It's probably pretty clear that Create & Cultivate is all about empowering other women. Which is why the slogan, "The Future is Female," is something we can get behind (and wear proudly on a shirt).
According to a recent New York Times article, "The original 'The Future Is Female' T-shirt design was made for Labyris Books, the first women’s bookstore in New York City. The photographer Liza Cowan took a picture of Alix Dobkin, her girlfriend at the time, wearing it in 1975."
Of the shirt, Cowan told the paper, “It’s taken on a life of its own. I don’t know what to make of it. But I think the slogan is great, I love that women are wearing it. It’s kind of a call to arms, and it’s a statement of fact.”
However the controversy that erupted this week between LA brand Otherwild and British model Cara Delevingne over the slogan is divisive, and took on more than a life of its own.
Apparently, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. By another woman. (Insert unhappy emoji here.)
OTHERWILD vs. DELEVINGNE
Rachel Berks, who heads up LA-based design label, Otherwild, has made the following claim: "Otherwild used @lizacowan's image of Alix Dobkin in the shirt (1975) with permission, as originally seen on Kelly Rakowski's @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y. Otherwild's redesign and reissue of the FIF tees and buttons is protected under copyright law, which mandates that any reproduction of an existing known public work must be altered at least 20% from the original."
Here's where it gets tricky.
Delevingne took to her Instagram account to share the following with her 23.4 million followers: “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE. A lot of you have been asking for one of these – so I decided to put them up for sale, with proceeds going to Girl Up!” The shot is of Delevingne, plus her model friend in sweatshirts that look identical to what's being sold on Otherwild.
The result was a very public, very catty fight. It wasn't pretty or forward-looking. Berks reposted Delevingne’s photo, calling her a “celezbian,” which has since been deleted.
In fact, posts and comments from both parties have been wiped.
In regards to Delevingne, Berks took to Instagram again, writing: "Delevingne's choice to lift and manufacture Otherwild's design, claiming it as her own to sell with an undisclosed charitable offering, is indefensible. Her actions ironically counter the very message of the slogan 'The Future Is Female', and it's confounding that she would do this to a small queer feminist-owned business after purchasing the product from us just a few weeks ago."
On their site Otherwild states that they believe, "in an inclusive, expanded and fluid notion of gender expression, identities and feminisms." This apparently doesn't include celezbians.
Let's call this opportunity miffed, missed, and mishandled.
WINNERS vs. LOSERS
Let's look at who loses here. One, women. It's not great when such a positive message gets undermined and overshadowed by controversy. There are ways to handle what you feel to be professional screw-ups, and then, there are public temper tantrums. (Insert second unhappy emoji.)
Moreover it is yet to be seen what consequences the negative press will have-- on both the proliferation of the message as well as the giving component. Otherwild donates 25% of profits to Planned Parenthood. Delevingne promised, "proceeds from every shirt sold support Girl Up's campaign to promote the health, safety, and education of girls in developing countries."
Who wins? Hopefully what the argument has caused is the desire for more young women to learn about the history of the slogan.
LET'S GET RID OF THE vs. & EXAMINE OUR CHOICES, TOGETHER
The bummer is what was missed. Sure, stand up for yourself personally and professionally. On her side, Delevingne should have contacted Berks first. She should have credited Berks in her original Instragram post (which has been edited to thank Otherwild). Berks, however angry, should not have posted such a hot-headed response. Don't text angry. Don't Instagram angry. Don't go to bed angry. Tips for life, ladies.
This was a perfect opportunity for women to come together. Neither of these women own the slogan.
Instead of unity we got a schism. Instead of a "call to arms" we called names. It's hypocritical to espouse inclusion but go for blood the moment you feel wronged.
To her credit, Berks has admitted that her initial post was "reactionary." Delevingne has yet to comment beyond Instagram. In conversation with Think Progress, Berks said: "I hope that she does the right thing. I don’t have high hopes that she will." Which sounds like she's still pretty angry, and more interested in being "right," than being unified.
In the future, that is perhaps, female, let's work with each other-- because one thing is for sure: The Future Is Not vs.