greenstreet ventured to #OccupyWallStreet and found hundreds of assertive women demanding for economic equality, he ignored their message and neutralized their threat by essentially responding, ‘Oh yeah, talk protest to me baby.’ This has the same effect as infantilization, another common way to diminish a woman: ‘Oh look, she’s protesting. Isn’t that cute?’