My feminism will be capitalist, appropriative and bullshit merchandise
August 9, 2016 7:16 AM   Subscribe

 
(Previously)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:21 AM on August 9, 2016


The Revolution will be commodified (also, not a revolution).
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:23 AM on August 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


The great irony here is that, to prevent people from capitalizing on her words, Flavia would need to trademark the quote, which would likewise require her to provide proof of commercial exploitation to maintain said trademark.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:38 AM on August 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


"The Revolution will be commodified (also, not a revolution)."
-Che Guevara (T-Shirt)
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:51 AM on August 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


"To be brutally honest, I have probably never seen much value in my work either. At least not in the capitalist sense."

This is the part that stuck out most at me, just because of how a sentence like that is the intersection of so many issues and problems: the undervaluing by society of women's work, the self-image problems that come with being perpetually undervalued, the craven attempts to monetize anything even remotely slogan-y into as many mediums as possible, the complete irreverence for the source of the original work, etc.

It's an intractable situation, in many ways, for people who want to fight capitalism within capitalism. Either you stake a claim, in the most capitalist sense, for your intellectual property and defend it (and, if you actually want to see a return on the investment of your time and money, you monetize it yourself) or you basically allow someone else to profit off your work. As she says, probably not to the extent that they get filthy rich off it and you don't, but definitely to the extent that they are making money off of content they found and decided it was theirs to sell, regardless of its origin.

What the hell do you do?
posted by griphus at 7:59 AM on August 9, 2016 [24 favorites]


GenjiandProust: The Revolution will be commodified (also, not a revolution).
For just fifteen million merits, you too can smash the patriarchy!
posted by spinda at 8:07 AM on August 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Wow, this pretty deep into work in the system versus against the system dynamics. The system here is that there are methods of protecting and profiting from your words. But, they also require you at some level to sell out, or at least buy in, to all of that structure and history and associations. On the other hand, if you just put your words out there, vulnerable and unsheltered, this happens. The very success in reaching others with those words means that they quickly incorporate them into their being, which means adoption, but also co-option and appropriation and re-branding and re-purposing. I am not sure what the better world would be. It's like being a fish trying to notice the water.
posted by meinvt at 8:12 AM on August 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I wonder if one way to fight back would be to contact producers when you see stuff like this and ask them (preferably publicly, like on Twitter) how much of their sales money they are sending to the originator.

Calling them out, in other words. Of course, people can lie and will, but it might be one way to flag a small injustice when you see it. Also if they lie and the originator is online, trivially easy for them to confirm/deny it.

It's apparently not illegal to put someone's quote on a product, sell it, and never share your profits, but it is an asshole move. I would never do that; if I wanted to use a living person's quote on a tote bag, I'd contact them and ask permission.

It's one reason I had trouble knowing how to buy something like a Black Lives Matter bumpersticker online, because I'm not sure who created that item/who is profiting. I generally try to look for a verified organization/individual when I buy stuff like that, because why let a random jerk profit from it? But it's not always easy to tell.
posted by emjaybee at 8:14 AM on August 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


it's the great irony of many anti-establishment, disruptive messages or movements. you have something important to say or do, but sometimes you need to do so using means that go against what you're trying to do.

For example, I get this argument whenever I talk about eliminating unethical production and trade practices - I always get the comment about how I'm a hypocrite because while i drink fair-trade coffee, my coffee maker was likely built using parts that were unfairly sourced or in factories with weak labour standards. Or that while my clothes might be fair trade, my bedsheets aren't.

Her message is an important message, and the more people who see that message, the better.
merchandise is just another medium to relay that message. if her message wasn't on merchandise, fewer people would see it.

What do we tell right-wingers who whine about people cheating governments' social assistance programs? we tell them, regardless of the scammers, it does way more good than harm. we tell them to not focus on the people cheating the system; focus on the people benefitting from the system.

while we always need to be vigilant, lest we allow ourselves to be seduced by our pride and greed, i think we should follow a similar type of advice here (and for any other ironic situation we find ourselves in) - consider that the good it does outweighs the evil.
posted by bitteroldman at 8:21 AM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's apparently not illegal to put someone's quote on a product, sell it, and never share your profits...

