Here’s What Happened When a Women’s Clothing Company Asked Customers About the Election
The night after the election, MM.LaFleur CEO Sarah LaFleur sent a note to the brand’s community to call for a conversation among women. She wrote about how the employees of our women’s apparel company took the day after the election to reflect on a political moment that had “rocked us to the core and taken many of us by surprise.”
“As a country, we’re having a pivotal conversation about women’s role in society and the workplace—and that conversation profoundly and directly affects all of us within the MM community,” wrote LaFleur. “In the spirit of openness, I want to include our customers in our dialogue.”
In 48 hours, we received over 1,100 emails (66,133 words—yes, we counted) in response. As we reviewed them, we were incredibly moved and inspired.
As was to be expected, some of those responses said, “You’re a clothing brand. You should stay out of politics.” We respectfully disagree. As one customer put it so eloquently: “I don’t want your company to be apolitical. You have a voice and a following, and you should use it.”
As a brand, we’ve heard you and we plan to take action to fight (even harder) for equality of all kinds. Our goal now is to continue the conversation and create a safe space where women with differing viewpoints can be heard and learn from each other. The majority of responses we received came from Hillary supporters, but in the spirit of open discussion, we are including thoughts from all sides of the debate in this post. Below, our customers speak for themselves:
“I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman in America today, and I know I’m not alone. I am struggling to find ways to understand and channel our feelings and to make positive use of them. Yesterday’s definitive election results felt like a repudiation of women’s voices and bodies. To what extent this sense is shared by our national and local communities isn’t clear yet, but understanding this begins with open and sincere discussion. One of the most extraordinary things that has come out of the last two days is this embrace of empathetic, even emotional dialogue. I can’t tell you how many recent conversations have started with, ‘I’m here for you,’ ‘Let me know if you need to talk,’ and ‘How are you feeling?’ This is beautiful, and I hope it’s not just occurring within my own social echo chamber.” —VP of Operations, New York
“The excessive, overly dramatic response to what was a fair election is absolutely absurd. This much energy is best spent elsewhere, on more productive pursuits. Trump’s victory is the literal definition of democracy, and the fact that most people around me today have been ‘horrified’ and ‘shocked’ goes to show just how cloistered their worlds are and how little they listen to the woes and anger of the people around them… What no one realizes is that when they bemoan the state of the world and act as if the world is ending because of one presidential election, they are alienating and stifling the freedom of speech and thought of others around them. Why are they so surprised about this result? Because they did not give the emotional or mental room to others who may have thought or felt differently to share without being instantly antagonized, villainized, and attacked. Where is the space to have healthy and open debate? My hope is that this election result will move us to create those spaces. And for the record, no, I did not vote for Trump. I voted for Hillary. I am just choosing to afford my fellow Americans some respect.” —Master’s Student, Massachusetts
“As a sociologist and a scholar of gender and migration, as well as a concerned and engaged global citizen, I see the entirety of this election process as one driven by an undercurrent of far-right nationalism that has transformed fear, anxiety, and uncertainty into racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. That doesn’t mean everyone who voted for Trump supports that, just that the campaign and election carry with them these very concerning trends. I think that people of a variety of political persuasions can find these trends concerning, and that we need to come together across various ideological differences to take a stand against what is clearly a rising tide. And to me, professional women can be the bulwark of that resistance, as we have both the lived experience and a certain amount of power and privilege that can be mobilized.” —Anonymous
“We can learn so much from opposing views if we are willing to listen and openly communicate. Too often, we make assumptions and judge. I voted for Trump because I support medical innovation. Obamacare threatens the model needed to compete, commercialize, and innovate. We are on the brink of discovery within Alzheimer’s—as in, there are people out there with an app on their phone counting down the days until the data is released. Obamacare threatens all of that. I voted for Trump because I am passionate about the people we serve by the medicines we create. With only two parties, a vote is not always what it seems. It’s way more complex.” —Internal Specialty Sales Trainer, Indiana
“There was a victory for women in that Kellyanne Conway was the first woman to lead a winning presidential campaign in the U.S. I find that inspirational—regardless of political preference.” —Healthcare Managing Partner, New Jersey
“As a female attorney of color and immigrant to the United States, the news of the election felt like a blow to me on a personal level. I moved to the U.S. eight years ago to attend college, ironically the very same year that Obama was elected. There was a hope, pride and zeal that surrounded Obama’s election, especially for those around me in college, that I feel has now sadly been replaced by fear and antagonism today. I am also Muslim and can’t help but wonder whether the rhetoric about banning Muslims will materialize, and what that will mean for thousands of immigrants. There are a lot of people like me—young, educated, professional Muslims—who have nothing but love for this country. But when I hear about hate speech, and even more recently, about physical attacks against Muslims and Latinos since Trump was elected, I feel scared. Not even so much for myself. But for others like me who don’t have the privilege to be shielded from such attacks.” —Attorney, California
“I was born and bred as a non-Muslim female in a Muslim country. I experienced sexual discrimination and harassment in my origin country, and when I tried reporting it to the cops, I was blamed for it. I left the country the first chance I could and never looked back until recently. I am unabashedly a true fiscal conservative but a social liberal in the sense that I support women’s rights, pro-choice, and I support LGBT. After much soul-searching, I decided that fiscal conservatism, jobs, and national security overrode my social liberal side. When I tentatively aired my views that I might be supporting Trump to my friends, I was mocked, ridiculed, and even got labeled as trash and a low life. I was shocked, especially since they were supposedly my good friends. It stung and brought back unpleasant memories many years ago when my own female friends ostracized me when I dared to stand up to sexual harassment. Aren’t women supposed to help each other no matter what their views are?” —CFO, Texas
“I’m a lawyer who works in a government office trying to enforce laws prohibiting discrimination. I woke up on Wednesday thinking, ‘How do I train and enforce our discrimination policy when our president-elect regularly violated multiple protected categories in the discrimination laws?’ My friends and I are struggling but want to do something positive.” —Attorney, New Jersey
This is just the beginning. As a brand, we are working on ways to continue this conversation, to listen to your suggestions, and finally, to take action on behalf of women in the workplace. For now, please continue to contribute your thoughts and ideas by using #ourMMovement on social media, or emailing us at ourMMovement@mmlafleur.com. We are listening.
Tory Hoen is the founding editor of The M Dash and the editor-in-chief at professional womenswear brand MM.LaFleur. This post originally appeared on The M Dash.