The commercialisation of feminism is not really helping


When well-known companies release products with feminism-related images or quotes, they place themselves as advocates of the movement. And this is where hypocrisy enters the picture: countless companies have been accused of profiting from gender equality movements, while simultaneously underpaying their employees, many of whom are young women or girls.

It’s ironic that the major threat to feminism’s survival isn’t radical conservatives on the other side of the political spectrum, but the very troops who march under its banners.

‘’GIRLPOWER’’ phone cases or ‘the future is female‘’ quotes on T-shirts will not fight sexism, physical and psychological abuse. These clothes are typically sold with a small tag tucked in the side stating the shirt’s origin: Made in Bangladesh. Made in Sri-Lanka. This grotesque irony of earnest self-branding and its factory reality epitomises the current state of mainstream feminism: working purely for the benefit of capitalism.

Feminism is frequently used as a marketing technique, addressing the question of whether companies can declare a feminist position even if they do not take action in the fight for equality. Are these “feminism goods” contributing to the world in ways other than making money for large corporations?

Magazines, particularly those focused on women, encourage their readers to ‘love their body’ and also to ‘slay those acne scars, girl!’; body positivity and identity politics are key elements of fourth wave feminism. However, the majority of their revenue is generated by portraying advertisements featuring heavily photoshopped, usually white, and almost always able-bodied cisgender models.

For instance, it is understandable that Barbie is now inspiring young girls to pursue careers such as surgeons, engineers and lawyers, however the truth of Mattel’s Chinese factories and their primarily working-class female workforce is a far cry from the feminist future so glibly accepted and adverised by their Western marketing team.

Retailers produce a message of empowerment to women whilst still exploiting their female employees. Even though the brands’ objectives are frequently well received, the statement would have meant a lot more if the products were not made by women in poor working conditions.

Is it actually feminism when money takes precedence over creating a more equal society?

Despite some valid criticism, corporations do contribute to the cause of feminism in certain aspects. The term “feminism” has not always been regarded positively. Even nowadays, there are some concerns with the term’s preconception.

When well-known brands embrace the concept of feminism and create well-received products, they can help to boost the concept’s popularity. Major chains are often problematic, but they have the ability to do something that no one else can: vocalise social issues and make feminism more fashionable.

Using simplistic declarations like “women are people” in slogans and marketplace feminism gives the impression that feminism only seeks gender equality by accomplishing these vague catch phrases.

In real life, feminism addresses beneath the surface challenges such as paradigms about women, regulations concerning their autonomy, and educational opportunities. Because it is more difficult to promote a cool slogan on a shirt than it is to face the efforts required to achieve gender equality, the actual objectives of the political movement are neglected.

The fight for gender equality will almost certainly not be won simply by fast fashion companies launching a feminism-themed marketing strategy.

Who benefits from ‘empowering’ or ‘feminist’ items, if not typically white, wealthy male business owners? And who suffers as a result of this Western hipsterism of feminism if not those who need it the most: the millions of women around the world who work long hours in inhumane sweatshops, disadvantaged and quickly overlooked?

It is favourable to the movement that it is acceptable to identify as a feminist, but when the commercialization of the movement directly contradicts its intersectionality, it is evident that we are choosing appearance over action. Hopefully, in the future, feminism will be fashionable without being hypocritical, so that big brands match their actions to their feminist-related marchandise.

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