Most of you may know me from a single outfit. A dress that I created out of my old math homework for prom. Written on it was, “I’ve received my education. Not every woman has that right. Malala.org” and I donated the money I would have spent on a dress to the Malala Fund. My dream for this was to raise both money and awareness for Malala Fund and their fight for women’s education worldwide. Soon the story went viral. News outlets started to pick it up and audiences from around the world felt a connection to the story of “the girl with the paper dress”. I began receiving so many messages from people all around the world interested in my story, supporting what I had done, and wanting to do something similar!
I realized a few things. The most amazing one was that this generation has the ability to create even more positive change than ever before because of social media. From this, the idea of PopActivism was born. Each post will speak of activism that has arisen in pop culture, people/organizations that are working to create positive change around the highlighted issue, and something you can do to help. This change can most often be done from an iPhone, couch, bed, bus stop, classroom, and everything in between.
So what is the power of what you wear? Sure, if you make a dress out of paper it might garner some looks, but what about a baseball cap? If you think of the brand Nike, you probably imagine a check-mark swoosh or maybe even the phrase ‘just do it’. You could credit this to their television, billboard, and online advertising campaigns, but the most influential source for advertising is most likely someone you know wearing the brand itself. On any given day in my high school, I could walk down the hallway and see a baseball cap, new pair of runners, or pulled up socks with the logo peeking out at me. When you choose to wear a product you are part of their advertising campaign, that is why celebrities are often paid to wear brands!
Recently on Instagram, Ariana Grande choose to support a different type of message. Below you can see her showcasing a shirt that reads, “my pussy, my choice”. A message which has sparked many conversations, in both the comments and larger forums, on “slut shaming”, social standards based on sex, and feminism. Grande has also taken to twitter recently to speak about gender discrimination and double standards. The tweet garnered attention from news outlets like Vanity Fair.
American Apparel has also followed the idea of creating wearable activism. During Pride Week and just as the Supreme Court in the United States officially legalized gay and lesbian marriage throughout the entire country, American Apparel launched a new line of t-shirts. The shirts show off a very clear logo, but it’s not the classic American Apparel one. Instead, two red stripes show support of the HRC Foundation’s international initiative, HRC Global, and the goal of a world which “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are ensured equality and embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community”. Fifteen percent of each t-shirt’s proceeds will also go to the HRC Foundation. Through the shirts, not only has the company stated that they “believe in and celebrate equality and the freedom of expression” but also provided a platform for others to do the same. Another bonus, American Apparel clothing is created in North America and demonstrate a number of other socially and environmentally conscious business models.
I was once told you vote with your dollar. At the time, it wasn’t quite clear to me what this meant. When you buy a new pair of underwear what could you be possibly voting for? I soon came to realize what this meant: everything you buy with your money is what you are choosing to support and what you want more of in the world. If you’re choosing to buy from a company that may use unsafe and inhumane working conditions to produce their goods, you are showing your support and creating the opportunity for more of this. Don’t get me wrong, constantly investing your dollar in a conscious manner can be difficult. No company goes around opening speaking about the working conditions of their factories, or the environmental footprint their shipments have. On the other hand though, companies which do operate under more socially conscious mandates will be the first to tell you all about it.
Ever heard of TOMS Shoes? Sure their shoes are comfortable, but their real viral success came from their ‘one for one’ model. An idea that for every shoe you buy, another is given to someone in need. Since their beginning they have grown to create many more positively progressive projects on topics such as improving access to clean drinking water globally, providing safer birthing environments, and even prevent bullying. As well, they’re conscious of how their products are manufactured and are currently working towards helping create and support jobs in regions where they give.
One last company that fits perfectly with the impact of what you wear, is THINX. THINX reached out to me over twitter, supporting and sharing the story of my dress. I was more than excited to hear from them because only hours before I had shared a link to the website with my close friends over a group chat, asking what they thought of the idea. THINX is a fairly new company which is looking to break the taboo around menstruation and amp up the power of the period. After its IndieGoGo beginning, it’s been picking up support and has quickly began to trend. The product itself is underwear designed to absorb various menstruation flows. They explain that “THINX are made to be a backup to tampons or menstrual cups, though some opt to use it as a replacement on lighter days”.
Some of my friends were ecstatic about the idea, and others curious to know if it might feel uncomfortable to wear. The site is quick to respond to that specific criticism by saying, “no, you don’t have to change them during the day, no, they don’t feel like diapers, and no, it’s not like sitting in your own blood. Boom.” Beyond the socially active progression of changing taboos and working to eliminate shame around female menstruation, THINX also “bleeds for female empowerment” worldwide. They highlight the fact that “over 100 million girls in the developing world fall behind in school just because of their periods, forcing many of them to eventually drop out“. Working to eliminate gender discrimination, in reference to access to education, is the key to creating immense amount of positive global progression.
Every THINX purchase works to help a woman in Uganda receive their education by sending funds/support to AFRIpads. AFRIpads then trains women to sew and sell washable, reusable, cloth pads. This also helps local women learn entrepreneurial skills. THINX underwear itself is manufactured in Sri Lanka by a family-run factory that “has an outstanding commitment to providing supplementary education and training to its female employees.” Talk about statement underwear!
I think the answer is clear: your outfit CAN change the world. Whether it’s by sporting wearable activism or voting with your dollar, each morning when you wake up and pick out an outfit you have a choice to make a difference.
Remember, poppers, to see change, share change, be change. Much love xo.