Recently, a new form of a Holiday gift exchange, similar to Secret Santa, has made its way onto various social media websites. Unlike Secret Santa, however, this so-called “secret sister” gift exchange promises participants 36 gifts or more in exchange for only giving one gift valued at $10. Too good to be true? That’s because it is. According to Snopes, a website dedicated to validating and debunking rumors, this “secret sister” gift exchange is nothing more than a chain letter scheme that is actually illegal.
What is particularly interesting about this scheme is that it only targets women for participation. It addresses all “ladies” to be a part of a sisterhood of sorts by exchanging gifts with other women you may or may not know. It seems that the chain letter is gaining momentum by capitalizing on modern feminism and the idea of unity among women.
You may have seen the hoax across various social media websites, predominantly on Facebook. The post attempts to draw in women by promoting feminist ideals of unity and sisterhood. Merriam-Webster defines sisterhood as the “solidarity of women based on shared conditions, experiences, or concerns.” The idea of support and sisterhood among women is a common facet of modern feminism, and this “secret sister” hoax is utilizing this idea to encourage people who hold these ideals to participate.
Since it is hard to say how this hoax came about and began spreading, it is unclear who is profiting from it, or if any particular person or company is profiting at all. Nonetheless, the hoax is capitalizing on the ideals of sisterhood. It pulls women into participating without providing the expected results.
This hoax is not the first to capitalize on feminism. Several companies and media forums have caught on to the trending topic of equality and abuse it to make a profit, including a British charity campaign selling T-shirts allegedly made in sweatshops. Last year, Meredith Fineman described how various companies capitalize on feminism without truly holding its ideals. Fineman argued that by doing so, the companies not only make themselves look ridiculous, but it “cheapens the idea of women’s equality.”
One year later, the article still holds true. It is arguably beneficial to have various companies and networks such as Dove and MTV latch on to feminist ideals and spread the messages of equality, inclusivity, and self-empowerment. However, one can’t help but think that they are only doing so for economic gain, cheapening the impact of the message.
The “secret sister” hoax is doing the same. The ideas of sisterhood, solidarity, and unity among women are being degraded by a trick promising more than it will actually yield. The hoax serves as a reminder to be wary of posts and companies that claim to be feminist just to gain profit.