Life&Style writer Kitty Grant argues that feminist fashion fails to create long term change
In 1913, suffragette Emily Davidson died protesting for the right to vote; in 2021 women everywhere are celebrating their rights through copious consumerism. Of course, not every woman who calls herself a feminist has to be willing to die for the cause, but for many, what started as a political movement has been watered down to nothing more than a slogan on a t-shirt.
A search for ‘feminist’ on Monki’s website will yield results such as a tote bag with a ‘boobilicious’ print and socks that simply say ‘feminist’—none of which advertise proceeds going to causes that will help women. While there is nothing inherently wrong with these products—they are even biodegradable, limiting their environmental impact—they contribute to the state of fourth-wave feminism that is more focused on individual women’s success than the emancipation of all women.
The term ‘girl boss’ is meant to empower women—though calling adult women ‘girls’ does seem a little patronising—and can be also found splashed across a number of different products, no doubt sold by another ‘girl boss’. But ‘girl bosses’ are often part of corporate and political spaces that rely on the suppression of other women, particularly those who don’t fit traditional white, middle-class conceptions of womanhood. The ‘girl boss’ narrative allows women to feel like things are changing while material conditions for many stay the same.
A clear example of how many feminists prioritise the veneer of an individual woman’s success over genuine change is the organisers of Reclaim the Streets, who refused to back calls for Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, to resign after police officers at the vigil for Sarah Everard allegedly arrested and abused peaceful protesters. Yes, Dick’s appointment seemed to be a victory for women, but London’s women are still being treated the same under Dick as they have been for years. It is clear that for conditions to change, focus must shift from individual women to the plight of all women, including women who are not white, cis, straight, and able-bodied.
While Monki and other brands that turn feminism into an easily digestible consumer product may not seem like they are hurting feminism—surely more feminists is a good thing, right?—they are diluting the movement. As feminism becomes easily digestible it loses much of its impact. So while the majority of young women identifying as feminists may seem like a good thing, if the only barrier to entry is a belief in gender equality rather than any tangible form of activism, then the fight is all but abandoned.
For feminism to continue to make a tangible, long-term change, the focus must be on fighting for all women, rather than celebrating the victories of a few women and simple slogans like ‘pussy power’—which can also be found on a t-shirt from Monki. Yes, feminism is based on the idea of gender equality, but the movement must be more than just that, or it will stagnate. So next time you want to make a feminist purchase, instead of a t-shirt or tote bag why not focus on learning about the movement and try one of these books?
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