Willow Smith recently described her style sense as "high-fashion nomad," but her latest outfit is way more feminist sister-warrior.
Smith stepped out yesterday wearing high-waisted flares and a cropped tee that reads "Audre & Gloria & Angela & bell" in bold white Helvetica, name-checking the seminal radical Black and Chicana feminists, poets, and queer theorists Audre Lorde, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Angela Y. Davis, and bell hooks. And as such, it's basically the ultimate "F*** yeah I'm a feminist" mic-drop.
The so-called "Goddesses Shirt" was created by San Francisco-based brand Thugz Maison. Anyone who's kept an eye on hipster fashion will note that the tee is a play on those created in 2001 by Amsterdam design group Experimental Jetset which pay tribute to members of the Rolling Stones, the Ramones, and other groups of old white dudes.
Although we believe this is the first time Smith has worn the tee in public, you may remember differently — due to a Photoshopped pic of her wearing the same shirt that was widely circulated on social media in 2012. (For reference, here's the real pic of Smith at the BET Awards in 2012, and the altered one.)
Thugz Maison itself was believed to be behind the 'shopped version, which sparked an interesting debate on the brand's use of Smith and its commodification of feminists of color in general — this essay by Tumblr user ForteRiot is great food for thought on the subject.
We agree that it's very dicey territory for the brand that created this T-shirt to appropriate the names of our beloved feminist thinkers — all of whose work, to varying degrees, includes extremely sharp criticisms of capitalism — for profit. (Do the name-checked women at the very least get a cut?)
But, as far as Willow choosing to wear this tee goes, it's a pretty amazing statement. In an era where major pop stars are (or were for a ridiculously long time) afraid to identify as feminists, Smith not only goes there — she flies straight past liberal feminism and aligns herself with the most radical of the bunch. Not only is Smith a feminist, she's telling us here she's the scary kind who's more interested in smashing shit than Leaning In.
Questions about the brand's intentions aside, we salute Smith for proudly wearing her feminist icons on her sleeve(less tee). If this does nothing but puts a few copies of Sister Outsider or Are Prisons Obsolete? on peoples' bookshelves, it'd be a pretty amazing thing.
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