A Philadelphia company selling T-shirts and greeting cards espousing “woke” values, like “Gender is a construct” and “Consent is mandatory,” is facing a public campaign for customers to pull their support after its founder fired almost his entire staff — days after being confronted about his own history of sexual abuse.
After a Facebook post raised questions about CEO Alan Javier Martofel’s history with women, the staffers at Feminist Apparel dug into the issue and were shocked to find a Facebook post in which Martofel admitted to a history of abuse and used it to promote his then-fledgling company, the website Refinery29 reported.
“We’ve all either faced this firsthand, seen it, heard a firsthand account of it, or are guilty of it ourselves,” Martofel wrote in the 2013 post. “I’m someone who’s guilty of it. I’ve grinded up on women on buses and at concerts without their consent. I’ve made out with ‘the drunk chick’ at a party because it was easier. I’ve put a woman’s hand on my d— while she was sleeping.”
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In his 2013 post, Martofel said he was starting the company as a “humble” attempt to fix rape culture. The company’s nine staffers felt misled — that wasn’t the origin story he had told them or reporters.
In a Facebook post, former Feminist Apparel sales and marketing manager Loretta Gary said she thought she had found her dream job, intoxicated by the prospect of working for a company that seemed to align with her values.
“Alan sold me a story of inclusion, collaboration and an eventual revolution within the garment industry that I so deeply wanted to believe in,” she wrote.
But now, Gary said, “I’m disgusted, saddened and overwhelmed by the ways in which toxic masculinity, misogyny, white supremacy and capitalist power-dynamics were all too present in a supposed ‘safe’ ‘feminist’ work environment.”
It’s been a “wake-up call” about how little rights workers have, she said.
Several other personal Facebook posts from Feminist Apparel’s former staffers are included in a Tumblr recounting of recent events, which also show a conversation from the company’s private Slack channel.
After his staffers confronted him, Martofel stepped down as CEO but remained part of the company. Ten days later, he fired his staff. The company is now looking for new leadership, according to its Facebook page. According to Refinery29, the only people left working there are Martofel and a consultant.
On the company’s blog, Martofel explained his decision:
“Sadly, in the meeting that took place with my now-former employees last Friday, I was made aware that they, unequivocally, do not share my views on either business or feminism. … After much deliberation, and in accordance with both state law and our employee handbook, I made the difficult decision to proceed without them.”
He did not respond to a request for comment from the Inquirer and Daily News.
The company’s Facebook is now full of comments from the company’s followers tagging other fans of the page and alerting them to the news.
This is not the first time Feminist Apparel has been the subject of controversy: In 2014, a group of women began the #NotBuyingFA hashtag when they accused the company of stealing slogans and Martofel of not using “his privilege to support the people that his company claims to help.”
Even though Gary is dismayed by her experience at Feminist Apparel, she says it’s not her goal to get the company to fold.
“The staff, the artists, and the community … all did a lot of positive work that I hope continues on in a more truthful and impactful way,” she said in an interview.