If you search “feminist” on Forever21’s website, you will find a page full of women-promoting products. What you won’t find is that workers were paid 12 cents a garment to make them.
Feminism has become a marketing tool for designers and brands. However, they’re not all practicing what they print.
- All fast fashion brands: These are labels like Forever21, H&M, Zara, Charlotte Russe, etc. Their factories are often dangerous and their workers are almost always underpaid. Although their shirts may be shouting “YES ALL WOMEN,” their policies are not.
- Sophia Amuroso: This #Girlboss and founder of popular brand Nasty Gal is one of fashion’s most notorious pseudo-feminists. Her brand is recovering from bankruptcy after a lawsuit for firing a woman because she was pregnant.
- Donna Karan: While she has always been an advocate and mentor for women, her recent response to sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein caused outrage among feminists. She blamed the victim, saying, “What are we asking? Are we asking for it? By presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?”
How do we navigate around the faux-feminists and make sure we’re supporting brands and designers who actually care about our cause? This can be challenging, especially when designers like Donna Karan, who in 1992 created an advertisement campaign titled In Women We Trust depicting a woman president, turn out not to be the feminist icons we believed.
What can you do?
- Stay informed! Shop brands that pay their workers fair wages and practice safe working conditions. If you’re not sure about a brand, look them up. Project Just is a great website that has information on ready-to-wear and luxury brands.
- Buy your feminist apparel from businesses that give back. My latest purchase is a shirt from MY SISTER. This company gives a percentage of each sale directly to non-profits devoted to ending sex trafficking and reinvests profits into the local community. Its products are also sweat-shop free and hand-printed in the United States.
- Keep learning. As feminists, it is our responsibility to support women. When we learn about injustice against women in the fashion industry or anywhere else, we have to respond.
Being a feminist is not as easy as throwing on a tee-shirt and calling yourself one. It’s a process, and a challenging one at that. When you wear the feminist label, wear it proudly and without hypocrisy.