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Isyourfeministt-shirtreallymakingadifferenceforwomen?

Equality Now
Equality Now Equality Now
1y International Story
Is your feminist t-shirt really making a difference for women?

The feminist movement has been around for decades. In 1920, the 19th amendment granted “American women” the right to vote (in quotation marks of course, because only white women were able to enjoy that right). Unfortunately, it wasn’t until much later that women of all colors and backgrounds were included in the grand United States democracy equation. 

In 2018, females all over the world are still fighting for gender equality on many different levels and aspects. For example, Saudi Arabia just allowed women the right to drive—a change that will take place this upcoming June. A right that many take for granted is a huge victory for Saudi women. 

Over the past few years, the feminist movement became stronger and gained popularity around the world. With the power of globalization and social media, women’s rights supporters are tirelessly working to spread the gender equality message—and there’s a lot of merchandise in the market to help communicate it. In a world where news and trends travel so quickly, the pressure of getting products out first can get rather messy, especially in the fashion world. 

Remember the historical 2016 presidential election? (Let’s face it, how can anyone forget that?!) Hilary Clinton made history as the democratic presidential nominee, and her heated race against Donald Trump resulted in a lot of remarkable, trendy phrases. When Donald Trump called Hilary Clinton a “nasty woman” in a debate, it was a matter of days before we saw “nasty woman/women” t-shirts and merchandize parading through the streets and the Internet. 

In January of 2017, people all over the world took to the streets participating in the historical “Women’s March” movement, shortly after Donald Trump took the Oval Office. Signs of empowerment and resistance were seen all around the marches, especially amongst the protesters’ clothing and accessories. Phrases such as “Feminist AF,” “The Future is Female,” “We Should all be Feminists” and “Nevertheless, She Persisted” have been seen in t-shirts all around. 

Some of the feminist fashion products sold donates its proceeds to organizations that help women. While many want to spread the feminist message, the majority doesn’t seem concerned with how they are made, let alone with the women making them.

In 2014, Fawcett Society became popular with their “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” tops. Emma Watson—an avid advocate for women’s rights—wore one of their pieces on the cover of ELLE UK’s December 2014 feminist issue. However, the clothing company was soon under fire when a Daily Mail reporter alleged that their products were made in a sweatshop by women who were underpaid, and living under inhumane conditions in Mauritius—with 16 women sleeping cramped in a room.

Let’s not forget the cotton used in the making of those “female empowering” tees—especially since conventional cotton pickers are predominantly women and girls. In a 2011 study in Pakistan from the Bonfring International Journal of Data Mining, Hammad Zafar and Abou Bakar stated that cotton pickers complain of dizziness, muscular pain and suffocation due to pesticides poisoning. Aside from being underpaid compared to male workers, thousands of female workers become victim of various health hazards due to poor environmental management system, and lack of information.

Pesticides have also been linked with leukemia, lymphoma, cancers of the breast and ovaries amongst female cotton pickers. According to the same study, cotton pickers hardly get any medical treatment and receive little-to-no information on the side-effects of pesticides compared to male cotton pickers. Many women still work during their pregnancy to help sustain her family. With that, cases of miscarriages, stillbirths and delayed pregnancy have also been linked with the use of chemicals and pesticides in cotton farms.

For those who care about where their feminist t-shirts – and all clothing – comes from, choosing brands that are transparent while following high social, labor and ecological standards might be the way to go.

In 2016, fashion designer Henriette Ernst created a conscious fashion brand in support of gender equality. Ernst used over 20 years of international experience in design and branding and started ROUND + SQUARE, a brand that does much more than just good-looking fashion products, taking the term “feminist fashion” to another level.

ROUND + SQUARE t-shirts are made with 100% organic cotton with the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) certification, which guarantees strict environmental and social criteria on all steps during the production process – from the field to the final product. Hazardous pesticides and toxic chemicals are banned, and no forced or child labor is allowed.

Besides being responsibly produced, ROUND + SQUARE products carry messages that empower women and girls, promoting gender equality. Ernst said that it all started when she was walking her dog Mickey by the Hudson River, accompanied by Equality Now’s Global Executive Director, Yasmeen Hassan. The non-profit organization advocates for women and girls around the world. Ernst was inspired by the organization’s work and by the heartbreaking stories Hassan shared that summer day.

