5 reasons Mr Tonkin is Clueless: Feminism and a Surprising Discovery

Well I am livid.

My two favourite publications/newspapers to read are The i paper, (the Independent’s sister paper) and Elle, a fashion magazine I have coveted for nigh on 15 years now. I respect and love both for evidently different reasons. Imagine how surprised I was when the two, very different publications, collided  this morning, via an article in the i.

This good for nothing guy called Boyd Tonkin wrote a piece titled “The only thing this looks like is slick marketing”. Basically, he slams Elle, along with a celeb-endorsed jumper and T-shirt range, from Whistles, that they are promoting in their feminism issue this month, which both bear the slogan: “This is what a feminist looks like”.

Image of the jumper: from The Fawcett Society website. On sale at Whistles.

Image of the jumper: from The Fawcett Society website. On sale at Whistles.

Boyd critically slams the manoeuvre by Elle to promote this range, and dismisses the jumper/shirt itself as a marketing strategy on behalf of the magazine. He says:

By the way, this T-shirt campaign stems not from some grassroots action for gender equality but the promotion of a special issue by the fashion and lifestyle title Elle. Although the garment comes from the Fawcett Society, its revival forms part of a magazine marketing strategy.

This infuriated me instantly, and I have numerous important issues with this statement, and the article as a whole:

  1. If he had bothered to do his research he would have discovered, via the Fawcett Society website, that they approached Elle not the other way around; they wanted to revive the tradition of using fashion to promote political campaigns and retake the ‘f-word’, as was done in the 1980s with similar messages. The Fawcett Society wanted to promote this revival and needed some help from the fashion world, some oomph, to do so. Hence they approached Elle, who then aided them to approach Whistles.
  2. Elle is massively influential when it comes to feminist issues, and has campaigned for female equality for longer than the preparation required for this one issue. Never-mind the fact that if he had read the issue then he would quickly see how many empowered, smart, passionate women contributed to this spectacular edition; he would see how inspiring their words are, and how much they care about this as a real political issue. Boyd Tonkin’s words dismiss all that as being part of a ‘slick marketing strategy’ on behalf of a women’s fashion magazine. He gives no credence to the women who write and edit this magazine – it disgusts me. Just because they edit and write for a fashion magazine does not mean that their political views, and smart passionate opinions, don’t count for a hell of lot more than what his do.
  3. The Fawcett Society is completely disregarded in his piece – except the lone statement I reproduced above. He doesn’t even mention that they are a registered charity – they could be a god-damn retail group for all his statement reads! In fact, they are the UK’s leading charity for women’s equality and rights, and have been around since 1866; its founder Millicent Fawcett was hugely influential in the suffragette movement, she worked extremely hard to gain votes for women. Since then the society have continued to campaign tirelessly for women’s rights, and still do to this day. They deserve buckets more respect that the disregard given by Mr Tonkin here.
  4. Using fashion to promote, or discuss, feminism has its own history. In the 1980s fashion T-shirts were used, with great success, to promote political feminist issues; not unlike what was done in the 1960s with bras and mini skirts, and by the suffragettes with their purple sashes. Fashion is a powerful female tool that can aid women show their prowess. Yes it can degrade women. Yes it has its problems. Often the fashion and beauty realm shows itself to be shallow and vain; when it comes to the size of the models and clothes paraded down catwalks, for instance. However, it can undeniably leave a distinct mark on culture, and has aided revolutions and rebellions of all magnitudes. From punk wear in the 1980s, to how women wear their hijab in Iran, to Lady Godiva’s legendary nakedness; clothes can bring a powerful message to a wide section of society. To spurn such a powerful feminist message as this one simply because of its relation to fashion is a foolish and ignorant thing to do.
  5. Here’s the real kicker – this really makes me laugh. Mr Tonkin spends a good 3 paragraphs speaking about the Yarl’s Wood ‘immigrant removal’ centre in Bedfordshire, and the abuse to women that goes on there, concluding that our money would be better spent going to the Women for Refugee Women charity instead. Not wasted promoting a a silly magazine right?


100% of the profits of this jumper go to the Fawcett society.

The Fawcett Society is part of the End Violence Against Women’s Coalition; they spend money and resources campaigning for domestic violence issues, and the like, as part of this coalition.

Guess who else is part of this coalition?


Women for Refugee Women.

If you had stopped crucifying Elle on the cross of shallow female vanity for one minute, Mr Tonkin, then you may have done the five minutes worth of research I did that told me my money would go to the same place.


Clearly, Mr Tonkin, you did not do any research before criticising this campaign.

You didn’t read the very magazine edition that you were attacking so vehemently, you didn’t research the charity wherein the profits for the jumper actually go, you didn’t mention anything relevant to the issues at stake here whatsoever, nor anything about the power of this message and Elle’s tenacious crusade to get men to stand up for feminism.

Clearly you are not one of the courageous intelligent men that will listen and respond to Elle or the Fawcett Society. That is fine – we can’t sway everybody. Though I must say that it disappoints me to read this kind of bigoted opinion in the forward-thinking, objective, independent newspaper, which I respect dearly.

But please, at the very least, if you are going to throw water on our fire; pay heed to what we’re burning and who is helping us fan the flames.

2 responses to “5 reasons Mr Tonkin is Clueless: Feminism and a Surprising Discovery

  1. Pingback: Please Stop Bashing the Feminism T-shirt: It’s for Charity! | Abstractions of Life·

  2. Pingback: Taking the Path of Most Resistance: Why Am I a Feminist? | Abstractions of Life·

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