Source: @florencegiven on Instagram
Florence Given, Floss, or our “local bisexual feminist bitch” as she refers to herself, is telling her followers to “Dump Him”. This slogan, which she espouses but certainly did not coin, responds to, and refuses the sexist rhetoric that tells women in particular the exact opposite: single is bad; entice men, and keep them around at any cost.
I cannot discuss Florence Given’s views expressed on Instagram and in her debut book, Women don’t owe you pretty (2020), without firstly acknowledging Chidera Eggerue’s accusations that Given has plagiarised material from her own books What a time to be alone (2018) and How to get over a boy (2020). Although Given strongly denies these accusations and the dispute is ongoing, Eggerue’s wider condemnation of the racism within publishing and marketing, and her critique of white-feminism are incredibly urgent.
Given’s reclamation of derogatory terms such as “bitch” and “cunt” arguably forms part of a larger queer feminist project of political resistance. And so does her dump him directive, if we understand it to manifest into a definitive act of calling out heterosexist and misogynistic behaviours in relationships. She wants to redefine “being a bitch” as being able to establish boundaries, where the act of dumping him constitutes firm boundary setting.
Her slogans, which include “Stop Raising Him He’s Not Your Son”, respond to behaviour which Given describes as “hetrifying”. Her neologism, which merges petrifying/terrifying/horrifying with heterosexual, captures the feeling of discomfort “when witnessing heteronormative behaviour that normalises gender-roles, sexism, homophobia, unhealthy relationship dynamics or abuse”. And so, the serious themes underlying her ostensibly light-hearted slogans that have gained traction in popular culture become clear.
Given exposes the frighteningly normalised place of hetrifying rhetoric circulating in the media and in popular memes. In particular, her critique of misogynistic jokes, which liken husbands to children who need raising by their wives, touches upon broader issues such as the unequal distribution of unpaid labour and the upholding of ancient but enduring gender stereotypes that are structurally violent when they normalise and even laud the emotional and physical abuse of women.
Instagram is Given’s main platform for activism, creating that increasingly common and uncomfortable nexus between fast-aesthetic-upload and meaningful feminist activism. But whilst she herself acknowledges the inherent performativity of all Instagram content, Given’s account does provide a feminist entry-point for those looking. She espouses a feminism that is accessible both literally (via Instagram) and linguistically by staying clear of daunting jargon, instead translating academic feminist concepts such as the male gaze into experiences that her audience can identify with. What is telling is the extent to which her radical activist engagement and critique of the systems of racism, capitalism, and patriarchy is received. The level of positive engagement from her followers on topics such as female pleasure and hetrifying culture certainly emphasises the demand for work like hers. What’s more, whilst the internet is the home and breeder of some of the most terrifyingly violent misogyny, accounts such as Given’s are vital.
The take-away message from Given’s activism is to remain critical of sexist and misogynistic behaviour, of yourself, of the media and all of the gendered rhetoric that we consume. Indeed, Given acknowledges the limitations of her own dump him slogan, recognising that often it is just not a viable option, particularly in hostile and violent environments (i.e. where a partner is abusive or one is financially dependent on the other). What remains important is all that underpins her enduring feminist commitment.