We need to forget the slogan t-shirts and realise that feminism isn’t a fashion statement
Slogan jersey separates don’t help anyone
Feminism (for reasons completely beyond my own comprehension) is frequently a very divisive and controversial term, and it's really important for people to learn and engage with feminism. I would never be one to mock or criticise how someone engages with gender equality – everyone has their own life, their own experiences, and their own relationship to feminism, and that diversity is part of what makes the movement simultaneously so critical and so empowering.
That being said, is there really any excuse for wearing feminism memorabilia?
It's understandable why people would want to do this – people have worn their favourite band t-shirts for decades, and when something is part of your identity it's completely understandable that you would want to wear it to show the world that this is who you are.
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However, wearing clothing with the term "feminist" emblazoned across it is completely missing the point. These t-shirts and jumpers have been popular on the high street ever since Dior's "we should all be feminists" t-shirts, which came into stores following the women's marches in 2017. These t-shirts currently retail at £795 – though the proceeds are donated to Rihanna's non-profit charity the Clara Lionel Foundation, which somewhat excuses the polarising notion of putting a price tag on feminism.
The high-brand version quickly trickled down into high street stores, and knock offs and replicas became commonplace, all made in sweatshops far away. So these t-shirts may be your empowerment, but they are also someone else's oppression – particularly considering the recent allegations made towards Topshop CEO Phillip Green. It's always hard to shop completely ethically, and fast fashion is an industry which is part of most of our day-to-day lives – but trying to make an ethical statement while shopping unethically is completely hypocritical.
The fact that these clothes were made so quickly after the women's marches speaks to the character of their manufacturing. Stores were quick to jump onto the movement because it was so talked about, and it is completely wrong to appropriate a movement which is critically important for so many people, just because it was a popular hashtag that week.
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And it's not like the any of these major retailers are selling Black Lives Matter t-shirts, either. All these shirts seem to be evidencing is an adoption of the feminist movement into the capitalist mindset, acting as if feminism is a fashion statement rather than an absolute necessity.
However, there are brands that are dedicated to making genuine, palpable changes. The cosmetics company Lipslut, for example, has lipsticks called things like "Fuck Trump" and "Fuck Kavanaugh", which donate 50 per cent of all their proceeds to sexual violence charities.
Another brand, Birdsong, designs t-shirts with empowering logos, patterns and designs, and their brand is dedicated to calling out the silencing of women who are making clothes for the fashion industry – and they don't use sweatshops or photoshop.
Maybe next time think before you decide that a t-shirt saying "feminist" going to be your next big statement.
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