“ROUND + SQUARE is the first fashion brand dedicated to furthering the rights of women. Henriette Ernst has an immense vision that the fashion industry (overwhelmingly patronized by women) should give back to the empowerment of women,” Hassan said.

The fashion brand’s famous #IWEARCAUSEICARE hashtag is not taken lightly. ROUND + SQUARE donates 30% of its sales profits to Equality Now.

 “As a designer, I design everything with passion. And as an entrepreneur, I am driven by values,” Ernst said.

“Only lawyers can change the laws to help women and girls achieve the same rights of men and boys,” she said. “I am not a lawyer, but I can make a difference and use my passion and the experience to design something meaningful. A value-driven approach to fashion can make a difference and make the world a better place for women and girls, one product at a time,” Ernst added.

This weekend, hundreds of thousands of women marched once again in the anniversary of the Women’s March. As we speak out against gender inequality, it’s important to consider the rights and well-being of the females involved in making your feminist t-shirts.

By ROUND + SQUARE


2 replies

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  • Leah 94
    1y ago

    I learned a lot from reading this. @Equality Now do you think the #MeToo movement will be something that lasts? At least the impact of it in Hollywood?

    I learned a lot from reading this. @Equality Now do you think the #MeToo movement will be something that lasts? At least the impact of it in Hollywood?

    • Equality Now
      Equality Now Equality Now
      1y ago International

      Hi Leah,


      For years, women’s rights organizations have worked to change the national narrative around violence against women and girls. The Women’s March, #MeToo and TimesUp represent a historic period in the women’s rights movement. It’s vital that we turn the energy and commitment for change into real, tangible outcomes. 

      Denying equal rights to women and girls promotes an environment where it is acceptable to treat them as lesser and fosters a breeding ground for gender based violence. Living a life free from violence is a basic human right and an integral part of ensuring equality. 

      It is vital that we protect the hard-won rights of women already enshrined in law and continue to make advances that will lead to a more equal society. We also need to see the introduction of well-designed legislation that addresses the problem of gender based violence and discrimination holistically. 

      That includes tackling discrimination and under-representation more effectively by listening to what women and girls have to say, supporting women in the workplace, endorsing equal pay, and promoting more women into positions of leadership.

      In tandem, there needs to be a shift in culture so that violence, abuse and discrimination against women and girls is never viewed as acceptable or inevitable. 

      We hope this is a watershed moment instigating a profound transformation in the way that society deals with sexual harassment and sexual assault, both within the entertainment industry and elsewhere.

      Equality Now promotes everyday activism. We encourage you to speak on these issues with your friends, families and co-workers. Vote to support candidates that support laws that protect women’s rights and fight against backtracking on hard won gains.

      In solidarity,

      Equality Now

      Hi Leah,


      For years, women’s rights organizations have worked to change the national narrative around violence against women and girls. The Women’s March, #MeToo and TimesUp represent a historic period in the women’s rights movement. It’s vital that we turn the energy and commitment for change into real, tangible outcomes. 

      Denying equal rights to women and girls promotes an environment where it is acceptable to treat them as lesser and fosters a breeding ground for gender based violence. Living a life free from violence is a basic human right and an integral part of ensuring equality. 

      It is vital that we protect the hard-won rights of women already enshrined in law and continue to make advances that will lead to a more equal society. We also need to see the introduction of well-designed legislation that addresses the problem of gender based violence and discrimination holistically. 

      That includes tackling discrimination and under-representation more effectively by listening to what women and girls have to say, supporting women in the workplace, endorsing equal pay, and promoting more women into positions of leadership.

      In tandem, there needs to be a shift in culture so that violence, abuse and discrimination against women and girls is never viewed as acceptable or inevitable. 

      We hope this is a watershed moment instigating a profound transformation in the way that society deals with sexual harassment and sexual assault, both within the entertainment industry and elsewhere.

      Equality Now promotes everyday activism. We encourage you to speak on these issues with your friends, families and co-workers. Vote to support candidates that support laws that protect women’s rights and fight against backtracking on hard won gains.

      In solidarity,

      Equality Now


Equality Now
Equality Now

Equality Now was founded in 1992 with the mission of using legal advocacy to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls. For more than 25 years, we have been using the law to create a just world for women and girls. By directing global public and media attention on individual cases [...]

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