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Feminist Apparel CEO admits sexual misconduct and fires staff

image copyrightFeminist Apparel website / Loretta Gary
image captionFeminist Apparel CEO Alan J. Martofel and some of the jumpers available for sale at his online retailer

Staff at the clothing brand Feminist Apparel found out their CEO had admitted to sexual misconduct - and were fired within days of confronting him about it.

Feminist Apparel sells clothes and accessories with slogans promoting feminism and equality.

So staff were horrified when they saw Alan Martofel's 2013 post admitting to harassing women.

The same post announced his new business venture - Feminist Apparel.

Nine of the company's 10 staff had a meeting with Mr Martofel on Friday 22 June after they were alerted to his old Facebook post.

The former employees say he acknowledged previous sexual misconduct during the meeting, and that he said he would look into standing down.

He then left the office and wasn't seen the following week.

But on 1 July, the nine staff members who were at the meeting received an email saying they were fired. The remaining staff member, who apparently works off site, didn't attend the meeting and is still employed.

Mr Martofel says the fired employees were let go legally and that they did not share his views on "feminism or business".

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Feminist Apparel, an American company with more than 218,000 Facebook fans and 137,000 Instagram followers, markets itself as a political brand aiming to combat rape culture and promote feminism.

"Riots not diets" and "Empowered women empower women" are just some of the messages available on items for sale.

Mr Martofel had previously said that he was inspired to launch the brand while researching a documentary about sexual assault at university.

'I've made out with the drunk chick'

His 2013 Facebook post speaks frankly of his own previous behaviour.

Titled "What is rape culture?" the note is full of statistics about harassment and rape, and ends with a quote from feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

In it, the CEO writes: "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."

He also admits to putting a woman's hands on his genitals while she slept, before announcing the launch of Feminist Apparel as a way of trying to make amends for his own behaviour and to try to challenge sexist attitudes.

Former staff say they are particularly angry that Mr Martofel is making money out of those who support abuse victims. They say he is taking home $60,000 a year, more than anyone else at the company, and therefore "embraced misogynistic business practices that directly contradict the values of intersectional feminism".

They said in a statement: "For nearly five years, Alan J. Martofel, a confessed abuser, has been co-opting and profiting off of the movement to end rape culture, the intersectional feminist movement, and social justice movements more broadly."

Under the hashtag #NotbuyingFA they are urging people to boycott the company and are sharing stories on a Tumblr page.

image copyrightFeminist Apparel website

In response to the criticism against him and his brand, Mr Martofel defended his behaviour and motive for launching the company.

"As a privileged man entering this space, I felt it necessary at the time to do a very honest audit of my own past behaviours and to put it out publicly," he wrote.

He said the nine former employees were let go legally and that they did not share his views on "feminism or business".

Newsbeat has contacted Mr Martofel for a comment.

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Related Topics

  • Retailing
  • Feminism
  • Fashion
  • Social media

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