by Solana Chatfield
Photography courtesy of Amanda Willis
Think back to the beginning of the school year when heat radiated off the sidewalk of Commonwealth Avenue. You entered your dorm or apartment and were surrounded by inescapable, stagnant humidity. It is during this short period of much appreciated warmth that summer fashion trends have a final hoorah before they disappear with the coming of fall. This fall brought a major new trend—a sea of graphic t-shirts reading, in bold, blatant font, “The Future is Female”.
The “Future is Female” slogan is associated with the contemporary feminist movement, a movement considered to have started with the revocation of the Combat Exclusion Policy in 2013—a legal policy that excluded women from certain positions in the military. The movement continues to advocate for women today.
The modern feminist movement only intensified with Donald Trump’s political campaign. Many did not take kindly to hearing a presidential candidate casually say, “Grab her by the pussy.”
Once elected, President Trump sparked fear into the minds of millions with talk of defunding Planned Parenthood. Again, not a popular move for many. These are just a few events that led people towards an even larger vocalization of feminism––a manifestation of their opinions in a public platform.
Recognized as the apex of feminism in the last decade, the Women's Marches throughout 673 cities worldwide with approximately 4,956,400 marchers, not only brought publicity to the controversy, but also showed how unified the front for total gender equality is.
“What draws me towards feminism in particular is my belief solely in what feminism stands for,” said Alec Chan (CAS ’21). “Coming from someone that does not identify as a woman, I often receive backlash from people saying ‘How can you be a feminist if you're not a woman?’ or 'What do you know about women's rights?’ I have no right to claim that I understand what it is like to be a woman; however, I think it's important that all humans, regardless of their gender, should be educated/working towards being educated on the history of women's rights and what feminism means today.”
Feminism is in no way a new topic of interest, especially in a liberal college community. However, instead of just long Facebook posts and manifestos by feminist organizations, there are serious political and social conflicts displayed on t-shirts and other fashion pieces.
By definition, feminism is the advocacy for women’s rights on the basis of total equality for all sexes. But, recently the slogan, “The Future is Female” has been misconstrued as sending a female-dominant message.
“Common arguments against messages like these claim that "The Future is Female" is binary or that it implies that women will rise, and correspondingly, that men will fall,” said Chan (CAS ’21). “I think it is crucial to acknowledge that many gender-nonconforming individuals support messages like this, mainly because the message alludes to the idea of equality on all gender grounds. This message alludes to the innumerable amount of challenges that women have faced and how far they have come with regards to women's rights and feminism. It's an indication of passion.”
Alongside this critique, people often pose the question: are these shirts a vocalization for feminism or purely a fashion trend?
“Regardless of if you’re wearing the shirt for the ‘right’ reasons, it’s not so much about your intentions but more so about its impact on other people,” said Jaya Gupta (Questrom ’21). “Someone seeing the shirt for a split second has the potential to get thinking about feminism and gender equality. There’s room for it to be both a fashion trend and a move towards expanding the feminist movement.”
So, in the upcoming months when you notice “A Future is Female” t-shirt just barely peeking out from underneath the array of scarves and winter coats, do not pass by without acknowledgement. Instead, ask yourself what it means to you.