The Problem With T-Shirt Feminism

The Problem With T-Shirt Feminism

A recent trend in armchair activism is making people think they're doing a lot more than they actually are.

"This is what a feminist looks like," "Feminism: the radical notion that women are people," GRL PWR." I've seen these on t-shirts, pins, tote bags, hats, bumper stickers, etc. There's absolutely nothing wrong with showing the world that you're a feminist, in fact, I encourage it, but there's been a recent surge in feminist apparel tied to the mindset that wearing a t-shirt with the dictionary definition of feminism is the same thing as activism. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for those who promote women's rights, but armchair activism is not true activism, and buying an enamel pin is not the same as donating to Planned Parenthood.

Feminist t-shirts rock. In fact, I own three of them. One is from a school organization, one is from the time I worked with the Hillary Clinton campaign, and one is from the Newseum. So the Newseum tee with the Margaret Thatcher quote didn't exactly save the day, but it highlights my own initial naiveté and need to work on conscious spending. Awareness is a step in the right direction.

Maybe instead of buying the graphic tee from Forever 21, check out Feminist Apparel, who support local artists and donate proceeds from certain lines to three different organizations that empower women. The large retailer may be cheaper, or more convenient, but ironically, it's most likely made by women in sweat shops. It sounds harsh, but true feminism is standing up for all women.

It's not entirely the shopper's fault, clothing brands are co-opting feminism for sales, the idea has become a commodity in such businesses. H&M, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, all profit from feminist clothing and accessories whilst taking advantage of cheap, unethical labor or "fast fashion."

For instance, when the "Nasty Woman" t-shirt trend surfaced during the election, more and more people began selling their own version, and it was hard for me to find a shirt whose proceeds actually benefited the campaign or any other women's organization. It would have been so easy to make my own shirt or buy the first one I found, but if I was going to wear the shirt I wanted to be all in. Samantha Bee, host of "Full Frontal", made her own limited edition "Nasty Woman" shirt whose proceeds 100% benefited Planned Parenthood. Bingo.

I understand that it's not easily accessible for everyone, but if one is going to buy a feminist t-shirt they should do so with the best intentions; seek out brands that are against fast fashion and actually benefit women. Or, if the "girls just wanna have fun-damental rights" shirt from someone's Etsy shop is too cute to resist, consider setting aside a day to volunteer or donate supplies/money to a women's shelter or an international organization. Simply wearing a feminist t-shirt is not hypocrisy, it's promotion for a good cause, but we are easily swept up in trends and must not forget what we are fighting for.

Make 2017 a year of giving after so much was lost in 2016.

Cover Image Credit: Elysse Vernon

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Feminism Is Not A Scary Word

"Our work should equip the next generation of women to outdo us in every field. This is the legacy we'll leave behind: progress." -Rupi Kaur

Feminism is defined in the English dictionary as “the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” It seems to have gotten off track and acquired a negative connotation. Some people view it as women wanting superiority over men, to stand on the higher ground, or to flip the hierarchy. My response to those remarks is: how can we wish stand on higher ground when we aren’t even on equal ground?

Women were granted the right to vote with the 19th Amendment’s ratification in 1920. Despite President Kennedy’s attempt to enforce equal pay in 1963, there is still a wage gap between men and women in modern day. As of this year, women make about 80 cents to every dollar a man makes. That means that a woman can do the same exact job as a man, both doing it to 100% of their ability, but the woman will only earn 4/5ths of what the man earns. Women have made major progress since the feminist movements have begun, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still countless things left to achieve. The gender gap exists all over the world. In Malta, a man can kidnap a woman and if he chooses to marry her, he is not subject to prosecution. Young girls are often forced into sex slavery or prostitution. In many countries, laws do not even exist to guard women from domestic violence. To less extremes, but just as important, two-thirds of illiterate people in the world are women; many girls are not only not allowed to finish school but often not even allowed to enroll in the first place; women are paid less worldwide than men – yes, still.

If those statistics don’t force you to think about the issue that is occurring right in front of our eyes, maybe a first hand experience will. Karla Jacinto, a Mexican native, told CNN her story. After experiencing an abusive childhood, she was lured into sex trafficking and was raped 43,200 times during her time as a victim. It’s impossible to read her terrible story, and many of the others just like hers, without cringing. We feel sad and uncomfortable just reading it, imagine how they feel. These women get no respect, they have no rights. These issues need to be properly addressed, all over the world.

