One of the biggest news stories this week has been about how model Cara Delevinge ripped off an artist-made feminist t-shirt. The resulting conversation has revolved around creative rights and fandoms and is getting all sorts of sticky thanks to Internet culture.
So what happened exactly? The short of the story is that the model’s famous girlfriend gifted her a shirt from the constantly cool feminist utopia Otherwild. The shirt is based on a Labyris Books shirt worn by artist Liza Cowan’s girlfriend in the seventies and was redesigned by Otherwild mama Rachel Berks in homage and in support of Planned Parenthood. After being seen wearing the shirt out and earning buzz from the Times, Delevingne copied the shirt and is selling it to benefit Girl Up.
Oh girl. What a situation.
This is a tricky state being played out very publicly, with Instagram volleys being tossed from Otherwild to Cara. Where the story gets fascinating is that we’re seeing two completely different versions of feminism overlapping in one of the strangest, funniest, craziest ways possible: teen feminists are attacking older, more educated, feminist artists and vice versa—and neither of them know how to talk to each other even though they are ultimately saying the same thing and supporting the same causes. Team Otherwild called Delevingne a “celezbian” and Team Delevingne has responded with lots of shame, shame, shame finger points for not being PC (likely since that’s miscategorizing Delevingne who is currently bisexual). The machine of irony is working overtime here.
Obviously, there has been a miscommunication. Otherwild is operating on a realm in which free speech takes a more in-your-face witty approach. It’s liberal arts feminism, the old school feminism aligned with Liza Cowan. An example of this: just last week, Otherwild associated artist A.L. Steiner released an incredibly aggressive feminist short by way of the music video for Peaches’ “Rub.” You can read more on Berks’ thoughts on this matter which are so strong and clear. Delevigne? She was in Paper Towns. She is in the world of fan armies. Her followers are extremely loyal children who are hyper concerned with the very specific minutia of taxonomizing one’s personal identity, the same little people who need trigger warnings to shield them from your not being politically correct enough. Of course, the more serious, liberal, witty group calling a leader in the conservative group a “celezbian” is offensive to them. Thus, the mob was let loose and we have an Internet based war of people all saying the same thing but without the means by which to meet at eye level.
It’s obviously a shit situation: Delevigne clearly ripped off Otherwild and is not making any apologies save for retroactively tagging the “right” people in the launch of her shirt. Yes, both shirts benefit women and it is all good in the end—but it’s a bummer situation that is turning out to be a wonderful example of how Gen X and Gen Z speak completely different languages. It’s a war of the same words rearranged, sometimes with the letter S turned into the letter Z.
From working in this world, my advice would be this: less is more in communication—and don’t poke the beehive. The beehive doesn’t have one big brain nor does it have a leader. It’s instead ten million very tiny thoughts. Dumb down the message because the kids aren’t going to do the work.