Feminism for Profit

In the light of International Women’s Day, many brands are showing their support of the global holiday by posting catchy slogans on their social media or even donating to charities aimed at empowering women. 

One of these brands includes the fast-fashion label, Fashion Nova. They are seen to be selling a “woman warrior top” that displays empowering phrases and posting “empowered women empower women” on their Instagram feed. However, their products and brand image seems to display a false message when it comes to the garment workers who actually produce their garments. In the past, Fashion Nova has been repeatedly found guilty of illegally paying their workers wages as low as $2.77 an hour. One of their previous garment workers described working conditions as “not good,” with cockroach and rat infestations. 

Fashion Nova is only one example of a brand using female empowerment as a publicity stunt. This is actually very common as brands market themselves to fit social trends in an attempt to hide their exploitative practices. 

Did you know International Women’s Day was actually created in honor of garment workers protesting for labor rights in 1908? This is still an ongoing issue with child labor and forced labor included in the discussion. 

Many brands claim they comply with minimum wage laws, but what many people don’t know is that minimum wage is completely different than a living wage, especially in foreign countries. For example, in Bangladesh, a popular country for fast fashion companies to produce clothing, the monthly minimum wage is 8,000 Tk or $95 USD. Child labor is also very common with over 168 million children forced to work and young girls are often sent away to work to pay for their dowry. Approximately 80% of garment workers are women, so it’s an insult how fashion brands are preaching female empowerment, yet can’t support the women that produce their clothing. 

Brands are presenting themselves as progressive which has coined the term “woke washing” by advocating for trending causes for a profit but still causing harm with their actions. 

International Women’s Day is more than a day for fashion companies to produce an “everybody should be a feminist” t-shirt. From the cotton farmers producing the fibers, to garment workers constructing the clothing, fashion is a feminist issue that needs to be addressed. We must hold brands accountable because a post on Instagram supporting girls or a shirt displaying the female sign is not going to lead to change.