Marks & Spencer, that place where you buy pants and pudding, has declared itself ‘not feminist’. You may or may not seen the new campaign by Annie Leibovitz featuring such ‘outspoken women’ (their quote, not ours) as Tracey Emin and Ellie Goulding. The campaign is called ‘Leading Ladies’ and also features acid attack victim and campaigner Katie Piper, who, let’s not forget, is there partly because she was subjected to disgusting and deplorable male violence.
Despite this, M&S didn’t want to go so far as to describe itself as feminist. In fact, their spokesMAN for this ladycampaign, Steven Sharp, went a step further, choosing to describe the high street chain as ‘womanist.’ Whether or not Steven Sharp, or indeed, M&S realises that ‘womanism’ is in fact a term coined by Alice Walker to refer to feminist discourse pertaining to the experiences of women of colour remains to be seen as they have not yet got back to us on Twitter, but considering that he described it as ‘designed to celebrate women. To whom clothes are presumably important’, we think: probz not.
It may sound churlish to suggest that M&S hire themselves a new PR (preferably one with a vagina) to handle questions relating to issues of women’s equality, BUT we suggest that M&S hire themselves a new PR. Not only is Steven suggesting that feminism is somehow not celebratory of women by placing his invented definition of ‘womanism’ in opposition to it, but he’s also responsible for one of the most mundane soundbites regarding women and fashion ever. And for a fashion PR, that’s saying something.
‘[Women]…to whom clothes are presumably important?’ Well yes, you silly. Not only do they stop one freezing to death and prevent awkward conversations in Sainsbury’s, but they can also sometimes look quite nice. In fact, this sentence encapsulates exactly why M&S’s forays into women’s fashion has been quixotic at best. They simply don’t understand it.
As to the question as to whether M&S have rebranded themselves as intersectional feminists, we’re waiting to see if they take to swearing at people on Twitter for occasionally disagreeing with them (or, in some cases, not actually disagreeing with them at all but writing an article that dares to suggest that their methods may be alienating), and telling customers to ‘check their privilege’ or they’ll ‘call them out’, the bastards. Again, we’re thinking: probz not.