How soon is too soon to cash in on the latest social justice hashtag? A month? Two months? (Um, never?) They don’t exactly teach this stuff in business school.
The #MeToo movement, through which women have shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault, is only five days old, but it already exists in trendy-necklace form: On Wednesday the jewelry line Adornia debuted the Me Too Lariat Necklace in its online store. When I called up Moran Amir, the designer behind the piece, she told me she thought by rolling out the design so quickly she’d be ahead of the curve.
Amir’s jewelry company sells a line of lariats, each one featuring a word or phrase. When she first came up with the design, she started with stuff like “love” and “XO”; she’s recently found success with more politically tinged terms like “nasty,” “woke,” and “fake news.” (Sarah Huckabee Sanders, presumably, is not the target customer.) “After the election I just kind of felt the calling to speak my mind more and have the jewelry be more of a reflection of my political beliefs and my feminist beliefs,” Amir told me. The necklaces are listed for $44.
But why #MeToo, and why so soon? “When #MeToo started gaining currency, I was like, ‘I need to get on the ball on this quickly’ because I felt like I lost momentum with ‘nasty,’ ” Amir said. She had letters available from other necklaces, so on Monday she sprang into action, creating a prototype with a factory in New York, getting it photographed, and listing it on her website. It was all ready to go by Wednesday when Amir’s publicist sent out a press release announcing the necklace. That’s when the backlash started: A few outraged tweets called the necklace things like “problematic and gross,” which led to outraged blog posts and a piece in the New York Post.
The reaction took Amir by surprise. She thought she was doing something empowering. Adornia is a small, female-owned company, she stressed, one that just landed its first national account, Nordstrom. “I don’t want people to think I’m profiting off of their pain because that’s definitely not what I’m doing,” she said. “There are tons of women out there in social media, including myself, who are victims of abuse and share and openly talk about it as a coping mechanism and want to unite with other women. And that’s the intention of this necklace. It’s not to turn this movement into an Urban Outfitters collectors’ piece.”
As a concession to the criticism, Amir decided to donate 100 percent of profits from the necklace to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. (The company normally donates 10 percent of profits on the lariats to female-focused charities.) But otherwise, Amir is sticking by the necklace and her right to sell it: “It’s important for women I think for this product to be in the market now, not in a few months.”
The truth is someone was going to appropriate #MeToo sooner or later. In the same week it rose to prominence may seem particularly fast, but is this necklace any worse than all the other clothes and accessories that purport to be political? Besides, even the act of telling your #MeToo story on Facebook or Twitter means contributing more information about yourself to a company that sells you as its product. No matter how powerful we find it, #MeToo comes with plenty of late-capitalist baggage.
Besides: Feminism may be used to sell T-shirts, but hey, maybe those T-shirts are subtly selling feminism.
At any rate, Amir’s instinct that some women would want to start empowering their necks right away turned out to be right. After we spoke Wednesday, she emailed me Thursday to report, “We saw several orders come through last night, so I am glad it is resonating with some!”