Last month, ‘The Guardian’ posted an article online titled ‘Do your clothes pass the feminist test?’ by Caroline Criado-Perez. The article states that for your clothes to pass this test they must be affordable, environmentally friendly, not advertised with the beauty standards of Elle and sensitive to the terrible working conditions that some companies employ. These are indeed important issues and if your clothes are sensitive to all these aspects of the world, well done you! But the problem with this article is that once again feminists are being pushed into a stereotype. It’s bad enough that we already have outside sources doing this to us.
Even from the early stages of feminism, suffragettes were claimed to be ugly old spinsters, but now the description of a ‘feminist’ is coming from ourselves. The worst part of the article is the ending line. Criado-Perez states that ‘without these four points, that “feminist” tag on your T-shirt is little more than a bad-taste joke’. Funny how there are hundreds of feminist activists that do not abide by this description isn’t it? Indeed Emma Watson, a UN Goodwill ambassador, doesn’t exactly fit the article’s so-called description of a feminist, yet she is.
On the other side of the spectrum we have Polly Vernon’s self-indulgent book ‘Hot Feminist’. Vernon has felt the need to define herself as a ‘hot feminist’ rather than someone who is merely not interested in fashion. There are so many problems with this; it’s hard to distinguish them. The first being that the rest of us are assumed to be unattractive, second that we are still defined by our looks, and third that feminism is exclusive to women. Vernon writes as if she speaks for the whole of feminism. She claims that she has been victimised for being fashionable and a feminist, and that people claim she’s not a real feminist because she likes ‘Prada’. Vernon goes on to state that it is okay to be a feminist and care about your looks; who knew?
As ridiculous and unnecessary as this book is, Polly Vernon is a feminist for the same reason that this book didn’t need to exist. At the end of the day if you believe that there should be complete equality between the sexes (as the author obviously does), then you are a feminist. Simple. It doesn’t matter whether you cover yourself in ‘Chanel’ or enjoy wearing slacks. If all your clothes are environmentally friendly or not, care deeply about your looks or not, if you’re young or old, black or white, male or female, it does not matter as long as you believe in equality. Maybe if we stopped stereotyping ourselves and our movement then the world would see that feminism is for everyone. That’s what the ‘This is what a Feminist looks like’ t-shirt is about, it’s about destroying those bra burning ideas and making people realise that, as feminists, we don’t look a certain way and we don’t follow a certain set of rules that define every aspect of our lives.
Words: Elena Hatfield