What Happens When A Feminist Clothing Company Faces Backlash From Feminists
The Philadelphia-based clothing company Feminist Apparel has become the focus of a negative online campaign in recent days.
Feminist Apparel is an online clothing store that specializes in T-shirts with pro-feminist slogans.
Feminist organizations such as Hollaback! have also collaborated with Feminist Apparel on T-shirts, and received all proceeds from the collaborations.
The website Feministing, which originally had plans to work with Feminist Apparel, cut all ties with the company and did not accept money raised on its behalf.
Recently, Twitter users have expressed their disapproval of the brand via the hashtag #NotBuyingFA.
The hashtag emerged from private conversations between Patricia Valoy, Dior Vargas, Kat Lazo, Melissa A. Fabello, and Raquel Reichard, who said they thought many of Feminist Apparel's designs and slogans seemed familiar.
"I was contacted by Feminist Apparel back in February to act as a brand ambassador. I was elated to see Etsy designer and high school friend Mandy Caruso's original design on their site. Unfortunately, when I asked how they knew of Mandy, they had no clue who she was. This was the first red flag," Lazo told BuzzFeed via email.
Other Twitter users such as Mikki Kendall, who started the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag, have also used #NotBuyingFA to express their criticisms. "Some of the slogans struck me as familiar, but from Tumblr, not from these T-shirts. I didn't feel comfortable with the business model."
Beyond that, the creators of the hashtag have serious issues with how the founder of the company, Alan Martofel, runs his business.
Critics also said the company's motto doesn't grapple with intersectional feminism.
"I think that the issue with Feminist Apparel is that it dove into feminism without actually understanding feminism, especially from an intersectional standpoint," said Fabello. "Alan's feminism is in its infancy and hasn't developed the complexity necessary to actually practice what he's preaching. Can that be fixed? Sure. Probably. But that's about Alan doing the internal work necessary to make that happen."
Alan Martofel told BuzzFeed via email: "I didn't know about feminism until 18 months ago and when I got through the common misconceptions that are put out there, I became an impassioned ally and I wanted to create something that could create a dent in the issues we listed in the previous email, as opposed to a one-time donation to the Feminist Majority or whatnot."
Alan Martofel said he's working on making changes to his business model, but also feels that criticism is inevitable.
"We clearly don't like hearing that we're not being a good representative of feminism and we value everyone who takes the time to formulate an opinion or criticism about our project. We need that criticism. So we'd just like to thank everyone for their thoughts. Our team is discussing best practices moving forward. We just launched the website six months ago and we're constantly evolving and discuss the best way forward. Being that we are a for-profit company, we do expect criticism going forward by our attempt to merge feminism and capitalism. There will be bumps in the road, and there will be people who are just never happy about that,” he said.
This story has been changed to reflect that Feministing did not receive money from a collaboration with Feminist Apparel.