COMMENT: Is high street ‘feminist fashion’ actually empowering?

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Feminism has gained momentum in recent years as a movement with more visibility and a modern cause to fight for. 

Globally, women have felt the pressure of the patriarchy, as the USA ushered in a new presidential era headed up by a man who advocates grabbing women by their genitals. 

In Ireland, women are still fighting to obtain body autonomy, as the 8th Amendment to the constitution remains which deprives women of their rights to make decisions about their own reproductive organs, as well as petitioning for more transparency on the gender wage gap issue. 

More and more celebrities have put their name to the F-word, and the popularity of feminist podcasts like The Guilty Feminist and Women of the Hour show a social interest in the movement. 

It seems that the increased popularity of feminism has led to an attempt to sell the social movement, with companies and brands attempting to capitalise on the notion of female empowerment and making a buck on what they see as a passing trend of woke women.

Recently, I was in a high street store when I noticed that from all angles I was being bombarded with feminist messaging. 

From 'Empower Women,' complete with a female gender symbol, to 'Girls Support Girls,' the shop had clearly tapped into the idea that feminism is visible and was attempting to profit from the ideology. 

While keeping these slogans visible is seriously important, there is a question to be asked about the integrity of seeing what was once written on the hand-painted sign of a women's march attendee on a €9.99 T-shirt.

Yes, visibility matters, but treating feminism as a fashion trend rather than a social and political stance can minimise the necessity of the movement, especially when those T-shirts and necklaces will be in the bargain bin in a few months time. 

Every blogger worth their salt is rocking a Girl Power T-shirt or Girl Gang slogan necklace, but the use of these terms is hollow when the influencer or brand does nothing to further the movement themselves. 

Some influencers with a platform have donned these garments as evidence of their trendiness rather than their awareness of gender equality issues. 

To be on-trend is to be 'woke,' but how can one morally put on an 'empower women' top and then fail to use their platform of hundreds of thousands to discuss feminist issues?

I mean no shade towards any women who choose to wear the garments without speaking about issues facing Irish women, everyone has the right to speak about issues they hold close to their hearts, but it is a point to consider. 

 

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Now I know I sound like a bit of a spoil sport, but it's kind of like wearing a football jersey for a team you don't follow. 

That being said, there is nothing wrong with experimenting with your fashion choices, and if donning a Fearless Female top will make you feel like a total bad ass, then go for it. 

High-end designers such as Dior recently debuted feminist slogan T-shirts on the runway, and a recent Chanel show finished with a protest formation of models with signs proclaiming feminist ideals, so it's no wonder the high street is following suit. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with showing your support of gender equality through a piece of clothing.

However, the capitalisation of the word does minimise its impact somewhat. 

The cause in itself is essential, but it's also worth checking that the female factory workers sewing your 'feminism' shirt aren't being paid a dollar a day in an overseas factory, so make sure you do your research on whatever company or brand you buy from. 

 

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As an owner of a Girl Gang T-shirt, you might say I can't talk, but along with making me feel like a boss b**** while wearing it, I also try my best to involve myself in feminist discussion wherever possible ( I know, I'm so woke). 

However, feminism is also all about women making decisions for themselves, and I'm not trying to shame anyone into feeling like they're not a 'good enough' feminist by purchasing these pieces of high street clothing. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you're going to buy the T-shirt, make sure you buy the message too. 

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