Introducing LadyBits, an ultra-cool collective of tech journalists who look at the world with smart, lady lenses. And since we're always in the market for the best stuff out there, we'll feature its know-how on the regular. Below, check out one of LadyBits' innovator spotlights, prepared especially for Refinery29.
If you don’t go commando, your underwear options include: cotton, wool, microfiber, bamboo, thermal, thong, bikini, granny, low-rise, breathable, seamless, stain-resistant, jiggle-proof, cushioned, padded, floss, lacy, sexy, crotchless, vibrating, penetrating, edible, push-up, fart filtering ... and days of the week. You can have one or all of these — although perhaps not all in the same pair.
Shelly Ni, an interaction design student at the School of Visual Arts, has added another option to this list — feminist, by creating League of Ladies Underwear. That’s right, underwear has entered the realm of the second wave where “the personal is political.” Wear your heart on your sleeve, and wear your politics "down there:" a reasonable proposition, considering that so many conservatives focus their politics with regard to women “down there” too.
In 2012, Ni (and we) rejoiced that Victoria Secret had gone feminist by creating a line of undies emblazoned with messages about sexual consent. Sadly, this was revealed to be a hoax, a brilliant parody by FORCE, which sparked a valuable discussion on consent and rape culture, but, sadly, left us sans feminist underoos. Shelly Ni sought to address this lack.
Ni explored what feminist underwear meant through interviews with friends, what developed was a focus on the woman wearing the underpants and a desire to inspire and empower her. She describes the aspect of feminism she tapped into as “feeling inspired everyday to do whatever it is you do the best,” exploring what she refers to on Tumblr as “the heroics of you.”
As a class project, she created a Kickstarter for The League of Ladies - Superhero Underwear for Ladies, featuring real women of note. Rather than comic book super-heroines, Ni created a line of underwear featuring Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, and Marie Curie as superheroes each with a super power: Amelia with the power of flight, Frida with the power of self expression and Marie with the power of intellect. She met her project goal of $3,000 in three days and ended up raising over $7,000.
The League of Ladies will not tuck or lift your butt. It won't cure cellulite or offer padding. Instead, it offers a different kind of support. As expressed on the project’s Tumblr they believe that everyone's a superhero-in-progress. Not in training, but progress. "Underwear is a personal thing. You wear it closest to your body,” says Ni. It’s a small thing but she believes that the ritual of putting on a pair can be meaningful. She has been amazed at “how positive the internet has been” with regard to the League: “I am consistently surprised by how excited people are about it,” she says. “I’m excited about it but this is my kooky way of poking at gender issues and the question of heritage and honoring people who came before us.”
Ni teamed up with local feminist artist and printer Socorro to produce the underwear. All League zines and underwear are printed and delivered. At this point, her Kickstarter project is completed. And, yes, I do hear the lamentations of the women who missed out. But, for what it’s worth, we now live in a world where some walk among us in League of Ladies underwear. The next time you try to calm your nerves by imagining an audience of people in their underwear, one might be rocking her Marie Curie undies and a smile.
As with most superhero stories, this one ends with the glimmer of a sequel. Shelly Ni is interested in continuing the project. Besides Amelia, Frida, and Marie, she envisions other women ready to answer the call of the League. Consider a world in which Ni has an underwear empire — a world where you can wake up everyday and cover your ass in inspiration. Are you ready?
This post was authored by Susan Kim.