Yes, is the simple answer to that monumental question. You can’t seem to scroll through the slogan t-shirt section of ASOS without every second product bearing the slogan ‘girl power’ or ‘I am a feminist’.
The problem with every single sweatshirt and every single t-shirt bearing the word ‘feminist’ on it, is that feminism as a movement starts to become a brand. When something starts to become a brand, becomes so commercialised that the word, and by extension the movement, loses its meaning.
Feminism will eventually become another cog in the capitalist system. It will be used not to fight for women’s rights, but for the purpose of selling cheap clothing to girls, tricking them into thinking that wearing a ‘feminist’ t-shirt is enough to claim that you have contributed to the movement.
The millions made from selling these products is not going towards helping girls in the poorest parts of the world, nor is it going towards any kind of charitable act that the feminist movement was created to sustain.
When feminism is commercialised, businesses are not made accountable for the diminished position of women in contemporary culture and society. Feminism is becoming de-politicised as the corporate world tries to sell off every inch of the feminist movement to the highest bidder.
It is these same businesses that use size 0 women’s bodies to sell their products. They are the companies operating in the system which values a women entirely by her body. They are the companies that incite gender roles upon us right from the moment of conception, all in the pursuit of making the most money.
The bosses of Topshop and ASOS haven’t suddenly been struck by a sense of social responsibility and decided to become patrons of the feminist movement. Rather, they’ve tapped into a craze that is doomed, determined to sell and generate millions so women can continue to be objectified and oversexualised.
The worst part of it is that, superficially, the corporate world look pretty good doing so. It appears to many consumers that the corporate world has been enrolled in a radical shift towards a kind of political correctness that favours and nurtures the lives of women. Such manipulation of the minds of consumers only preserves the status quo, which benefits big business and nobody else.
If we scratch beyond the surface, what is revealed to us are the realities and horrors that globalisation and capitalism have brought upon our poorest and most vulnerable citizens. Factories collapsing on top of thousands of people making no more than $1 per day for the most intensive labour a human could possibly imagine. A lack of regulation, paired with the greed and negligence of corporations, are the perpetrators of this murder.
However, this is all morally justified by the fact that these corporations produce and sell clothing saying ‘feminist’ on it. These products are made for us by another vulnerable labourer, who is seen in the eyes of big business not as a human being, but as an object purposed with making the most profit. We are profiteers of the abuse of human rights.
Whilst progress has been made in first world countries in women’s rights, it is not forecast that women will have equality any time soon. Capitalism is still holding women back. In a developed country, one woman can hold the most powerful office in the country, whilst another can barely afford to put food on her own table. Both these women will be valued by their body. Capitalism has been putting prices on the bodies of women for decades, from archetypes of the weak, defenceless woman to women such as Kim Kardashian reinforcing the sentiment that a woman’s role is to to be defined only by her body.
Selling a t-shirt with the word ‘feminist’ on it is not doing anything to deconstruct the barriers many women still face. By buying these products we are only fuelling the capitalist machine that enforces harmful gender roles upon women that are both constricting and objectifying. We must not let the feminist movement lose its momentum in the clutch of capitalism.