Nope. Copyright protection does not extend to titles, names, slogans or short phrases. They restrict the grant to "substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration". I don't know if "substantial" has ever been defined, but song lyrics or poems are probably the shortest works that are given protection under the law.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:21 AM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd like to mention my etsy shop where I'm selling t-shirts that say 'The Revolution will be commodified (also, not a revolution).'
posted by beerperson at 8:26 AM on August 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


It seemed like she was dangerously ill a couple of years ago when she stopped writing in social media; I hope that this article means she has at least recovered.
posted by praemunire at 8:49 AM on August 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am not anyone's lawyer here, and this is not legal advice, but independent of copyright or trademark there could be a cause of action for misappropriation of identity or for false endorsement. I'm not sure if there have been any cases regarding this kind of unilateral commercialization of a quotation. It's a little hard to search for ('quote' and 'quotation' really throw off legal search engines). In this particular case it might be too late (both legally and as a practical matter), but the law does, in general, have some notion of a right to the use of one's name in public, especially for commercial purposes, and especially when being used to endorse a product or opinion.
posted by jedicus at 8:53 AM on August 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Andi Zeisler just released a book We Were Feminists Once on the development of marketplace feminism. (NY Times WaPo Powells Guardian). I'd recommend it.

It's tangential to the link but generally an interesting view of what happens to feminist arguments and feminist advances when it's all about marketing.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:56 AM on August 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


It was confusing reading this whether she was more upset to discover that social justice is neoliberalism Or was complaining that she had been too virtuous and not seen the capitalist rewards she deserved? Capitalism is evil and what is worse no-one is giving me mine is sort of a tragic trope at this point.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 9:10 AM on August 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Requiring all critics of capitalism to live entirely capitalism-free lives as a prerequisite to being taken seriously is a good way to avoid ever having to take any criticism of capitalism seriously. (As my new line of t-shirts says. We had to write some of it on the sleeve.)
posted by No-sword at 9:37 AM on August 9, 2016 [29 favorites]


Just for kicks and giggles, it would be fun to leave comments on the product sites to the effect of "Has the author of this slogan [link to Medium article] given permission to reproduce her writing, and is she receiving any of the proceeds?"
posted by Sheydem-tants at 10:12 AM on August 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


It was confusing reading this whether she was more upset to discover that social justice is neoliberalism Or was complaining that she had been too virtuous and not seen the capitalist rewards she deserved?

I think she was just writing about her experience.

Part of how systems replicate themselves is by undermining things which oppose them and incorporating those things in a new form - e.g. taking the idea of intersectional feminism and a quote about that and remaking it as a motto one can purchase. I'd not realized how profoundly the idea could be undermined in a pin, but someone managed it.

The irony of mottos is that it seems like it should sum things up and that would make it easier to abide by the motto, but in reality the motto becomes decorative instead of substantial when it's used like this.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:52 AM on August 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


It was confusing reading this whether she was more upset to discover that social justice is neoliberalism Or was complaining that she had been too virtuous and not seen the capitalist rewards she deserved? Capitalism is evil and what is worse no-one is giving me mine is sort of a tragic trope at this point.

Maybe read this before you get too snarky about her "discoveries" about capitalism?
posted by praemunire at 10:56 AM on August 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm pretty sure there are cases where it's OK to tell other people their feminism is bullshit. And I'm entirely sure that being a white male, none of them apply to me.

So, with that out of the way: Isn't fighting one kind of oppression and prejudice better than none? I mean, context and greater struggle and all that, but the point of the original quote seems kind of brutal, no? Just asking.

