Real Leaders

T-shirts To Make You Eat Your Words

The next time you say something offensive in public, beware – Amanda Brinkman may put it on a T-shirt. German-born Brinkman moved with her family to Los Angeles as a child and has always looked for attention.

During the 2016 presidential debates, she found it. After hearing Donald Trump call Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman,” she bristled, and on a whim mocked up a T-shirt with the phrase emblazoned on the front and put it up on her new website.

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She woke up the next morning to 10,000 orders and called the online payments company to report an error. It wasn’t, and Brinkman found herself thrown into the midst of a new business venture that started by appropriating someone else’s words. Can attitude alone make you money? Well, yes, it seems so. Since October 2016, Brinkman’s online shop, Google Ghost, has donated a percentage of sales to Planned Parenthood – more than $130,000. Celebrities such as Will Ferrell and Katie Perry have been seen sporting her playful T-shirts, with messages such as, “The Future is Female” and “Gender is a Drag.”

“I want my movement, Shrill Society, to make people, especially women, laugh, think, and hopefully become more socially active through product design and collaborations,” she explains. “Shrill Society is a play on the word ‘shrill,’ which has been historically used to rob women of power. We intend to give it back.”

Brinkman’s fun and irreverent style has rubbed off on other women since she was young. She bounced into her classroom on the first day of school, a newly arrived immigrant wearing lace gloves, bright colors and mismatched, patterned clothing and was met with a sea of beige outfits from stunned classmates. Her teacher made her wipe the bright red lipstick off that day, but she noticed how girls in her class became braver over the next few months and more experimental in what they wore. Some of them formed a girls-only bicycle gang and roamed the streets looking for adventure. The crazy forest girl from Germany had turned school into a lesson on empowerment.

Brinkman’s T-shirt may have started off viral, but it’s more than just sloganeering. Their products are created in ethical working conditions that reinforce their politics – to make the world a safer place for women and girls. That means no sweatshops, domestic production, and recyclable shipping materials.

“Because our individual stories matter,” she explains. “We connect you with our artists and makers and to women making a difference all over the world. We use humor to provide context, enable conversation and build relationships. We don’t believe in shaming one another for where we are on our respective political journeys. Instead, we offer tools to empower each other to find our voices, make our choices, and follow our passions.” Brinkman’s goal is to create ongoing products that expand upon women’s significant contributions to a shared history and to shape how young women tell their stories. She also wants you to stay nasty.

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