Don’t forget the past of ‘The Future is Female’
Feminism is in fashion.
With the increased scrutiny of the gender pay gap, the revealing of horrifically prolific sexual harassment in the entertainment and most other industries, the worldwide Women’s Marches and most recently, the 100 year anniversary of women getting the vote, feminism and women’s rights are very much in the spotlight at the moment. This trend is being increasingly reflected in consumer goods and fashion is no exception.
Initially, this article sought to question this trend. A friend pointed out just how hypocritical it is that high fashion brands should capitalise on feminism when there are concerns about matters such as how many women sit on their boards, the possibility that there is a gender pay gap amongst their payrolls, and the ways in which women may be exploited and disempowered in the manufacturing of these 'feminist' garments. However, whilst researching, I instead stumbled across the story and roots of the now famous ‘The Future is Female’ t-shirt.
As The New York Timesreports, the original ‘The Future is Female’ t-shirt was created for New York City’s first women's bookshop - Labyris Books - and was rediscovered when a photo of a woman wearing the t-shirt, taken by her girlfriend in 1975, found its way onto Instagram. A graphic design studio in LA spotted it and remade the t-shirt, garnering global attention when Cara Delevingne was photographed wearing it. Said design studio, also according to TheTimes, donated some of the proceeds from the sale of the top to Planned Parenthood, a reproductive healthcare nonprofit.
Since then, similar t-shirts and hundreds of other variations of feminist slogans have appeared across t-shirts and jumpers in many of the biggest high street and online brands. Intense debate has swirled, with some arguing that the t-shirts are sexist to men, (a staggering claim when one considers just how many outrageously offensive t-shirts are available for men) and of course the issue of whether it is right for these brands to make money from feminism. Should they not be donating the money to feminist causes?
“A friend pointed out just how hypocritical it is that high fashion brands should capitalise on feminism when there are concerns about matters such as how many women sit on their boards, the possibility that there is a gender pay gap amongst their payrolls, and the ways in which women may be exploited and disempowered in the manufacturing of these 'feminist' garments.”
Given that worries about where the profits go and the ethical manufacturing of these t-shirts are addressed, as they should be, it seems that the presence of the tops on hangers is only a good thing, sending out a strong message, particularly to girls of a young age. But it is also incredibly important that the roots and history are not forgotten, that it is as much about LGBTQ+ rights as women’s rights and, most importantly, that unlike pretty much everything else in fashion, it is a trend that does not pass after a couple of years.
Also see: The Slogan Revolution