SASKIA GOLDMAN has been riled by the International Women’s Day whims of online fashion store ASOS.
Today I, like the 7 billion other people on the planet, woke up to International Women’s Day. But I, unlike billions of others, was privileged enough to wake up to a society that actually knew it was International Women’s Day.
However, as I sat drinking my coffee, listening to all the related features on the
radio and scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed to many a joyous ‘Happy
International Women’s Day!’ status, I discovered something that filled me with
disgust at my own blindly over-privileged society.
As I scrolled down, I noticed an update from ASOS – who, yes, I’ve ‘liked’ on
Facebook – claiming that:
“Obvs girls and guys alike ♥ shopping, but International Women’s Day
seems as good a reason as any for a discount. 10% off everything
today with promo code INTERNATIONAL10. Whoop women!”
What’s wrong with this? Well, if you can’t already tell then you should probably
stop reading. Or maybe that’s the reason you should be reading on. International
Women’s day, here, has been interpreted as a celebration of femininity; it’s even
been accompanied a lovely picture of a pouting girl, pretty in pink:
But ASOS have monumentally missed the point. The first thing that is wrong with
this sales ploy is the idea that International Women’s Day should be a sales ploy
at all. Today is a day about awareness, not Western consumerism and earning
ourselves an extra buck.
Second: ASOS have patronized the British public by assuming that a) all we can
think of on a day like today is buying a new tye-dye tank top, and b) that we
would even doubt that men and women share an equal stake in women’s issues.
By stressing that ‘guys can use the code too’, ASOS show not only their utter
stupidity and transparent avarice, but how little they or their marketing team
understand about feminism, equal rights, or their average audience.
Most of the people who have ‘liked’ ASOS on Facebook will be between
the ages of 16 and 25; a vast majority of those will be students who are
enlightened enough to know that women’s issues affect and should involve everyone, regardless of gender.
So what should ASOS have done? The fact that 10% of sales revenue can
be sacrificed at a whim shows the kind of corporation ASOS is: a very wealthy
one, capable of manipulating sales when required. 10% of ASOS’s sales
today should have been pledged towards women’s charities; sadly, I’m pretty
sure this would have got them a lot less custom than their 10% discount.
So, what should we be doing? Yes, zealous lefties like us were keen to boycott
Primark when shocking news of sweatshops appeared, but would our generation
be prepared to boycott ASOS, that essential online fashion portal, with the same
ideological fervour? I fear not.
Corporate responsibility needs to be on the agenda on a day like today. I’m sure
ASOS aren’t the only foolhardy company to do something so shortsightedly
laughable, but they do need to acknowledge the lack of responsibility they, and
others like them, seem to take.
Just because in the UK today I can wake up and choose what I wear, go to the
library and choose what I read, go to bed and choose who I sleep with, doesn’t
mean that every woman has this luxury.
ASOS and companies like it have to respond to this global truth, and we need to
make them. While ASOS is still going to be a bastion of our disgustingly excessive
consumerist culture (with a great big 2,136 dresses for us girls to choose from),
if it can’t recognise the need to engage correctly and respectfully with this major
issue for at least one day a year, then it doesn’t deserve us.
Corporate responsibility is as important on International Women’s Day as it was
with the BP oil spill or the various sweatshops revelations across the years, and
this is something that only we can make these companies realise.