Why This Matters: Productizing Feminism
Although the word ‘feminist’ still has a bad rap for some, it’s taken on a new widespread acceptance in the form of major brands and retailers. For many who claim feminism as their own it’s a clash that puts societal acceptance and popularity against profiting off social and economic inequality. Recently, it’s been muddled even more with the putdowns of insecure, white men being turned into feminist slogans. You can’t enter a bookstore or a big box store without seeing products proclaiming “Nasty Woman” or “Nevertheless, She Persisted”.
Maybe it’s my adoration for throwing someone’s words back in their face, or simply my ornery side, but I enjoy these new slogans. Not too long ago I became the owner of my own shirt feminist shirt that cost me a donation to an organization of my choice (Committee to Protect Journalists). I proudly wear it around town. But I don’t wear it for others, I wear it for myself. A little reminder of what our country should stand for, and what I must fight for if I hope to see that come to fruition. But my choice to buy into this trend is controversial.
The love brands are throwing on feminism isn’t necessarily reciprocated. Opinions on these action from the for-profit industries, like this Unilever effort, is looked upon with suspect. It reaffirms feminists’ derision for big brands who simply seek to make a profit in anyway possible, using the pain of inequality as a source of gaining dollars with no benefit directed at the cause.
Asking others their opinion on this sudden popularity one feminist proclaimed,
“I see the retail bandwagoning of large companies like Target as evidence that we've reached a certain critical mass in popular appeal, not that the company is making any sort of principled statement. This is a neoliberal sort of progress- the progress of being pandered to once we've already accrued enough capital to be worth pandering to.
I'm not sure there are any brands I really trust. They all participate in a capitalist system. The smaller the company, the more nimble it is in expressing itself beyond its bottom line, but there's no escaping the system it works within.”
Which is what seems to be at the crux of the issue for many feminists. The system these brands perpetuate is what leads to inequality. It’s the heart of their struggle to figure out just where they fit into the system, and how to affect any real change.
But others take a less harsh view, seeing it as “a positive thing that these things are happening because it makes them more accessible to people who can't afford independent businesses, or can't make things themselves.”
There is no right way to proclaim your feminism. It is a privilege to be able to cut ties with all major stores and brands. It is a privilege to have the time to invest in volunteering, leading discussions or attending rallies. And, as we have said here before on SheHasDrive, we’re all on a journey. Feminism is about believing in equality for all, but how we make that happen is unknown. So each day we face these critical issues and search for where we stand.
As feminists grapple with this mainstream shift of their cause, some will turn back and capitalize on it themselves. “I want unscrupulous companies to feel market pressure to cater to my issues as much as more ethical businesses.”
So no matter how you feel about the productising of feminism, let’s see that as an opportunity. Go on, start the conversation.