The Future is Female found me. I was invited to speak at a menstrual health roundtable hosted at the NY City Council in mid-September, and a woman who worked for My Lola was wearing the shirt. I told her, please tell me everything about this shirt. She explained to me that she bought it at Otherwild and that a portion of the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. I realized this came full circle as the creator of Otherwild, Rachel Berks, had invited me to speak at a menstrual health discussion in LA over Skype earlier that month! I hit her up immediately and asked if I could buy overnight 7 shirts so that my band could wear them the next day at our first-ever Madame Gandhi show at a pro-choice event in DC! The shirts came and our crew was epic. For me, my mission statement was born.
The Future is Female has its own powers, and has already been such a symbolic journey in the past 4 months. It represents to me my belief in women being able to find their inner madame (the person who is authentically themselves and feels safe and liberated enough to do what they want and make the world a better place), it represents the potential that our next US president might be a woman, it represents a new era where we no longer use the world “feminine” as an insult.
On Otherwild’s website, the herstory of the slogan is clearly explained:
The original “The Future Is Female” T-shirt design was made for Labyris Books, the first women’s bookstore in New York City, which was opened in 1972 by Jane Lurie and Marizel Rios. The photographer Liza Cowan took a picture of musician Alix Dobkin, her girlfriend at the time, wearing it in 1975. The photograph was done for a slide show she was working on called: “What the Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear.”
This slogan has lasted through the decades and is reemerging as an empowering statement for all, as female-identified bodies and rights remain under attack. Inflexibile and compulsory sexual and gender binaries are used to oppress and deny people their humanity and agency. Otherwild believes in an inclusive, expanded and fluid notion of gender expression, identities and feminisms. We support liberation, embrace our trans sisters, and call for the end of patriarchal ideology, domination, oppression and violence. We believe that “The Future is Female” is the past, the present and the future, and is language that resonates.
25% of sweatshirt sale proceeds donated to Planned Parenthood.
In short, “The Future is Female” represents to me the notion that each of us possess a unique and individual mix of female traits and of male traits. That they are different and equally desirable. That we still, as a society, value male traits over female traits, using “effeminate” as an insult instead of a compliment, and setting desirable standards of success often based on male standards. For example, even to this day, some of the advice that is given to women entering the workplace is to “masculinize” – to become cold, or harsh, or play down emotions or wear a suit. Given that masculinity itself is a human construct, this advice sets women up to fail – it teaches us to not be who we are authentically, and it sets us up to try to achieve a standard that isn’t possible since we are not men. I want to live in a world where me being my authentic self, everything that comes with being female, with my mix of female and male traits, is what is desired. Me being my best self, is what is desired. To me, this is what “The Future is Female” means – it means we all, men and women, value both our female and male traits equally instead of playing the female down and exaggerating the male. It means feeling safe and free enough to be our authentic selves, without being insulted. It means we value collaborative power just as much as we value dominative power, it means we cherish emotional intelligence just as much as we value brute force, it means we find power in care and kindness just as much as we find power in self-centeredness and harshness.
Rachel at Otherwild has taught me that the slogan means different things to different people. I am ok with that. Alix Dobkin, who wore the shirt originally in the 70s was a staunch radical lesbian feminist who was non trans-inclusive. For each person who wants to wear it, it does have different significance. It makes some angry too! They say, “the future has no gender!” or “this is reverse sexism!” For me, I do agree, the future has no gender, and that is baked in to the slogan already. In fact, if the shirt didn’t exist, i don’t know if we would be hearing people proudly respond, “the future has no gender!” anyway! I believe words are political, they get people thinking, shocked, angry, happy, self-actualized. This is politics at its finest, moving people forward. And to the point of the shirt being sexist, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Men have female in them, they must embrace it and love it instead of let society value constructed roles of masculinity only.
This past month, model Cara Delevigne used the same design that Rachel had created through Otherwild and started selling it on her own site. All the press that the shirt got was then about women fighting against women, instead of a unified belief that the future is female. While this depressed me for some days, I was also happy that a larger audience saw the shirt and the slogan.
I am excited to start 2016, as the future is surely female. It is female because there are many of us who are fighting for it to be.