Here are a few local womxn-led businesses to support whether it's womxn's month or not
By Marli Grobbelaar
Does it count as womxn's empowerment if none of the profits made from your purchase actually goes to improving the lives of womxn?
Some might refer to this sudden purge in 'women empowerment' merchandise as Marketplace feminism, which in most simple terms is when the feminist movement gets commodified.
Although having feminism merge with popular culture can have many benefits, especially when it comes to raising awareness, it's important that we fully understand how where we're buying our slogan Tee's influences the womxn's empowerment movement. Feminism seems to be trending and as Andi Zeisler mentioned in her book We were feminists once "It involves picking and choosing and taking on the parts of the ideology or practice that appeal to you and then ignoring those that don't."
Which begs the question, how do we know if a company is truly feminist or just trying to sell us the myth of empowerment disguised as a branded Tee?
We spoke to three local brands empowering womxn to better understand how fashion brands can embody a feminist message and ultimately empower womxn.
FEMME Projects, which stands for Freedom of Education Motivates Empowerment, is far more than just another trendy 'branded' feminist T-shirt company, and is making serious strides in highlighting the importance of empowering womxn in rural communities. The non-profit organization, advocating access to menstrual and sexual health education, facilitates workshops that they describe as a feminist approach to gender and sexual education.
Most recently they collaborated with Joburg based artist Lady Skollie to create their new Cycles Campaign focussing on sharing menstrual experiences and breaking the stigma around talking about your menstrual cycle. Lady Skollie designed an exclusive T-shirt for this campaign celebrating the Vulva (also available as a cotton panty!) which embodies much of what FEMME projects stands – that it's ok to talk about your body and to seek answers about your reproductive system, your sexuality and your life.
Can the retail industry empower women, if so how?
"We believe the retail industry can empower gender marginalised (women, trans, non binaries, etc.) people in terms of marketing and message. This is what we have tried in our T-shirt campaigns, the people we collaborate with and the images we use. It really depends on the narrative, who is telling the story that is supposed to empower us, how is it being told and who is getting paid to represent these narratives? Of course we can go further and say that the retail and/or fashion industry by and large cannot claim empowerment when the people making the items and/or materials that items are made out of are exploited on a daily basis. The issue is deeply layered and complicated." - FEMME Projects
By supporting the project we are able to make Feminism more than just a fashion trend, and by wearing their Vulva Print Tee you're not only raising awareness and supporting a local artist, but you'll be making an active contribution in helping to sponsor educational programs. Head over to the FEMME Projects Instagram page for more info on purchasing their Tees.
Koeksuster is a self-proclaimed feminist intimates and sleepwear brand, promoting social change and the message that you can be of any size, colour or sexual orientation and still wear beautiful lingerie, purely for yourself.
Koeksuster hopes to advocate for a more inviting feminism, where we're allowed to be ourselves, and learn at our own pace. The brand believes that it's important to be mindful about the messages we advocate for through fashion and hopes to encourage womxn to join their feminist point of view by raising awareness via quirky screen printed Tees. The range of illustrations are accompanied with slogans like; 'pandas against the patriarchy', 'pizza rolls not gender roles' and 'cats against cat-calls'. And if you're tired of the slogan Tee you can also look into their collection of body positive lingerie.
Can a company be feminist, if so what makes a company feminist?
"Traditionally Feminism as a movement is opposed to the concept of Capitalism so when investigating whether a company is Feminist it can become complicated. So while whether a company can be feminist might still be up for debate, I do believe that it's possible to run a company that prioritises feminist beliefs. This means keeping feminism in mind when making decisions, who am I hiring and why, where do I source my materials from and why. There's no point in empowering one group of womxn while neglecting another. So I think running a feminist company goes hand in hand with that of running an ethical company. I think we forget that as consumers we hold a lot of power and that we have the ability to ask questions to the companies we are supporting. We need to demand transparency from companies to see whether they practice the feminism that they preach." - Koeksuster
You can view Koeksuster's products online at koeksusterintimates.com or buy their screen-printed Tee's in stores at Fabricate Cape Town.
With T-shirt slogans such as; 'no means no', 'tr(eat) me better' and 'not wearing this for you', C(lit) clothing is unapologetically feminist and fiercely millennial. The brand started out selling feisty T-shirts, bucket hats and caps, and just a year later has expanded into velvet tops and shorts.
Clit clothing uses fashion as a powerful tool for protest, seizing the opportunity where activism and fashion collide in the means of wearable social commentary. Their slogans explore subjects such as consent and sexual empowerment and aim to empower the person wearing the merchandise. Theirs is not only a fresh take on the feminist Tee, but by addressing more controversial subjects they're constantly pushing boundaries with their designs.
Is Feminism trending and is this a bad thing?
"Feminism is definitely on the rise, but to say that it's 'trending' reduces it to 'fad' status, to something that's fickle and doesn't have a long lasting effect. We've seen corporates catching on to merchandise that reflects a feminist theme, which is fuelled by society's interest and engagement with such issues, but this is actually a positive for small local brands such as ourselves as it means that the far reaching influence these corporate brands have naturally drives people to engage with OUR products and our messages, too. The more the public is forced to stare feminism in the face, the better, whether it's from these large corporate companies or small local brands, people need to engage with these issues in society." - C(lit) Clothing
You can visit the C(lit) Clothing team at the Neighbourgoods Market in Cape Town on Saturdays, or check out their products online at clitclothing.co.za.