UPDATE: Much to our relief, The Fawcett Society has confirmed that the “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” tee was not produced in a factory with unethical work conditions, as reported by Dazed Digital. “We have been particularly pleased to receive evidence that 100% of workers are paid above the government-mandated minimum wage and all workers are paid according to their skills and years of service,” said Fawcett’s Eva Neitzert to Dazed of the factory in which the garments were made. “The standard working week is 45 hours, and workers are compensated (at a higher rate of pay) for any overtime worked."
Of course, while the standard of what minimum wage should look like may differ greatly from one country to the next — for the Mauritius factory, the workers’ 62 pence (or about $.99) per hour is considered above the minimum — it at least calms our concerns that a shirt with such a strong pro-women message is doing equal amounts of good for wearers, manufacturers, and Benedict Cumberbatch, alike. (Dazed Daily)
Now THIS is what a feminist looks like #ellefeminism #BenedictCumberbatch http://t.co/yEEt05Fd0I pic.twitter.com/2mjibOXT3n— ELLEUK (@ELLEUK) October 27, 2014
Remember when Benedict Cumberbatch appeared in Elle UK wearing a T-shirt that read "This Is What a Feminist Looks Like" and you swooned? Yeah, us too.
That is, until we found out that the shirt was possibly made by astoundingly underpaid women.
The Daily Mail has reports that the shirts, promoted by The Fawcett Society, are produced in a labor camp in Mauritius, where the workers are paid approximately 6,000 rupees a month — about $190 — and work a minimum of 45 hours per week. Because the owner of the factory fears that the women would return to work "hungover" if they left the camp, they sleep 16 people to a room in on-site dormitories.
Thank you Joseph Gordon-Levitt @hitRECordJoe for being a proud feminist too! #ELLEfeminism http://t.co/yEEt05Fd0I pic.twitter.com/ImMhntKCmm— ELLEUK (@ELLEUK) October 27, 2014
The shirts have been heavily promoted by Elle UK and the Fawcett Society, and sell for £45 (about $70) at high street chains. They've been worn by other celebrities promoting feminism, including Tom Hiddleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Simon Pegg, Tinie Tempah, Eddie Izzard, and Richard E. Grant, along with British politicians Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, and Harriet Harman.
"How can this T-shirt be a symbol of feminism when we do not see ourselves as feminists?" one worker at the factory told the Mail. "We see ourselves as trapped."
Sending an important message whilst channelling his inner superman. @twhiddleston #ellefeminism via @ELLEUK #feminism pic.twitter.com/pmDbY6NixV— Kingdom of Loki (@UKLoki) October 29, 2014
"I have worked here for four years and I have not been able to see my son or husband in Bangladesh during all that time," sad another. "We work very hard, sometimes 12 hour days, for not much money. I send all my money home and could not afford to fly back and see my family."
A spokesperson for The Fawcett Society said that the organization had been assured that the shirts were produced according to ethical standards, but would "do our utmost to investigate" claims of underpaid labor. (The Daily Mail)