This is what a feminist looks like: rich, skinny and white.Posted: November 3, 2014
I have a great passion that feminism should be for all women. I’ve even written about it before. Feminism must be intersectional.
Last week, ELLE, Whistles and the Fawcett Society bought out a new t-shirt bearing the often-used Fawcett Society t-shirt slogan “This is what a feminist looks like”. The t-shirt sells on both the Whistles website and the ELLEUK website for £45. It’s a charity t-shirt, which means all of that £45 goes the the Fawcett Society. Funnily enough, selling a designer t-shirt on a high-end clothing website brings with it a few issues! Whoulda thunk it.
The first issue I’m just going to gloss over slightly because it really needs its own entry to cover all the problems but to be honest you’ll probably be able to work them out yourself anyway: They got Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to wear it. When I think of feminism, I do not think of, well, men for a start, but especially two of the most powerful white men in the UK who make a habit of being a destructive force to women.
The second issue is also handily mentioned in that BBC article (also handy because the only other one was a Daily Mail article and I don’t really want to link to the Daily Mail). There’s speculation at the moment that the t-shirts were made in a sweat shop in Mauritius by workers paid only 62p an hour. This is currently only speculation and the Fawcett Society put a response up on their website a couple of days ago.:
“We met with Whistles over the summer to discuss the t-shirt design and production and, upon querying, were assured that the garments would be produced ethically here in the UK. We also agreed that 100% of the profits would be donated directly to the Fawcett Society.
“Upon receiving samples of the range at our offices in early October we noted that the t-shirts had in fact been produced in Mauritius, upon which we queried (over email) the ethical credentials of the Mauritian factory, and the fabric used.
“We were assured by Whistles (over email) that the Mauritian factory:
‘is a fully audited, socially and ethical compliant factory…”
Now that worries me already – FS were told it was an ethical UK company when it suddenly appeared that it wasn’t. Regardless of the pay issue, this is a t-shirt being made by factory workers in an African country for well-off people in the west. This does not sounds like good, intersectional feminism to me so far. Having a poor woman make a t-shirt for you that she is unable to afford to buy herself, does not look like equality.
My final two points are more personal points. I am currently living on benefits, due to being chronically ill. I receive Personal Independence Payments and my husband and I get a joint ESA claim. This is enough for us to pay our bills, buy our food, keep our cats in cat litter and treats and maybe get the odd cheap DVD or book. This doesn’t leave very much room for me to buy a £45 t-shirt, even if all the proceeds go to a feminist charity. This feminism is clearly not for me – I cannot afford it. And if I can’t afford it, those who are even less well off than I am will certainly not be able to afford it. This is not a feminism for the low-paid, unemployed, sick women.
And finally, this t-shirt is sold up to a size L. According to Whistles website, a size L is size 14/16. The average size of women in the UK is a size 16. I myself am a size 20. There is no way this shirt would ever fit me. The feminism I believe in says that it doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, you still have rights. Apparently, I am too fat for this feminism.
So what does a feminist look like? It looks like a skinny, middle-class western woman. Who can afford to buy a £45 t-shirt.