"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.