Now, "first you tell me I'm worthless, then you cash in on how pithy I can get when I'm pissed off" seems like a way more salient point to me. As does "on your suburbanite tote bag, my struggle sounds so cute."
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 11:00 AM on August 9, 2016


Isn't fighting one kind of oppression and prejudice better than none? I mean, context and greater struggle and all that, but the point of the original quote seems kind of brutal, no? Just asking.

There are certain populations of women (WOC) who are routinely ignored by white feminism. Intersectionality tries to recognize those issues. And I don't think it's brutal to call Feminism "bullshit" when it says it represents all women but it's just really white women. This is not a new issue and white feminism needs to catch the fuck up.
posted by LizBoBiz at 11:09 AM on August 9, 2016 [19 favorites]


Indeed, the history of feminism throwing black women under the proverbial bus goes way, way back. Intersectional feminism is supposed to be the antidote to that toxic history.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:26 AM on August 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Maybe she was just writing about her experience - it seemed very very normative though.... And certainly others here seem to want to make it a normative critique of capitalism rather than a more honest kind of "oh yeah capitalism isn't that bad and I guess it works to reveal true human behaviour" kinda thing.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 11:26 AM on August 9, 2016


So, with that out of the way: Isn't fighting one kind of oppression and prejudice better than none? I mean, context and greater struggle and all that, but the point of the original quote seems kind of brutal, no? Just asking.

Speaking as a white woman, if the gains of white women come at the expense of, e.g., people of color, then we're not actually doing better. It's not like you can "fix" the position of one group and then just expect to bring the others up later. It's more like a Rubik's cube, where changes of position tend to be interrelated.
posted by praemunire at 11:28 AM on August 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


And certainly others here seem to want to make it a normative critique of capitalism rather than a more honest kind of "oh yeah capitalism isn't that bad and I guess it works to reveal true human behaviour" kinda thing.

Look, seriously, read some of her work. Right now you are speaking from a position of ignorance of that work and it's taking you down a very mistaken path.
posted by praemunire at 11:30 AM on August 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


For example, I get this argument whenever I talk about eliminating unethical production and trade practices - I always get the comment about how I'm a hypocrite because while i drink fair-trade coffee, my coffee maker was likely built using parts that were unfairly sourced or in factories with weak labour standards. Or that while my clothes might be fair trade, my bedsheets aren't.

Lots of people seem to get into this kind of fatalistic/apathetic mindset when they encounter someone who's making explicitly ethical decisions about their consumption patterns. ("I've decided to eat only Vegan meals on Mondays." "Oh yeah? HAVE YOU HEARD THAT PLANTS HAVE RUDIMENTARY NERVOUS SYSTEMS?")

I think it's because if they view the process as an all-or-nothing game, then they don't have to think about changing habits, whereas if a person they know is making incremental changes, that means that they might be able to do that too.

And so, they may realize that they are making actual consumption choices daily (possibly ethical ones, possibly not), rather than just being operated on by powerful forces in the world.
posted by theorique at 12:08 PM on August 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'd like to mention my etsy shop where I'm selling t-shirts that say 'The Revolution will be commodified (also, not a revolution).'

Though the socially conscious should buy them from my shop instead, where I promise to a give a percentage to the originator.
posted by 445supermag at 12:41 PM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


She has a valid argument, and it sucks that there's no way she can simultaneously benefit financially from her words and still fight the system that's making that sort of exploitation possible. I feel like this also feeds into how much of internet 'content' is based on theft (cough, appropriation), which is anti-capitalist in a vibrant way, but a way that only harms the original artists.

But then she says something like "The most egregious of these items is probably this cutesy little pin with a blond little girl picking flowers (I mean, really?! have you seen a photo of me with my very curly, thick black hair?!)"

...and I immediately shut down and go to this place.
posted by Mchelly at 1:26 PM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


But then she says something like "The most egregious of these items is probably this cutesy little pin with a blond little girl picking flowers (I mean, really?! have you seen a photo of me with my very curly, thick black hair?!)"

...and I immediately shut down and go to this place.


