Feminist Slogan T-Shirts – A Disillusionment With Feminism?

The eight-letter word – ‘feminist’ – is enough to make anyone produce some involuntary sound. A gasp; a sigh of relief; maybe an awkward cough? Despite decades of development, its definition remains up for debate. The Oxford English Dictionary offers some help; it simply labels a feminist as “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women” – short and sweet. For many, this is not an offensive notion, but it doesn’t stop some from rejecting the word ‘feminist’. In the most part, dismissal is on the grounds of its being inaccessible, confusing or, perhaps, outdated. Therefore, has there come a time when the re-rooting of feminism’s ideals has become necessary?

From this question emerges the ‘Miranda Solidarity’ T-shirt campaign, with Sex and the City’s Miranda Hobbes. By using Miranda, the campaign moves feminism’s definition from the black and white page of a dictionary into the vivacious form of a person (albeit fictional). The strap-line ‘We Should All Be Mirandas’ reminds us that feminism is, for the most part, about simply being there for women.

The very source of this campaign can be traced back to 2012, when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave her TED talk ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. Adichie spoke with warmth and clarity about feminism’s image, accepting it had commandeered airs of man-hating and unhappiness. Adichie concluded that instead, a feminist should be classed as anyone who could admit ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.’ She injected something human and approachable into feminism. A snippet of this TED talk can be heard in the bridge to Beyonce’s song ‘***Flawless’.

“The strap-line ‘We Should All Be Mirandas’ reminds us that feminism is, for the most part, about simply being there for women”

Interest was further stirred when the speech was adopted by the world of fashion. In September 2016, Dior paraded their ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ T-shirts down its Paris fashion week runway. Unfortunately for Adichie, the venture muddled with the friendly, easy-access nature of her speech. This white, cotton garment was listed on Dior’s website with a £490 price-tag. Adding
insult to injury, the tee was available only up to size large; defying the egalitarian phrase it had so proudly brandished on its front. The word ‘feminist’ had been dragged through even more mud. Under Dior’s endorsement, it related to fast-paced ‘trend’ culture, a vapid fad which might fade like a pair of forgotten ‘skinny jeans’ into the deep recesses of our brains.

Jumping a year ahead to September 2017, the phrase was reclaimed from Dior’s tainted grasp. This was actioned by Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni of the @everyoutfitonsatc Instagram page. They launched a new enterprise, ‘We Should All Be Mirandas’ T-shirts. As well as the change of slogan, these tops are available for $32 (around £24) and up to size XXXL. Their Instagram handle makes obvious the choice of Miranda – they only had four Sex and the City leads to choose from – but she has proven to be aspirational.

Throughout the seminal TV series, Miranda deals with many issues faced by real-life women. She gets pregnant unexpectedly; considers terminating the pregnancy; is a successful woman in a male-dominated workplace; contemplates what confidence is in relation to casual sex; deliberates with the non-normative nature of her motherhood. Being inclusive of broader gender issues, she helps Steve with his feelings of emasculation after testicular cancer treatment.

“The battle over the word ‘feminist’ will rage on, and we might find solace identifying with Miranda’s characteristics”

Of course, she is also part of the friendship group the series rotates around: a support structure of people looking out for one another with Carrie, Charlotte and Samantha. Miranda is blunt, honest and unafraid of being flawed. She has the authenticity of a real person which is why she is a suitable embodiment of feminism today. Miranda’s real-life incarnation, Cynthia Nixon, also helps. As an LGBT+ activist, she promotes the fight against the reality of exclusion. This comes in welcome contrast to Sex and the City’s depiction of LGBT+ identity; we all remember Samantha’s lesbian ‘phase’ as well as the lack of people of colour included in the series.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shone invaluable light on gender in the twenty-first century. She made feminism’s integral aims clear to anyone eager to listen and willing to believe, as well as highlighting the essential nature of viewing race, sexuality, and gender as intersectional elements, for these signifiers of oppression cannot be viewed in isolation.

The battle over the word ‘feminist’ will rage on, and we might find solace identifying with Miranda’s characteristics. It never was going to be easy introducing a word starting with ‘fem’ into a patriarchal world. These T-shirts can help us remember what sort of person the word ‘feminist’ is synonymous with. We should all be Mirandas— complex, flawed, but looking out for women.


Jessica Slater


[Images: Bustle, Amazon]