Although she once proudly declared that she does not give many interviews, this week, yet another podcast episode featuring English social media influencer previous Love Island contestant Molly-Mae Hague has resurfaced, with her views causing uproar on Twitter and online in general.
In The Diary Of A CEO interview, Hague doubled down on the age-old phrase ‘we all have the same 24 hours in a day’, often used in reference to Beyoncé—which is exactly who the influencer compared herself to—and other uber-successful entrepreneurs and celebrities. After acknowledging previous criticism she received, Hague told listeners that it’s still true, there really is 24 hours in a day. Sure, that simple statement cannot be argued with, but as many Twitter users were quick to point out, the C-list celebrity didn’t even bother to acknowledge the wide array of choices she is faced with when it comes to using her time. This is exactly where 24 hours can differ from one person in our society to another. But oh well, Hague chose to ignore those who do not have the privilege she has had, whether that is those caring for family members, victims of discrimination due to race or ethnicity or those who are physically or mentally unwell.
She really did a number at pissing the internet off because Hague is representative of a much larger issue within the new age of influencer culture. Individualism is perpetuated throughout the girlboss narrative which almost feels Thatcherite in its expression. Molly-Mae, although not the only one responsible for promoting the ‘hustle ‘til you make it’ type of working suggested that ‘hard work’ alone is the reason she is currently in a successful position, in her early twenties and earning a six-figure income with a seemingly prestigious job title (for a company that consistently harms its workers and the environment).
It is perhaps a stretch to suggest the 22-year-old, famed for her participation in a crappy reality TV show, rewarded for her conventional attractiveness and socialised in a world that promoted individualism to her, would be able to decipher the ways in which she is promoting a damaging rhetoric around work culture.
There are plenty of young people who have the skills and talent to compete with influencers like Hague for creative roles in the fashion industry. There are many of those same people who are house- or bed-bound with ongoing illnesses, who as much as they’d like to work towards dreams of a career in something they love, are living at or below the poverty line due to inadequate government assistance for disability.
Many of those people will have dropped out of education due to inaccessible schedules or lack of remote learning, and may still live at home in order to receive care. Frankly, when it comes to 24 hours in a day, those living with chronic illness are too ill to even consider much past the next hour of staying alive. Time appears to move slower or inconsistently when you’re constantly sick, an experience referred to by many as ‘crip time’, which asks us to reimagine what can and should be done in a time period. Alison Kafer, a professor in disability studies described in her book Feminist, Queer, Crip that crip time is “recognizing how expectations of ‘how long things take’ are based on very particular minds and bodies. Rather than bend disabled bodies and minds to meet the clock, crip time bends the clock to meet disabled bodies and minds.”
The influencer’s combination of hustle culture and young success CEO story led her to promote (like many before her) a toxic ideal that damages us all, and particularly those who are unable to physically contribute to work, or pursue goals society forces on us. For every hour Hague has in a day, a chronically ill young person may only get ten minutes.
Everything you do requires more energy and more time to complete when your body will not conform to working methods that non-disabled people and workplaces abide by. To assume that anyone can “go in any direction” is to ignore the ways many chronically ill people are defined by their bodies and the (lack of) accessibility in the working world. It is also important to note that work, or more precisely, a ‘career’, is not something all people (including those living with chronic illness) want or need to aspire to. The tying together of physical output with our worthiness will always perpetuate a mindset that is inherently ableist—‘those who work the hardest are better than those who don’t’, even if those who don’t are physically or mentally unable to.
So Molly-Mae, I’ve got one question for you, why don’t you use one of the many hours you have in your day to educate yourself on crip time? It’ll be worth it, I promise you.
Last month, British MPs rejected plans for a 1p per garment fashion tax albeit our climate crisis. At the same time, a Missguided £1 bikini appeared on the market—something that should be beyond concerning for everyone. The U.K. has the highest consumption of fast fashion in the whole of Europe, with over a million tonnes of clothing ending up in landfills each year. So how much power do we as consumers really have when it comes to sustainability and why is this discussion still going on?
The swimsuit sold out promptly, with 1,000 bikinis dropping everyday on the brand’s website, which further raises the question of how it is possible to produce and retail an entire set for just £1, free delivery included. Missguided presented an official statement claiming the production cost was of a higher value to the retail cost, and that the bikini was a “gift” to their customers, in the name of “empowering women to look and feel good without breaking the bank”. Interestingly enough, 78 percent of the brand’s employees are female, yet, they are a 46 percent median wage gap between men and women. The brand ‘excuses’ itself on its website by claiming that this is due to “having more women than men” in lower paid positions, and fewer in higher ones. The lower paid positions include the factory ones, where workers often make as little as £3.50 an hour—contrasting with the U.K.’s minimum wage of £7.83 for over 25s.
Despite being one of the U.K.’s leading retail brands, according to the statistics conducted by the House of Commons, Missguided is also the least environmentally friendly, rejecting the use of recycled or organic materials in their products, clearly avoiding the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) programme as well as the sustainable clothing action plan. The government has the most power when it comes to regulating fast fashion, and yet, British MPs have rejected numerous regulations on the industry.
Many of these dismissals include the 1p per item tax to raise £35 million for clothing collection and sorting, the ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold stock, and even making a law requiring brands to publically release a modern slavery statement. In addition to this, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has also urged to put lessons on designing, creating and repairing clothing into the school curriculum, as a means to end the era of ‘disposable clothing’ as well as for the MPs to explore a ‘sharing’ economy in which hiring and swapping would replace purchasing. The failure to implement these rules and regulations results in the continuation of unsustainable, disposable mass production, which ultimately affects the environmental crisis even further.
Marketing alone has so much power in influencing what the consumer chooses to buy, and fast fashion brands know this. The infamous swimsuit was advertised by last year’s Love Island contestant Ellie Brown, and being the official fashion sponsor of Love Island 2018, Missguided saw a 40 percent increase in sales. This year, another fast fashion brand, I Saw It First, secured a spot as the show’s official fashion partner, spending around £2 million on the partnership. With over 4.2 million viewers of Love Island’s first episode alone (57 percent appear to be 16-34 years old) the show has the ability to reach a huge number of potential consumers, and yet, it still decides to go for unethical brands.
Similarly, Emily Ratajkowski has recently launched a collection with Boohoo owned Nasty Gal, a brand known to be criticised for their mistreatment of workers while Kylie Jenner advertises for knock-off brand Fashion Nova via her Instagram with over 139.5 million followers. Celebrities and influencers make a conscious choice to promote these brands and in an age where Instagram seems to dictate all new trends, the choices they make allow us to feel a sense of relatability that we, too, can afford to dress like one of the Jenners. Although there is nothing wrong with that idea, influencers should also make a deliberate choice to promote more sustainable alternatives to their followers.
While it is the consumer who creates a demand for fast fashion, it’s unfair to entirely blame the consumer for the harmful environmental impacts or unethical working conditions of the industry. Of course, it’s true that spending £1 on a bikini could seem immensely appealing, but it is important to consider not only the impact this product will have on our planet, but also how the people who made it are affected by such low prices.
Affordable clothing is not only appealing but is essential too, and we consumers can help so much by simply buying less, shopping vintage or seeking other sustainable alternatives. Until the government or the brands alone begin regulating their carbon footprint, perhaps those with a platform should consider twice before encouraging impulse buying. Just putting it out there. In addition, Missguided has now changed the price of the bikini from £1 to £5—a feeble attempt at clearing their conscience or is selling a swimsuit for a literal pound not making enough profit? Either way, nice try.