You don’t have to wear a t-shirt to be a feminist

feminist tshirt

David Cameron is under fire for not donning a t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘This is what a feminist looks like.’ Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband both obliged when Elle magazine asked the politicians to wear the t-shirt, which makes the Prime Minister look even worse.

This act of defiance is sure to cause some rumblings, especially among female voters. Lorraine Candy, editor-in-chief of Elle, said: “This is a shame on so many levels, especially given he knew Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband had agreed without hesitation, alongside many other influential men who were more than happy to call themselves feminists. It seems the prime minister still has an issue with the word feminist.”

But does wearing a t-shirt really make you a feminist? I don’t think so. Yes, it is good to raise awareness, but promoting a t-shirt, which costs £45, donned by politicians and actors (Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston have also been pictured in the top) isn’t going to make people sit up and listen much more than Emma Watson’s #HeForShe campaign (Sorry Emma, you get points for effort though).

Honestly, I think this campaign is in danger of becoming a fashion statement. It’s one thing to wear a slogan t-shirt, it’s another to actually live up to what is emblazoned on your chest. Nina Nesbitt song lyrics come to mind: “He’s got a Rolling Stones tee, but he only knows one song.” Wearing a band t-shirt doesn’t make you a hardcore fan. Wearing a feminist t-shirt doesn’t make you an actual feminist.

The campaign isn’t even an original idea. A t-shirt with the same slogan was previously sold (at a much more reasonable price of £15) by Fawcett, the UK’s leading charity for women’s equality. This society campaigned for a parliamentary women’s vote. Rather than literally dressing politicians up to look like feminists, more could be done to encourage voting and giving women a voice in parliament.

There have only been 370 female MPs in the House of Commons since the first was elected in 1918. Let’s hope that instead of wearing a t-shirt, Cameron will turn his attention to the 48 women in the Conservative Party who currently sit in the House of Commons (out of 302 Tories).

In fact, in terms of how well women are represented in parliament, the UK ranks 63rd in the world, which is pretty appalling. According to the World Economic Forum, the UK ranks 26th in the world in terms of pay equality: behind Nicaragua, Bulgaria and the Philippines. This is appalling for such a progressive country.

Now, Harriet Harman has shunned her usual power suit for a ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirt. It was pretty much a big f-you to Cameron as she sat opposite him at Prime Minister’s Questions. And it did cause a stir. But, hey, we all know Harman is a feminist. It wasn’t really the great feminist political statement we’d all been waiting for.

So rather than worrying whether our PM is wearing a slogan t-shirt or not, we should really be looking at the policies his party is passing through government and who is making these policies. When women are able to speak up and be taken seriously in the House of Commons, then we will know what a feminist really looks like.

P.S. – It now turns out that the t-shirts were being made in a sweat shop where staff were paid as little as 62p an hour. It’s bad enough when Primark do this for £3 t-shirts, let alone a charity selling them for an extortionate £45 each. If you’re going to make a point about equality, at least pay the manufacturers fairly. #ironic

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