Thursday, 6 November 2014

This is NOT what a feminist looks like

*images from the Telegraph

It takes more than donning a t-shirt to be a feminist.

I'm sure most of you have heard about it already, but for those of you who haven't - an organisation who campaign for gender equality released a new campaign featuring a shirt with the words "this is what a feminist looks like" on sale for £45, and a number of high profile people (Benedict Cumberbatch, even Ed Miliband) have shown their support by wearing said shirt in a bid to raise money for the cause.

Oh yeah, and the people who made it are paid less than a pound in sweatshop conditions.

I may be a bit slow in writing this post (uni work has gotten in the way) but I'll keep it to the point.

Why is it that a number of people  who've never or perhaps 'barely' said a public word in support of feminism think wearing this shirt seems to be 'enough'? I could wear a shirt saying that I don't believe in gravity, but that doesn't mean I've ever tried to disprove it. And suddenly people believe donning this shirt and jumping on to the celebrity bandwagon makes it all okay, perhaps even that it's an 'easier alternative' to actually trying to make an active difference to the rights of women. Don't make me laugh.

It annoys me that feminism has long since been something of a dirty word which leaves a sour aftertaste to the mouths of a number of people. Thankfully things seem to be picking up and more young people are becoming aware that being a feminist doesn't mean you're a man-hating-bra-burning-lesbian as the archaic stereotype suggests. What an utter shame it is to make people believe that a few celebrities wearing a shirt with the word 'feminist' actually teaches people what feminism is. What kind of example are we setting for the inquisitive young minds who may take on this message in the wrong way? Isn't this an insult to the efforts of women such as Emmeline Pankhurst, and the many who actually died for the cause?

How paradoxical it is that the very women this shirt advocates the equal rights for are the ones who suffer at the hands of it. The organisation claimed they had 'no clue' or something along those lines, but that's a pitiful excuse - you should know where the labour of your products emerges from, it's not good enough to simply 'not know'.

Having said that, the issue of people working in hazardous sweatshop conditions is one which has existed long before this issue came to light. It highlights an issue we are all connected to in one way or another, knowingly or unknowingly. Can any of us truly say we aren't guilty of buying something which a young girl made on the other side of the world for mere pennies? Unless you've always been conscious of the ethical nature of your clothing, and I won't pretend that I'm not guilty of the same thing. This issue goes far beyond the oxymoron of said t-shirt.

As the old saying "actions speak louder than words" says, as attractive an idea as this may have originally seemed, it appears that the organisation simply didn't realise that the word 'feminist' is built upon and depends upon the effort people actually make to attempting to gain equality.

Simply wearing the word across your chest isn't enough.

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