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By the way people were queued up in Adams Morgan on Thursday afternoon, a District observer would probably assume they were waiting for free fast-casual food or a seasonal cocktail menu. But on the last day before the inauguration, the dozens-deep line was not for the usual consumables that drive Washingtonians to wait patiently (although a server from Mellow Mushroom was handing out free slices of pizza). It was for The Outrage, a feminist apparel marketplace that is operating a pop-up shop at 2439 18th Street, NW.
The space formerly occupied by Violet Boutique still looks like an upscale clothing store, albeit one with a message. Slogans like “silence equals violence,” “this pussy grabs back,” and “nasty women unite” are emblazoned on t-shirts, posters and needlepoint hoops. Solange’s black feminist anthem “F.U.B.U.” plays overhead. And it’s more packed than Violet—or any other retail space, really—ever was, with a volunteer at the door maintaining a one-in, one-out policy.
The Outrage is the brainchild of Rebecca Lee Funk and Claire Schlemme. Funk, who has a background in fashion and international development, said the venture was born from a desire “to blend activism and style.” When the pair launched their online marketplace on Oct. 20 (the day after Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” at the third presidential debate), The Outrage was originally intended to celebrate the first female president. Like millions of others, their plans changed drastically on Nov. 8.
To paraphrase Michelle Obama: When others went low, Funk and Schlemme went high. The Outrage has committed at least 15 percent of profits to charity, with 100 percent of the profits from their largest line (about 50 percent of their product lines are their own designs) going to charity. For example, All Women’s March merchandise profits were used to subsidize travel costs for march participants with limited financial means and 15 percent of “Nasty Women Unite” profits are donated to Planned Parenthood in Trump’s name. Funk estimates that the store raised $10,000 for the March in just the last few days, $10,000 for Planned Parenthood in the last week or so, and over $50,000 for charity since their launch last year.
But are t-shirts the best way to combat Brownshirts? Is a consumerist response to an attack on women’s rights a step in the right direction, or does it just turn feminism into another upscale brand? Funk takes umbrage at that characterization. “You have power with your purchasing decisions,” she says, noting that The Outrage only partners with vendors that use ethical production practices and that they give to organizations that people care about, describing what The Outrage offers as “ethical shopping.”
While the crowds will probably die down after the Women’s March on Saturday, The Outrage will be in the space until mid-February, and they are looking for options for a permanent space after that. And the goal isn’t just to turn apparel profits into charitable donations. Funk says they want to use half of the store as a safe space for the community, hosting book clubs, support groups, and discussions on intersectional feminism. According to their website, “fashion allows you to express yourself and start a conversation.”