ISSUES: TALKING TEES
The resistance against dressing for resistance.
In New York City, brunch used to be just a normal, whatever thing to do. That is, before girls in peplum tops turned it into bottomless brah-uhnchh. Now they say protesting is the new brunch, and feminism is the new black. So are we in a feminist craze echoing progress, or a progressing trend? Activism is a big word to apply to what we’re after when we buy and wear a tee reading something like, “Feminist with a Bite.”
Boulevard Chanel held a themed street protest for the Spring 2015 collection. Dior released a $700 “We Should All Be Feminists” tee for Spring 2017. Peter Gurung closed his Fall 2017 runway show with 39 slogan tees inspired by women empowerment. Missoni debuted a cashmere take on the pink pussyhat… From statement styles to donated proceeds and hashtags, fashion is woke.
Things like privilege, unattainable beauty and the female body (oh, those things) are usually to blame for fashion’s non-political stance. But in a reality where stooping out of the conversation is no longer a question, protest couture is perpetuating a sartorial coup. As spring turns to summer, the trickle-down effect unfolds. Designer looks are translating from the runway to the more accessible brands to fast fashion. From Versace’s “Equality” beanie to Jonathan Simkhai's $95 "Feminist AF" tee, down to the likes of Nasty Gal’s $30 “Feminist” tops and cute $16 Etsy finds.
EYES WILL ROLL
Arguments question the authenticity of articulated values linked to consumerism. We all know what happens when markets latch on to trends. They see an opportunity to push product, and then they overdo it — without fail, turning interesting into cringeworthy. RIP brunch, choker necklaces and dating apps.
Not that feminism would ever become annoying (expect to maybe, the current White House), but it has become fashionable, giving companies a green light to swoop in for profits under the veil of advocacy.
To diehard activists, simply wearing the message leans towards complacency (no matter how many selfies are involved). Attention and awareness aside, the proliferation of something like messaged tees risks diluting impact. It’s an image-based, effortless impression, and can easily eschew the hard work and difficult conversations that are necessary for effective agitation. Femvertising is nothing new, but that’s exactly the point.
SOMETHING OR NOTHING
It’s important to give activism a critical eye, although maybe it’s not the best time to criticize the efforts of a rising generation. Every protest renders its own protest, as was the case early March for “A Day Without a Woman.” By skipping work, wearing red and refusing to spend money, women rallied against the administration. Then they rallied controversy for isolating women who didn’t make enough money, or lacked the proper resources, to fully participate. The dialogue reiterated how differently we all intersect towards a shared vision — confronting the idea that some activist work, in and of itself, reflects advantage. Activism has never been flawless. Enter: digital. Now even the official definition of “activism” is debatable.
Wearing “The Future is Female” across your chest is not a political act, but it is a gesture towards action. If a slogan awakens discourse, then surely it can encourage socio-political improvement. Yes, questioning a movement is essential to stronger organizing, but if we keeping stopping to criticize and dismiss every evolving demonstration…we’ll drown in those arguments before we even get started.