Monica Singh, an employee of education and staffing company General Assembly, wasn’t expecting anything unusual when she went to work on Tuesday, one week after the distressing election of Donald Trump. But at the conclusion of her weekly team lunch, men around the room removed their sweatshirts and coats to reveal a heartwarming feminist surprise: Each was wearing an identical “The Future is Female” shirt.
Monica was in tears– “happy tears this time.”
“Our male colleagues are with us and ready to fight — for pay equality, women leaders, and reproductive rights,” she wrote in the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. “They gave me support, hope and solidarity at just the right time.”
Adi Hanash, the Head of Online Education and one of the organizers of the gesture, said that they wanted to remind the women in their office that they had their support, after seeing anti-women sentiment spread through the election. “We have a very strong group of women who are our leaders, our thought-partners, our friends and colleagues,” he told us. “Seeing the way this affected them… it was pretty evident we had to do something.”
Hanash brainstormed ideas with a small group at first, before slowly bringing others in on the surprise. He was amazed by the speed and enthusiasm with which everyone jumped on board.
“It’s very powerful when you don’t even need to ask,” said Marissa Arnold, head of communications, “and they’ve done something to make you feel so included and so positive.”
The message spread quickly online. Arnold said the positivity radiated across their global network via Slack (which Hanash had also used to organize the moment), while Singh’s Facebook post in Pantsuit Nation was able to provide hope to tens of thousands of women and allies.
The show of solidarity came one day after an opinion piece in the Huffington Post spoke to the ways in which the post-election support many progressive men have offered the women in their lives has been less than desirable.
But Hanash said their intention was never to make a high profile statement. “This was never about a larger message– if all we got was a smile that brought our colleagues some joy, that was good enough,” he told us. “It was just about letting them know that we respect them.”
His advice for other men looking to show support to the women in their lives? “Grand gestures aren’t necessary; it can be something as small as letting them know you’re there for them… we wore a bunch of t-shirts to a team lunch, as a physical representation of that sentiment. But you need to work every day to show you support and respect them, and are really ready to fight alongside them on equal pay, on representation, on reproductive rights: it can’t just be one token action.”
The “Future Is Female” shirt has been a symbol of female empowerment since the 1970s, when it was created for New York City’s first women’s bookstore, Labyris Books. It is now available on Other Wild, where 25 per cent of all sales are donated to Planned Parenthood. Singh’s colleagues had also fundraised additional money to donate to Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. The collection is still growing, but by the end of the week they expect to have over $600 to split between PPFA and the ACLU. We’ll have to wait and see whether that will be donated in the name of Mike Pence.