This post is being written as a follow-on from yesterdays (5 Reasons Mr Tonkin is Clueless). This is necessary as more shocking news came to light today regarding my F-word T-shirts, and this meant that I could not leave my previous post to stand alone; it simply would not be valid unless I answered today’s revelations.
I should give you a run down of what has happened overnight to initiate such a need for immediate defence on my behalf. Well. You remember my words about the fashion industry in yesterdays post:
Yes it can degrade women. Yes it has its problems.
Oh how unwittingly right I was.
The Daily Mail has seemingly put all its efforts into slandering the Tshirts/Jumpers, and has discovered some horrible apparent truths about how these were made. According to a Daily Mail journalist they were made in sweatshops in the Mauritius for 62p an hour while the machinists sleep 16 to a room.
The news saddened me. Really saddened me. For a tiny moment I nearly lost my faith in the whole state-of-affairs. Then reality and logic kicked in, and I realised that this did not alter my opinion. In fact it strengthened it.
(It didn’t help that all media channels today were on high-attack mode – quick to dig their teeth in and rip the flesh from an open wound.)
There are a fair few corners I need to cover in my answer, but firstly; let me explain why I do not blame the Fawcett Society, or this T-shirt, for this horror should it be true:
- Who really believes that the Fawcett Society knew about this? Of course they didn’t. They devote themselves to women’s rights across the world, this would be rather counter productive given the machinists were women, don’t you think?
- Can they go back and undo it? No. They state on their website that they trusted Whistles, and gave due diligence in proceedings regarding an ethical manufacturing of the clothing. Sure they didn’t prevent something that maybe they could have, or should have, but ultimately they cannot now turn back time. They cannot now change the events.
- I’m not saying don’t investigate it, Whistles should obviously be held responsible if this is all true, but still; the Daily Mail sold out a charity for a story, and for readers. They could have passed The Fawcett Society the information privately and waited for the outcome of the investigation to publish it. I realise Journalism is occasionally slanderous, I want to be a Journalist after all; but there is a story and then there are moral standards. All this revelation succeeded in doing was hurting the name, and profits, of a good charity whose work is vital to females past, present and future.
So there. They are my basics reasons. Watching The Andrew Marr show this morning enflamed my anger even more so, cementing my bond to this campaign. I respect Andrew Marr – he is a fantastic presenter and interviewer. But even he asked, about the T-shirt:
Do we know what happens to the profits? (Or something similar)
No-one even answered him. The media bodies on his sofa simply continued to slander the T-shirts; saying how the politicians who proudly wore theirs this week had taken part in a bad photo-op. That is all they kept saying. That this was a photo-op for politicians, and a bad one; it had been done too many times before, they said.
Does no-one else see that the media are entirely missing the point to all this? These shirts were not created as a photo opportunity for politicians. They were created with love, with a powerful message, and with a hope to revive a cause that is ever-relevant in today’s society. This mishap only heightens our awareness of this fact – of how much more needs to be done. In fact the money from these shirts, had they still been on sale, would have gone to issues such as this.
Does no-one see that the Fawcett Society were trying to bring feminism forward as something cool, something to stand up for? A brand? Not unlike what Help for Heroes have done recently – no-one criticised David Cameron for wearing a ‘friend of Help for Heroes’ band whilst speaking in public. Of course not.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Help for Heroes. I work in one of their stores. Thus, I see similarities in what the Fawcett Society are attempting to do here. But there is a major difference. Help for Heroes is a macho thing to support – its all about the ‘blokes’ (that is a gender neutral military-esque term H4H use to describe anyone injured, male or female). Hence people will proudly flock to buy into their brand of clothing – it is a worthy cause after all.
Feminism however is not an issue to stand up for is it? It’s a silly girls thing, and these shirts can be dismissed as such. Apparently. Asking for help from the fashion industry, retailers and magazines, has been The Fawcett Society’s downfall hasn’t it? Combine a message about feminism with the fashion industry and no one will take you seriously. In fact they will attempt to take you down.
Anonymously too, as hardly anyone even mentioned The Fawcett Society to start with. Even now. Amongst all this hype. I havent heard or read an attempt by anyone to expalin what The Fawcett Society actually do, or have done, for women everywhere.
I feel like I stand alone in my defence of this charity. The media and the politicians have abandoned the issue; either leaving it to burn whilst making a quick escape, or throwing petrol on the flames from afar.
Today I tried to keep my perspective on the issue at hand, and spent my lunch break in House of Fraser; searching for the T-shirt. I didn’t find it. It had already been taken away. The manager nicely showed me the letter Whistles stores had received regarding its removal. All the usual stuff – about their ethical standards etc. Whistles, and The Fawcett Society, reacted instantly it would seem. An honourable thing to do? I thought so. A shame though. I couldn’t give them my money.
Instead I went online and became a member of the Fawcett Society, setting up a direct debit to give regularly. They are going to send me their own, old, version of the T-shirt, with the same slogan. I still want the other one, or maybe the jumper, but I shall have to wait until all this clears up I guess.
At least I did my bit for the poor charity who tried to revitalise something damn-good, something that should be ever present in every female’s, and many males, political thoughts and ramblings, and in their everyday lives. I only hope that the papers involved in this debacle (The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday!!) feel some manner of guilt for what they have done, and make some concerted effort to refocus attention on the amazing work undertaken by The Fawcett Society; and on their powerful statement of incitement to the world…
This is what a feminist looks like.
What a simple message. Such a shame that it has been waylaid under all this destruction.