Lately, celebrities and celebrity politicians have been showing up in Elle Magazine UK and elsewhere sporting “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” scrawled across their chests and handbags to showcase their noble commitment to the cause of female equality worldwide. Everyone from noted spokesperson for all women Lena Dunham to my former imaginary boyfriend Benedict Cumberbatch to UK Labour Party leader Ed Milliband has turned up with the branded products which support The Fawcett Society, an “equality campaigning group” that ostensibly supports the plight of women worldwide.
For a mere $75, anyone can assuage their first world guilt and pay lip service to the organization’s stated political goals, without having to ever get hands on for the cause.
It turns out, the self-described feminists might actually be supporting the oppression of women by donning their equality-promoting attire. According to a story in the UK Daily Mail, the shirts are made by female sweatshop workers on an island in the Indian Ocean, who make a measly $.99 an hour. The women live 16 to a room in factory housing, and would have to work a week and a half to afford the tee shirt they produce for Hollywood’s elite feminists.
The shirts have been worn by Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman, all keen to display their feminist credentials – even though the Deputy Prime Minister last night admitted he had ‘no idea’ where the garments were made.
But The Mail on Sunday has toured a factory producing the T-shirts, where workers earn just 6,000 rupees a month – equivalent to £120.
The figure is just a quarter of the country’s average monthly wage, and around half of what a waiter earns. Each ‘feminist’ T-shirt costs just £9 to make, but high street chain Whistles sells them for £45 each – a figure it would take the women a week and a half to earn.
At one factory visited by The Mail on Sunday, a female worker told us: ‘How can this T-shirt be a symbol of feminism when we do not see ourselves as feminists? We see ourselves as trapped.’
The women are reportedly on four-year contracts with the factories, which offer them more than they would be able to make off the island. They live away from their homes and families, in 20 square foot boarding rooms, which they share with 15 other females working in the same conditions. According to factory workers the Daily Mail interviewed, the women are expected to work in the factory up to 12 hours a day, making tee shirts that the company sells to clients that include Topshop, Urban Outfitters and, of course, the shop Whistles, which is selling the shirts to their in-store customers for the Fawcett Society, and through the Elle UK website, which, hilariously, says the shirts are part of an “ethically produced” line.
The Fawcett Society says they’re “investigating” the source of their tee shirts. They also say, though, that they’re committed to ending the “gender-pay gap” which they say means that women earn about $8,000.00 per year less than men. If you take into account the women they’re putting to work, I bet that figure would tank. The current minimum wage in the UK, which the Fawcett Society says it wants raised, is just over $10 per hour. That’s ten times what their chosen “ethical” retailer pays the women who make the shirts that support their equal pay campaign.
So, to recap, a bunch of UK feminists have absolutely no idea what they’re doing and are probably facilitating the oppression of women who aren’t able to afford their tee shirts, and American and British “feminists” are complicit, as they were more concerned with public appearances than actual work.
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