International Women’s Day is no longer about feminism, it’s about making money
If brands really want to support women they will do more than just a girl boss t-shirt and a £1 donation
Today is International Women’s Day. A day that traditionally marks the 1908 women’s march which campaigned for equal pay, better working conditions and voting rights. However this is not what you’ll see on your Instagram feeds. Instead you’ll see brands trying to sell you a “feminist” slogan T-shirt in pink writing with an inspirational quote and a promise to donate profits to a charity. This is not feminism.
International Women’s Day in 2021 highlights the trend in recent years in which feminism has been reduced from a much needed social justice movement into easily digestible pink and sparkly products brands can sell.
Boob mugs, Pocket Frida Kahlo Wisdom books and girl boss posters are a way for brands to signal they care about supporting women, but only as far as the women they can sell to, not the women working for them.
Brands such as PrettyLittleThing, Ciaté London, Interflora and even Burger King have promoted products and schemes today as a way to show their support for women. But do these products actually benefit women? And how in good conscience can these brands sell feminism ideals when their companies have not always treated women fairly?
The irony of companies who claim to care about women but do little to support them the other 364 days a year is at best laughable, at worst dangerous.
If PrettyLittleThing really cared about equality, surely they’d pay their workers properly?
This morning PrettyLittleThing announced a number of promotions for International Women’s Day. There was the 10 per cent discount code, a number of “motivational” quotes and a T-shirt in which all proceeds go to US girls’ charity Girls Inc.
But their followers were quick to call them out on the irony of their statements.
Late last year PrettyLittleThing ran a sale in which items were being sold for as little as 10p. There was outcry that this highlighted the exact problem with fast fashion and the impact it has on the environment. A problem which drastically impacts women more.
Then of course were the allegations that came out last year that PrettyLittleThing’s parent company, Boohoo, were alleging underpaying their staff at a rate of £3.50 despite the minimum wage being more than double that. There were also allegations of “unacceptably poor working conditions”.
If PrettyLittleThing really cared about equality, surely they’d pay their workers properly? Donating profits from a T-shirt to a charity supporting women in America doesn’t cut it.
The company is appearing to show solidarity with women and yet is attempting to profit off the lack of female CEOs
Florist company Interflora’s response to International Women’s Day is to produce a bouquet of white roses with one red rose to highlight the lack of female CEOs. Who is the CEO of Interflora? Why, a white man of course.
The company is appearing to show solidarity with women and yet is attempting to profit off the lack of female CEOs and feeding the money into their male CEO’s pocket. What is feminist about that? The thing is it’s not. But brands know being socially conscious is what their consumers care about, it’s not enough to just make a nice product it now has to have a meaning attached.
However in this way we then dilute feminism and other social causes into a product that can be sold and traded on.
Reducing these women down to names on an eyeshadow palette is insulting
Ciaté London’s latest eyeshadow palette is called “I am woman” and features 24 “powerful shades” inspired by 24 inspiring women. Notable figures such as Rosa Parks, Marsha P Johnson and Harriet Tubman all have shades named after them.
Reducing these women down to names on an eyeshadow palette is insulting, did they really work so hard to fight for the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community to end up on an eyeshadow palette?
If you’re really going to support women’s charities then you need to put your money where your mouth is
Many brands donate a small percentage of sales from products today to various women’s charities. Missguided, Cath Kidston and Nails.Inc are amongst 72 brands teaming together to support the Prince’s Trust “Change a Girl’s Life” campaign in which they will all be donating £1 from each sale today to the charity. £1? Sorry but it’s not good enough.
If you’re really going to support women’s charities then you need to put your money where your mouth is. Philip Normal’s La T-shirt inspired by It’s A Sin raised over £20,000 in 24 hours for the Terrence Higgins Trust to support people living with HIV. How did they do this? By giving £20 from each £25 t-shirt to the charity.
It is clear from the pitiful donations that the majority of brands only engage in International Women’s Day as a way to get more press.
Take Burger King for example. They are now probably the most talked about brand today after they tweeted “women belong in the kitchen”.
It was a provocative tweet, most likely intended to go viral. They then tweeted again to highlight the lack of female chefs and to promote their scholarship for female Burger King employees.
Whilst it’s all well and good having a scholarship that’s not what people are talking about, they’re talking about how bad the original tweet was. In this way Burger King have got what they wanted – press on the back of a tweet that reflects a backwards and sexist attitude about women’s place in the world.
Gender parity will not be reached for at least another century
There is still such a long way to go in the fight for equality. The World Economic Forum predicts gender parity will not be reached for at least another century and it’s showing. Only last week was it announced that the threat to share intimate images was going to be made a law, a crime that affects one in seven young women. Nine million girls will never start school and the gender pay gap *still* exists. Equality has not been reached and if brands actually care they will play their part.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected women – with job losses, mental health and surges in domestic violence.
Brands lack of support for women in the pandemic was illustrated recently when thousands of Topshop workers found out they had lost their jobs on the news after the store was bought by ASOS for £330million. The brand and its owner, Sir Philip Green, were safe, but what about the 2,500 staff without jobs?
If brands really want to support women they will do more than just a girl boss t-shirt and a £1 donation.