Clegg backs Fawcett Society over feminism t-shirt

Nick Clegg has said that he believes that the Fawcett Society would never have knowingly commissioned their “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt if they had been thought it had been produced in the conditions described by the Mail on Sunday. The Standard has the story:

Mr Clegg said he believed the Fawcett Society thought the t-shirt was ethically produced when they joined up with Whistles to launch the campaign.

The Deputy Prime Minister said: “I wouldn’t have been asked to wear the t-shirt if they knew where that came from, that’s the point. No-one would have worn that t-shirt or even asked me to wear that t-shirt.”

He added: “Clearly it’s for the Fawcett Society and others to now answer to the report made in the Sunday papers about where these t-shirts may have come from.”

Mr Clegg did not withdraw his support for the campaign, saying, “I think it’s really important that that shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the very laudable purpose of the campaign, which was a fun, eye-catching way of highlighting that we still need to do so much more as a society – in politics, by the way, as well as anywhere else – to make sure that men and women live the freest, most equal lives possible.”

In fact, the Mail on Sunday story has been found to be inaccurate, according to Fawcett, and reported by the Guardian last night:

However, the Fawcett Society said it had seen “expansive and current evidence” from the retailer Whistles that the factory owned by Compagnie Mauricienne de Textile (CMT) where the shirts were made conformed to ethical standards. They were designed and produced by the fashion chain, in collaboration with Elle magazine, and sell for £45.

Eva Neitzert, deputy chief executive of the society, said: “The evidence we have seen categorically refutes the assertion that the ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ T-shirts produced by Whistles were made in a sweatshop. An audit into the CMT factory was carried out in October 2014 by an independent not-for-profit organisation and this did not reveal any material concerns on the working conditions, the welfare or the health and safety of workers.”

Nevertheless, she said, Fawcett was working with an international trade union body to examine the evidence so they could be “absolutely assured of its provenance, authenticity and that all findings are robust and factual”.

Fawcett couldn’t have done any more on that score. However, they might went to reflect on the message that selling a t-shirt at £45 sends out about who they think feminism is for. It should be for everybody. Note, I didn’t say every woman. Everyone benefits from a genuinely equal society.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • The Mail on Sunday story was just a typical tabloid dirt digging hatchet job. Nobody should have taken it remotely seriously.

  • Richard Dean 5th Nov '14 - 12:46pm

    A key feature of the story was that workers earn 62p an hour. Has this been denied?

    Obviously the concepts of “comparative advantage” and “purchasing power parity” may apply, but even so 62p does not seem like a good wage to me.

  • @Richard Dean

    I suppose that depends on what a living wage there is considered to be – does anyone know an accurate figure?

  • I recommend again the book ‘The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli ( make sure this is the second edition). Guaranteed to make you think.

  • Tee-shirt or no tee-shirt Default Man Clegg will never look like a feminist.
    Grayson Parry explains why in his New Statesman piece —

    It is quite long but well worth reading right through to the end. Grayson Perry at his best!

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Nov '14 - 7:18pm

    I’ve thought of a new approach for my own interests on this topic: I’m going to keep my feelings within a range. I can break out into actual hatred if I’m not careful and that harms me as much as anyone else.

    I think Clegg was wrong to wear the tee shirt, but I respect those that do.

  • Tsar Nicolas 5th Nov '14 - 8:07pm

    Nick should go down the local shops and get his own tee-shirt made.

    I suggest the slogan ‘This is what a loser likes like.’

  • Squirrel Nutkin 6th Nov '14 - 1:24pm

    It should be no surprise that the Mail “exposé” turns out to be (lazy, cynical, partisan point-scoring) junk:

  • peter tyzack 6th Nov '14 - 3:42pm

    I find it worrying that, despite the article being refuted, the slack-jawed commentators glibly accept the assertion of 62p/hr as a fact. Surely the only fact here is that the story came from the Daily Mail, that paragon of faultless and accurate reporting.
    Mind, I would have thought that Clegg’s advisers would have learned lessons from previous stunts to have avoided this one.

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