Feminist-run businesses are largely failing. Why? Because capitalism, friends!
'capitalism caused … toilet meetings' https://t.co/hbnYW3vd0S
— Shoshana Weissmann, Regulatory Reform Muse (@senatorshoshana) April 25, 2017
The article’s author, GetBullish founder Jennifer Dziura, describes her company as “an organization that provides career and ladybiz resources from a feminist perspective and offers a feminist web shop.” She focuses and examines the failures of three feminist-run businesses in the last year or so–a scandal at Thinx, the bankruptcy of Nasty Gal (famous for the #GirlBoss mantra), and the sale of Modcloth to Wal-Mart. Although the author favors Scandinavian-style socialism, she doesn’t lay the blame entirely on one company’s fall from grace – Thinx- on capitalism. She writes:
The charges against Miki Agrawal, former CEO of period underwear company Thinx, are numerous and varied, from not giving enough fully paid maternity leave (more than common at startups, and a problem I think we ought to handle at the national level, like every other developed nation) – to allegedly groping an employee’s breasts, getting naked in the office, and conducting FaceTime meetings from the toilet. These things are not good or normal in any type of workplace.
One writer blamed the whole thing on capitalism, claiming these problems could have been avoided had Agrawal instead started a “workers’ collective.” Le sigh. Really? It seems so tedious for me to even type out the entirely obvious reasons that an entrepreneur wouldn’t invest her entire savings, call in every favor, risk her financial future, work long hours for no pay, etc., to build a workers’ collective. I mean, you can if you want. It would be a lovely thing to do. But no cool and interesting products that I know of are currently produced – much less invented by – workers’ collectives. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Thinx period panties are great. They work very well for a lot of people. They’re a game changer, a lifestyle enhancer, and even a money saver for some.
It must have been very hard for this feminist to admit that free enterprise isn’t always to blame for a company’s failure. (At least we’ll give credit where credit is due.)
However, it’s important to note why feminist-minded businesses are failing. First, they are niche-markets without much global appeal. (Harvard Business Review noted in 2014 that exploiting feminism in marketing can be a major turn-off.) Second, companies with overt political agendas alienate consumers most. And third, market forces will root out poorly-run companies who boast a bad business model. Bad news for these companies: feminism–particularly third-wave feminism– is still largely unpopular.
I have no qualms with women-run businesses. (I’m a self-employed female in the process of launching my own business very soon.) However, basing your company on an impractical business model–a la a feminist one–is largely doomed to fail. (This also happens in companies dominated by men.) Businesses aren’t immune to disaster nor should they be, which is why government should never get fully entangled in them.
Perhaps from their failures, these women will learn that “sticking it to the man” doesn’t come without consequences. Stop making business political–plain and simple.