Balancing Act

Entrepreneurs, even male ones, welcome to promote feminism

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 Feminist Apparel shirt design

Feminist Apparel shirt design ( / June 12, 2014)

One tweet tagged Alan Martofel's helming of start-up a "feminist fail."

"It was something like, 'Just found out Feminist Apparel is run by a dude. #feministfail," the 25-year-old Martofel told me by phone.

I'd tag it #feministfinally.

Feminism, like any movement that butts heads with culturally ingrained notions of power and who gets to wield it, is never going to achieve its mission if it lives trapped inside an echo chamber. The more the mightier.

Martofel knows that, and he's putting his money — and his recently acquired degree from Rutgers University — where his mouth is.

As an undergrad, Martofel wanted to film a documentary about sexual assault on campus. After a day of interviews at the university's sexual assault prevention office, he started to brainstorm ways to fund his project.

"I knew about the famous, 'This is what a feminist looks like' T-shirt and I thought about doing similar T-shirts that would represent feminism," he said. "Once I started playing around with the idea, I decided to shift my focus entirely to building something that people could wear and feel strongly about and use to start conversations about feminism with their friends and bystanders."

Feminist Apparel sells T-shirts and tank tops with messages like, "Cats Against Catcalls," "#YesAllWomen," "Men of Quality Respect Women's Equality" and my personal favorite, "Never Read The Comments," described in the product description as "the golden rule of feminist blogging."

Twenty percent of the proceeds go to Philadelphia-based Women's Way, a grant-making, education and advocacy organization for women and girls. (Feminist Apparel is also based in Philadelphia.)

Each month Martofel partners with a different feminist organization to design a new T-shirt and donates all the profits from the sales of that particular shirt to the featured organization. This month's group is Feministing, a feminist news and blog site.

"I think certainly you want to empower your own base and give the people who already associate with feminism an additional platform," Martofel said. "I'm hoping to do that here. But I think it's also something where if awareness is raised, if more people like me — a pretty privileged white male — don't shy away from the feminist title and take the title up themselves, we can get our message out there to the parts of society who are too often driven by hatred and fear."

That's a feminist win.

Twitter @heidistevens13

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