The appeal of celebrity lies in it being attainable, not to the majority, but to a few special people. The idea presented through advertising is that you get looks and lifestyle as a package deal. Buying the look implies the associated lifestyle, which superficialises identities, political or cultural.
Corporations do not have hearts; no matter how sympathetic the people in it are, they work for profit. They exploit our fear by selling us various anti-rape products, they have been exploiting our politics and they use our styles. Punk and DIY aesthetics have been co-opted by people looking to make more and more money. The Riot Grrrl movement in the USA was undermined by how the media presented it as a fashion statement. Punk to many people is an apolitical style, and the trend of “thrifting” has resulted in the bizarre situation where we are sold brand new things that are designed to look “DIY”.
H&M is currently stocking a sweatshirt with the famous “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” quote. The Elle “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt, which allowed male politicians and actors to boost their image without doing anything constructive, cost £45. It should not cost money to qualify as a feminist. Clothes suppliers rely heavily on sweatshops to produce their goods: H&M is definitely implicated and the Elle t-shirts were allegedly made by women who earned 62p an hour in poor conditions. If you support women’s rights, you must support worker’s rights. No amount of “exposure” or “awareness” is worth the exploitation of people, especially when our politics demand we support them.
It is tiring and upsetting to be ridiculed for your beliefs and we are so conditioned to seek approval that we’re be relieved to finally be considered cool. However, we have lost some of our power in reaching this: outside of the mainstream, you can suggest radical change, whereas any welcome to the mainstream is conditional. Cool relies on exclusivity, meaning that work done to make feminism more inclusive is undermined. Cool is a temporary sanctuary; everything that comes into fashion must go out of fashion, and where will we be then? We will have diluted our beliefs to appease our abstract idea of “the public” and be left with nothing.
Feminist accessories allow us to feel we are making a difference when we’re not. We consume our politics because it is a medium we understand; it’s hard to move beyond the frameworks we know. We are using consumerism to try and call out exploitation and in doing so, actively support corporations in their terrible practices.
SORRY: Feminism is full-time. Yes, yet another job for women to take on. It is shit having to do so much. Take breaks, don’t feel guilty when you can’t take part in things but please, PLEASE don’t grow complacent. Don’t forget there is work to do.
this article is by Hufi, and will also be in Girl Love #3