Why? She's a PoC talking about intersectional feminism. Her response to someone taking her content about those things and commodifying it with artwork that is an example of what she was upset about seems 100% appropriate here.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:38 PM on August 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


So, with that out of the way: Isn't fighting one kind of oppression and prejudice better than none? I mean, context and greater struggle and all that, but the point of the original quote seems kind of brutal, no? Just asking.

Speaking as a black woman: no. Look, I only get one life, same as anyone else. I have lots of things I want to make and do and experience, and the reason prejudice and oppression are shit — for me — is they stand in the way. When I see mediocre white dudes given chances and support that I don't get, not because I am not amazing (I am) but because I don't look like the people doling out resources? That makes me mad because I see what more I could get done with some fucking credence. I am not mad because it hurts my widdle feelings that someone is mean and hey at least we are all trying. For one thing, trying doesn't give me back what I have lost and lose every day.

Also, the blonde girl pin is egregious because the whole damn point of the quote is the way white women call themselves feminists and then ignore women of color, erasing their struggles and profiting off their work. That pin does exactly that! It literally replaces the woman of color with a little blonde girl. It has the secondary effect of removing a representation of a woman of color from our whole representation system. If you see yourself everyday, I think it can be really easy to miss how much it matters to see yourself in the world. I've said this before but when that Cheerios mixed-race family commercial came out, I sobbed. My whole life, commercials had families that could only be one race. And I knew that wasn't true because it wan't how my family was but to have these symbolic systems that form the base of our shared culture pretend you didn't exist? Omg, it is excruciating. So, no, I don't think it is about a lack of humor at all.

It actually reminds me of a comic going around after Clinton was confirmed as the nominee. It had panels showing a white guy with the caption like "could grow up to be pres since 1789", then a black dude with 2008 and a white lady with "Tuesday." And all these people in my timeline were sharing it and so excited. But it really hurt to look at and see yourself still not there but see everyone else celebrating it. Not even an acknowledgement that you were there, even if the date was "Not yet." That pin is a lot like the cartoon.

I don't usually talk about race in my day-to-day life, but I do like to post to Metafilter about my experiences because people here usually listen. So please, if you are reading this, understand that most black women just want to be seen and appreciated and have all the things everyone else seems to take for granted. We know we are just as worthy as everyone else. We just wish you knew it, too.
posted by dame at 1:48 PM on August 9, 2016 [41 favorites]


> Just asking
was meant literally. I was asking to maybe have things explained, which happened. So yay, thanks.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 2:34 PM on August 9, 2016


Maybe the tchotchke-makers read the original piece to the part where it says, "I hereby give you permission to use my words as yours. Do not credit me if you do not feel like it," and stopped.
posted by darksasami at 8:23 PM on August 9, 2016


Copyright protection does not extend to titles, names, slogans or short phrases. They restrict the grant to "substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration"

Copyright doesn't extend to titles, inasmuch as anyone could name a book "The Changeling" (I used to have 5 different books with that title and was looking for more) or use "Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe never" as a slogan without being able to go after other people who also use it - but when a title is considered unique enough to put on t-shirts and tote bags, I believe a court might find it was at least as substantial as a haiku, which is covered by copyright law.

As to how much is "substantial" - use of four musical notes of a song has been found to be infringing. Quoting forty words out of an entire book was found to be infringing. De minimis protection has been thoroughly gutted... for those that have big enough lawyers to argue that they're being financially hurt by the infringement.

Maybe the tchotchke-makers read the original piece to the part where it says, "I hereby give you permission to use my words as yours. Do not credit me if you do not feel like it," and stopped.

That bit refers to a previous post. (And yes, it's likely that those who grabbed the title and ran with it may have seen that and assumed it meant any of her words.)

(IANAL. I am a copyfight activist who reads a whole lot of defenses of remix culture, and has tried to make sense of the morass of contradictory legal rulings about copyright.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:02 AM on August 10, 2016


A follow-up piece from Flavia!
posted by Stacey at 5:56 AM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


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