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Social Justice Fashion

Olivia Powell explores the pro's and con's of the rise of social justice clothing and it's impact

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If you walked into any high-street store at the moment, you would be met by an abundance of graphic tees and jumpers proclaiming that ‘The Future is Female’. Feminist fashion is hot right now, and almost every brand is capitalising on it. On the surface, this looks positive; in a social environment where the #MeToo movement is going strong, it can be very reassuring that massive companies are also behind feminism. Likewise, as someone who used to get mocked for being a ‘feminazi’ it’s certainly nice to know that I can pop into any shop or do a quick google search and be greeted by multiple fashionable, affordable, feminist pieces. It feels very much like feminism is being integrated and accepted in society, however, is this surface-level feeling of acceptance only that – surface-level?

“On the surface, this looks positive; in a social environment where the #MeToo movement is going strong, it can be very reassuring that massive companies are also behind feminism.”

Missguided, famed for their ‘Keep On Being You’ campaign (which encouraged people to ‘f**k being perfect and just be yourself’) are arguably one of the most seemingly feminist brands out there. Their alerts for their app, their tweets and their Instagram posts are littered with pro-women slogans, and in 2017 they released multiple un-retouched pictures of their models for the Make Your Mark Campaign – another campaign with the slogan ‘f**k perfect, it doesn’t exist’. These campaigns were received incredibly well by multiple feminist media sites. Whilst this all seems incredibly positive and feminist, Missguided do have their flaws. For a start, they still retouch their posts on their site – the Make Your Mark campaign was just that – a campaign. In addition, it was revealed that Missguided have a pretty big wage gap problem – it was revealed in April of this year that despite 81% of their workforce being female, when comparing median hourly pay rates, women earned 54p for every £1, and that women’s median bonus pay was 82% lover than men’s. This being said, they did release a statement based on these figures that stated that they were ‘proud to inspire and empower women’ and detailed what they would do in order to try to close the pay gap in their company.

Another problem with ‘feminist’ fashion that multiple brands have co-opted the word ‘femme’ – a word traditionally used to describe those in the lesbian community that have a preference for dressing in feminine way, wearing ‘girly’ colours and makeup – to mean ‘female’. An example of this is H&M using the slogan ‘Fierce And Femme’ on a t-shirt. By using this word to refer to all women, the brands not only highlight the fact that they don’t understand the difference between a feminist logo and a fashion preference but also risk stereotyping women – if we take the word ‘femme’ to represent all women, we are essentially saying that all women are feminine, and they’re not. In addition, the word ‘femme’ is ultimately a word that belongs to the lesbian community and therefore should not be co-opted in the name of corporate feminism.

Overall, I’m almost certain that if it weren’t for Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Emma Watson and countless other female celebs proudly stating their feminist stance, then this fashion wouldn’t be around. It seems as though many companies are simply piggybacking on the feminist movement as it has become more mainstream in the last few years. Feminism is being treated as a trend when it shouldn’t be – trends go out of fashion, and feminism as a movement and ideology that is only growing bigger and stronger. It is great to see feminist brands, but if brands want to be seen as feminist then they need to commit themselves to the movement – just putting ‘The Future Is Female’ on a top won’t cut it, I’m afraid.

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