Feminist Apparel Staff Confronted Their CEO About His History of Abuse So Like a Chill Woke Feminist, He Fired Them
By all accounts, the clothing brand Feminist Apparel seemed like a kickass company that had actually earned its name. You’ve no doubt seen their clothes, either in person (likely at the Women’s March or similar feminist events) or online. They’re the company behind catchy slogans like “Cats Against Catcalling” and “Pizza Rolls, Not Gender Roles.” Their staff was comprised mostly of LGBTQ people and POC. They pay their network of independent artists rather than stealing from them (*cough UrbanOutfitterscough*) and they also partner with various women’s rights organizations to which they donate a percentage of profits from certain products. They even funded community activism projects like the installation of “no catcalling” street signs in public spaces. It seemed like a great place to spend your money and an even better place to work.
And then the staff found out their CEO had admitted to a history of sexual assault.
Back in 2013, Alan Martofel wrote a lengthy Facebook post in which he detailed his past abuses. “I’ve grinded up on women on buses and at concerts without their consent,” he wrote. “I’ve made out with ‘the drunk chick’ at a party because it was easier. I’ve put a woman’s hand on my dick while she was sleeping.” The post was written as a means of apology, citing statistics about rape and detailing how he finally started believing rape culture is a real thing when he used to laugh at the idea. The post ends with the announcement of his new company. It’s his past indiscretions, then, that led him to make amends … in such a public and profitable way.
It might be easier to believe that Martofel was genuine in his mission to make good on his past behavior if he’d continued to be open about it. But his staff–a small group of about 10–say they weren’t aware of the Facebook post until last month. In interviews about the company, Martofel doesn’t mention his abuses.
And it would be even easier to believe he wasn’t totally full of shit if, when confronted by his employees, he hadn’t fired every one of them. According to a blog set up by the now-former staff, Martofel said he would step down as CEO, then disappeared for a week or two, and when he came back, he fired everyone, leaving only himself and an outside consultant.
Rebecca Green, the former art director for Feminist Apparel, tole Refinery29, “This is the patriarchy and toxic masculinity at its fucking finest. I feel righteous and angry. I feel supported by my coworkers and friends. I also feel tired. I feel incredibly sorry knowing that there are survivors in this office who were led to believe that their contributions to this company were directly going to creating a safe space and platform for survivors, feminists, and marginalized identities. As an artist myself creating work based on my own experiences with the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and harassment for this company — and by extension this man — I feel used and willfully mislead.”
Martofel addressed the firing of his staff in his own statement on the Feminist Apparel website. He defended his actions saying, “Spreading the message of consent culture and feminism has been my life’s work since that note was written.” His staff, then, was fired because, in his words, “they, unequivocally, do not share my views on either business or feminism.”
That staff, who Martofel is implying aren’t as good at feminism as he is, objected to an admitted abuser profiting off of products and a larger mission statement based in messages of allyship, survival and the destruction of rape culture and other patriarchal systems.
It would be nice to believe that someone like Martofel really could change and dedicate his life to making amends for his behavior and educating other men while facilitating feelings of empowerment in women. But his refusal to listen to his employees, or to even give them a choice to remain with the company or leave of their own volition, makes it clear that’s not the case. He writes in his statement, “for those of you who believe that the note I wrote 5 years ago, along with the contents within it, disqualifies me from having a place within this movement, while I appreciate your perspective, I wholeheartedly disagree with it.”
But Martofel’s behavior makes it clear he doesn’t want “a place” in feminism. He doesn’t want to be an ally. Because allies have to listen, and sometimes concede, and recognize that they don’t get the final word in what their movement looks like. He doesn’t want “a place.” He wants to run things. And he certainly isn’t willing to accept feedback or criticism. And that definitely does disqualify him from a person most of his clients will want to give their money to.
(via Refinery29, image: Feminist Apparel)
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