I’m an avid thrift store shopper but on a recent trip to Hamilton I ventured to a ginormous mall in search of a Totoro (best movie ever!) t-shirt for my eldest daughter. Once said t-shirt was aquired, my girlfriend and I checked out a couple of kids stores, hunting the clearance racks for deals. The entrance to one store had a massive table of girls’ graphic tees. Nestled among the sparkly emojis, bunnies and horses was a “feminist” t-shirt.
I stood at the entrance of the store with my mouth gaping open, staring at the bubblegum pink tee with the word “FEMINIST” written across it in big white sequined letters. I slowly backed out of the store to read the sign and double check that I was in fact in a children’s clothing store. Unfortunately, I was. I started to feel icky. Then uncomfortable. Then mad. Thus ended our shopping trip to the ginormous mall.
As I write this one month later, I’m still angry. It’s never good when I write something in anger so buckle up. I’m going to be very clear.
Feminism is not a fashion choice.
Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. More precisely, “Feminist movements have campaigned and continue to campaign for women’s rights, including the right to vote, to hold public office, to work, to earn fair wages or equal pay, to own property, to receive education, to enter contracts, to have equal rights within marriage, and to have maternity leave. Feminists have also worked to promote bodily autonomy and integrity, and to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence.” Thank you Wikipedia.
Do not confuse consumerism with feminism.
Buying a t-shirt with the word “feminist” on it does not make you a feminist. In fact, depending on where, under what conditions and by whom said t-shirt was made, it might actually make you the complete opposite of a feminist. And here’s an idea, instead of expanding our daughters closets let’s invest in expanding their minds. Let’s teach our daughters about women like American Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) who was a crusader against racial discrimination and gender inequality or Canadian Adelaide Hoodless (1857-1910) who was an educational reformer and founded the Women’s Institute or French philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) who tirelessly criticized the patriarchal system.
There are hundreds of feminists who have changed and shaped the world we live in and we need to continue to tell their stories. There are no shortage of age appropriate children’s books that can educate and empower our girls. But again, buyer beware. Consumerism is equally prevalent in the world of publishing.
I am not an expert on the feminist movement. Not by a long stretch. But I know enough to understand how the work of first, second and third wave feminists have impacted my life and the lives of my daughters. We commit a grave injustice when we confuse a revolutionary movement with consumerism.