In our own country, which is viewed as one of the more developed, progressive, and democratic countries in the world, gender inequality is very visible. As of 2017, women only took up about 1/5th of the United States Congress. Only 6 of the country’s 50 governors are female. A woman had never been nominated for Presidency by a major party until 2016 when Hillary Clinton tackled that milestone. The United States is the only country left in the developed world that does not guarantee women paid maternity leave. There are many instances of sexual assault against men and women every day. Of the instances where women are the victims and they choose to report it, they are often subject to unfair and invalid questions such as “What were you wearing?” and “How much had you had to drink?” The inequality that exists in government and in our legal system is unacceptable.

If all these numbers have been too much, I will make the concept of feminism more visual. In the beginning, women began at the bottom of the ladder while men began in the middle, halfway up. It seems unfair already, doesn’t it? Over time, as headway has been made, both women and men move up the ladder. Men got to the top. We can imagine they are standing on a glass sheet. To them, that sheet is the floor, but to all the women that are left on the ladder, it is the ceiling. It’s only a matter of time, while women continue to climb up the ladder, until that glass ceiling is shattered. That is the future. Men and women standing next to one another, equal. The future is female. The future is equality. The future is us.

Thank you to the women who took the first, and hardest, steps to begin major movements for feminism. Thank you to everyone who fight for women’s rights every single day. Thank you to the future generation who will not stop until there is gender equality worldwide. “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them” (Unknown).

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I Can't March For Your Lives If You Won't March For Theirs

This is not a political issue, it is a human rights issue.

After the atrocities in Parkland, Florida this past February, the movement towards gun control laws resonated with a new group: teenagers.

Of course, with any new political movement, there is always critique towards the people who direct such political movements. This time, the critique has been directed towards high school students, the direct opposite of any older, adult politician; therefore, it is very important for critics to correctly phrase and word their critiques because anything can be taken out of context and scrutinized.

However, I want to make myself clear when I say that I do not support the March for our Lives being held in support of the lives lost through gun violence and mass shootings. And before you ridicule, deride, or attempt to call me cruel names and slurs, hear me out.

The reason why I cannot support the March for our Lives is simply due to inconsistency.

I cannot specifically blame one group-the Democrats, liberals, the media, etc.-because this is not a political issue, it is a human rights issue. And yet, our society constantly fails to respect the sanctity of all human life, it lacks the consistency that we need in this generation.

I cannot attend the March for our Lives when its name bears nearly the same resemblance to the March for Life, though that name is rarely reported in its news coverage because of its controversial views regarding abortion.

Both marches present the same argument: to respect human life.

Additionally, it is ironic how people will condemn the NRA yet not Planned Parenthood. If the NRA is presumed to "buy" Republican politicians, then how come no one has ever mentioned that Planned Parenthood equally "buys" Democratic politicians? According to a study, Planned Parenthood donates $102,947 to politicians with 96% being Democrats and 0% being Republicans.

Also, no one has ever mentioned that the NRA donating money to politicians who support their association is completely constitutional. In 2010, a Supreme Court case titled Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruled that "political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections."

Because the NRA is completely legal in its proceedings, the fact that political organizations donate money towards politicians who support those organizations is a reasonable concept to understand.

And, once again, if you criticize the NRA for excessively lobbying Republicans, you should consistently draw attention to Planned Parenthood's lobbying of Democratic politicians.

I say this with no harm or bad intentions, I am simply pointing out obvious facts about societal hypocrisy that surrounds us every single day. And yet, so many people do not bother to look up the facts themselves. That is the reason why I cannot support such a movement.

People can criticize me all they want, saying things such as "I bet she just loves guns" or "She hates children". But these ad hominem attacks fail to recognize that just last year, I was the same age as the teenagers affected in Parkland, Florida.

They fail to acknowledge that I once was a child, I currently am a student, and that in the future, I hope to become a mother who will send her children to school. These people will disregard the fact that I have never held a gun in my life, and out of personal decisions, never want to.

They forget that because I am a student on a college university campus, I, too, have to live in a world fearful of mass shootings and violent threats. They do not pay attention to the fact that aside from being an academic undergraduate, I am a friend to so many others who attend universities across the country.

Do these people not understand that I am affected by this all too?

Or, are they simply ignorant? Are they the ones who will protest on March 24 for gun laws and the safety for life but then disregard the unborn as "not people...yet"?

Will they rally behind teenagers who claim to fight for "bipartisan change" on gun laws but then yell at politicians who affiliate with a different party or viewpoint than themselves? Will they chant, "What do we want?" "Equal Rights!" "When do we want it?" "Now!", for issues that they inconsistently pick and choose?

Will they rally for the sanctity of student lives but then yell for the shooter to be sentenced to death?

These are the questions that I need to have answers for before you can count on me to rally behind a movement that hypocritically claims that it is for the equality of all human life.

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