When we’re all tightening our belts, it’s time to make sure it’s one that makes us look fabulous…
So Saturday 23 July 2011 was our big day – The Big Swish!
Kent Feminista, the group of feminists I’ve joined, ran The Big Swish, a posh clothes swapping event in aid of Stop the Traffik. We also had a cake stall, a pledge wall and a children’s play area. To help our guests feel glamorous, Sophie from Sophie@Ease in Tenterden offered mini hand, foot, head and back massages from a gleaming white gazebo.
The clothes swap itself went smoothly – most people brought more than one item, and were able to choose an armful of items they wanted in return. In fact, people brought so many items that we were able to donate the remaining items to the Pilgrim’s Hospice. This felt appropriately feminist, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.
Why clothes swapping?
Well, we wanted to prove that feminism isn’t always about being cross about something, or just sitting round talking. We wanted to do something useful. Feminism’s interrelations with fashion are well documented (one of our number when interviewed for the local paper was asked if she’d burn a bra for the photo!) The stereotype feminist in the popular imagination is still 1970s: talk to five people about feminism and you’d be lucky not to have at least one mention dungarees… But dungarees are not obligatory – we’d have been really surprised if there’s any available at the Big Swish!
As the focus on the Duchess of Cambridge/ Sam Cam/ Carla Bruni/ Michelle Obama’s clothes shows, fashion is politically important – the question is whether to oppose this – we are who we are and clothes shouldn’t matter – or to embrace it, recognising that women do care about these things and that feminism without the issues of interest to women is pointless.
After all, psychological studies show that well-fitting, good quality clothes boost happiness and confidence. As the makeover programmes on TV show, helping women feel good about themselves can change their lives.
What’s more, we’ve all done it – bought the fantastic top in the sale that’s a size too small, and never quite slimmed into it. The Big Swish was a chance to swap clothes that don’t make you feel good – the dress that’s never really fitted, the too short trousers – for something that you love instead.
In tough economic times, the wardrobe of clothes we don’t wear is not just a mess, it’s a waste of money. As well as being good for wellbeing and your purse, clothes swapping is the green option too – someone else using clothes means that the world’s resources aren’t wasted and you don’t end up sending that unworn shirt to landfill.
Why Stop the Traffik?
Kent Feminista are a group of Kent based feminists who are interested in finding creative ways of promoting equality for women and supporting women in our communities who are subject to the many inequalities present in our society.
Feminism is about establishing and defending equal political, economic and social rights and equal opportunities for women. It’s not just that women need to be more confident – some of this is about redefining what’s normal in terms of work, caring and household responsibilities for both men and women, and obviously that can’t be done without men getting behind the ideas too.
As we know, there are numerous variations on feminism and they are not all united on views on some of the big themes like abortion. However there are some universal issues such as political representation and equality and human dignity on which we all agree. So our fundraising focus this year is Stop the Traffik, the campaign to prevent the sale of people, protect anyone that has been trafficked, and to prosecute the traffickers.
This is very much a feminist cause: feminism is about how we interact with each other fairly rather than treat each other as things to be bought and sold, whether that’s selling ourselves by lap dancing, or each other through trafficking and modern day slavery.
We’re going to look at this in more detail soon, but just quickly, what did we learn that can help you set up your own Big Swish?
- The style of event requires a premeditated decision to attend, not passing traffic and that means advertising. Our posters were great and we got them out to the places we knew would take them plus a few more original locations (shop staff rooms in town). We used Facebook, Twitter, got an article in the local newspaper, bits in a church newsletter, did what we could to tell everyone. And so we did get people we’d never met before choosing to come and take part!
- We went for a Saturday when most people were likely to be available. Early evening, somewhere with an alcohol licence might also be good.
- We charged £2 entry and allowed unlimited clothes donations. This works but you could also consider £1 entry and 50p an item to swap to encourage really good quality items.
- We of course ended up with loads left over, but took a decision to donate these to another charity, the Pilgrim’s Hospice. Old age and caring are much overlooked areas of life (and also within the feminist movement), but given the propensity of the current elderly generation to be women, we should care. Old age is a feminist issue.
- Having pamper treatments there gave a real feel of glamour – a definite recommendation for any future event.