WOMEN

HuffPost Her Stories: Does Your Feminist T-shirt Actually Support Women’s Causes?

Plus: A female sushi chef overcomes prejudice.
Some companies that sell feminist apparel don't follow woman-friendly business practices.
Some companies that sell feminist apparel don't follow woman-friendly business practices.

Hi, readers!

You’ve seen them (or perhaps even bought them): T-shirts, tote bags and hats proclaiming that you’re a feminist. It may make you feel good to proudly share with the world that you won’t stand for the patriarchy. But does it actually help the cause? Worse yet, could you be unknowingly supporting the very systems you want to dismantle?

That’s what HuffPost U.S. reporter Casey Bond wondered. So, she started investigating the companies that sell such merchandise. And she found a number of companies that have profited from empowering apparel while undermining feminist principles.

One of the most egregious examples is Feminist Apparel. Last year, employees at the company, which has “feminist” in its name and even sells a feminist subscription box, confronted its male CEO after hearing he was an admitted sexual abuser. They encouraged him to resign. Instead, he fired the entire staff without severance.

Other brands have been caught stealing women’s designs and intellectual property, contributing to the gender pay gap, and disproportionately placing men in top-level positions — all while advertising feminist fashions.

So, what’s a woman to do? Not all companies are feminist land mines, and it’s possible to purchase feminist gear from a brand that is in line with the cause. Before making your purchase, Casey recommends doing a bit of research via Google to find out how a company treats its workers, who runs the company, how many women hold leadership positions and whether any proceeds from sales go toward organizations that help women.

Also, keep in mind that buying and wearing merchandise isn’t the most direct way to effect change; sometimes you’re better off taking action. “Donating to a reputable organization or even organizing a fundraising event are definitely effective, as is volunteering your time or skills,” Casey says. “Call or write your local representatives about issues that matter to you. Spend consciously in general, and when possible, support independent women-owned businesses.”

Then you can feel good about sharing your feelings with the world — and acting on them too.

How do you support feminist causes, either through your purchases or your actions? Share your favorite empowering companies and causes.

Thanks for reading,

Follow Casey Bond (@CaseyLynnBond) for more stories about money, home and life topics. And check out some of her other financial stories focused on women: women on Instagram who make personal finance look cool; making marriages with female breadwinners work; and how multilevel marketing companies are a nightmare for women

Yuki Chizui (left) instructs a female colleague.
Yuki Chizui (left) instructs a female colleague.

“Women can’t make real sushi.” This is just one of the retorts Yuki Chizui has heard as a female sushi chef in Tokyo. Amid the male-dominated profession, Yuki’s restaurant, Nadeshiko Sushi, stands out as it employs an all-female team of sushi chefs, reports HuffPost Japan’s Kazuhiro Sekine. Initially, Yuki faced criticism from other chefs, customers and even fish suppliers, but as the restaurant begins its 10th year of operation, it has found a following for its unique atmosphere and the creative designs of its dishes. And Yuki and her team are developing plans to support more female sushi chefs with training and demonstration opportunities. “I want to do what I can to support these women,” she said. “I want to help turn the role of a sushi chef into a lifelong career choice for women, free from discrimination and prejudice.”

New National Health Service figures show the number of women using pain relief — such as gas, injections or an epidural
New National Health Service figures show the number of women using pain relief — such as gas, injections or an epidural — while giving birth in the U.K. has plummeted in the past 10 years.

We don’t encourage people to have a “natural” root canal without pain relief or a “natural” hip replacement, so why, HuffPost U.K.’s Victoria Richards writes, has a “natural” birth become the goal for so many pregnant women? New National Health Service figures show the number of women using pain relief — such as gas, injections or an epidural — while giving birth in the U.K. has plummeted in the past 10 years. It’s a statistic Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at the British Pregnancy Advice Service, warns against celebrating too quickly. She points out that many pregnant women now consider themselves to have “failed” at birth if they require pain relief, even though some women endure long hours of painful labor. Victoria reveals that she initially planned to use pain relief during labor with her daughter. However, after she went to childbirth classes and talked with other pregnant women, she found many were aiming for a “natural” birth and decided that was important to her too — because she wanted to “win.” Her labor and delivery went quickly and relatively smoothly, so she never felt the need for drugs. However, Victoria cautions against promoting the idea of any woman as “failing” because she might prefer or require pain relief during the “frightening and unpredictable” process of childbirth.

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