First it was the “Nasty Woman” stuff. The T-shirts, the jewelry, the phone cases, the cross-stitch samplers, the keychains, the buttons, the tote bags, the patches, the glassware, the baseball caps, and alllllll those knit hats. Then there was the “nevertheless, she persisted” stuff, and the “future is female” stuff, and the Ruth Bader Ginsberg stuff, and the Maxine Waters stuff. All that sent the troubling message that shopping can stand in for political action if the things you buy have the right phrases printed onto them. But the merchandising of the “Me Too” campaign’s recent resurgence (it was created by activist Tarana Burke back in 2006) is especially icky.
Moran Amir, the founder of an online “fine jewelry emporium” called Adornia, is taking heat on Twitter for her company’s “Me Too” necklace, which went from donating 10 percent to 100 percent of its profits to RAINN after Buzzfeed editor Julie Gerstein called bullshit on it online:
In response, the company said that “our intention was to unite women through this expression, not profit off their pain.” Speaking to The Daily Dot, Amir says she herself is a survivor of sexual abuse and “it felt natural for me to want to expand my line to include this necklace and cover women who are finding comfort in sharing their #MeToo stories.” As for the donations, she says that every month, her company picks a charity to which it funnels 10 percent of the profits from that month. “I was not thinking when I just applied this same model to the ‘Me Too’ necklace,” she says. “I can see how it can get misconstrued. I don’t want to profit off of people’s pain.”
Beyond the belated moment of self-awareness that led Amir to donate that other 90 percent of profits, there’s also this thing called PTSD. If you’ve processed your trauma enough to be able to talk about it (or buy jewelry about it, as the case may be), great! But there are also people who can’t talk about what happened to them just yet, and making them see a triggering phrase on your neck that they’ve been trying to avoid on social media while positioning yourself as the noble victim because you bought a fucking necklace is just...mean? Inconsiderate? Generally shitty? Not to mention that even if you can talk about your experiences with assault or harassment, that doesn’t mean you want to be defined by those experiences, or have strangers come up to you and ask about them, which is exactly what would happen if you wore this necklace in public.
It’s not just Adornia, either. Etsy has several items of “Me Too” merch: There’s this bracelet from Gina Tonello Designs, this travel mug from Heart Studio Boutique (which seems to be a mercenary operation, given that it also sells “I Don’t Kneel” mugs), and this necklace from Girl Power Pendants. Oh hey, speaking of: Back in the ‘90s, “girl power” was widely decried by the original riot grrrls as an attempt to co-opt and defang a political movement by turning it into a merchandising opportunity. It seems to have worked, and is still working to this day. (Hello, Dove.) As Sleater-Kinney put it in their song “#1 Must Have”all the way back in 2000: “But they took our ideas to their marketing stars / Now I’m spending all my days at girlpower.com / Trying to buy back a little piece of me.”
So share your story. Organize. Share information. Support writers and activists, particularly women of color. March in the streets. Raise funds for organizations like RAINN and End The Backlog. Volunteer at local women’s shelters. Mentor young women in your community in need of role models. Read some books and some articles that help illuminate the importance of intersectional feminism and understanding perspectives beyond your own. Do all of—or even some of—that, and you won’t need a T-shirt to let people know that you’re a feminist.