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The male owner of a popular feminist clothing website has fired several staff members, allegedly after they voiced criticisms of his admitted sexual misconduct.
Alan Martofel, the CEO of Feminist Apparel, announced the firings in a public Facebook post on July 1.
"After much deliberation, we have decided to make some necessary changes behind the scenes of Feminist Apparel and, in doing so, are now actively seeking new management to help guide FA into the next chapter of its life, which we are extremely excited about," reads the post.
The changes in staff followed their discovery of a 2013 Facebook post in which Martofel explained his own history of sexual misconduct and how it inspired the creation of his company, according to the NY Daily News.
“I’ve grinded up on women on buses and 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--k while she was sleeping,” he wrote in the note.
Despite saying that he has since changed his behavior, staff members were repulsed by the confession.
“We were all shocked and disgusted. Not only did we discover he had admitted to assaulting people, it was a reason he started the company. He had told us each varying stories of how he started a company we all worked tirelessly for, all of these omitting that it involved his own existence as an assailant,” they wrote in a Tumblr post titled “The Truth Behind Feminist Apparel’s Management.”
“The business and platform he created was fostered by many employees over the years to become a place where survivors, victims, and their supporters felt safe to talk about their experiences and how to support one another," the post continued. "Once we finally knew the truth we realized none of us were ever safe to share in these spaces. His silence led us and many others to trust Feminist Apparel as a place to explore our oppression and work to inform others of it. All the while, we were sharing this with an abuser.”
When Martofel called a meeting, stafff members say they confronted him about his history and asserted their belief that it was "immoral for an abuser to profit from victims and survivors of abuse."
"We explained how he had used us as accomplices in his exploitative business and he betrayed our trust beyond repair,” they wrote, adding that they asked him to step down.
Martofel told the staff members to stay home for a week. After eight days, the staff realized they had been terminated when their company emails and cards no longer worked, according to the Daily News. Their suspicions were confirmed by a Facebook post that announced staff changes. They said they were not given official notice or severance.
Rebecca Green, the company’s now-former art director, expressed her outrage.
“This is the patriarchy and toxic masculinity at its f--king finest,” Green told Refinery29. “I feel righteous and angry. I feel supported by my coworkers and friends. I also feel tired. I feel incredibly sorry knowing that there are survivors in this office who were led to believe that their contributions to this company were directly going to creating a safe space and platform for survivors, feminists, and marginalized identities. ... I feel used and willfully mislead.”
Martofel has since defended his decision.
“While I continue to regret my past behaviors ... I was made aware that [staff members] unequivocally, do not share my views on either business or feminism. It is then that the operations of the company were halted for a week, while all employees continued to be paid and I assessed all available options for how to move forward at this juncture,” he wrote on the company website. “After much deliberation, and in accordance with both state law and our employee handbook, I made the difficult decision to proceed without them. I truly believe in Feminist Apparel, it's (sic) mission, and in the important causes and individuals it supports. As a result, I also need to do what is best for the company's long-term success.”
The Feminist Apparel brand has been a popular company amongst liberal and leftist activists, garnering over 360,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook. The company's slogans were often seen in videos of The Women's March and LGBTQ Pride demonstrations. On his LinkedIn page, Martofel stated that through his business, he is "looking to utilize multimedia technologies and social mediums in order to advance knowledge and awareness in the values, people, organizations, and ideas that I believe will positively impact our local and global communities, relationships, and economies."
It is unclear if the terminated staff members plan on taking legal action against Martofel.
[Photo: Screenshot via LinkedIn]