Jill McDevitt knew at the age of 16 that she wanted to be a sexologist. “I wanted to be an educator of, and empower female sexuality in general.”
Jill McDevitt was 21 years old when she first opened up Feminique Boutique, a store located in West Chester. She is now 24 years old, a young age to be a successful entrepreneur.
McDevitt graduated with a B.A. in Sexuality, Marriage and Family. She realized when she got out into the real world that there wasn’t a job in the conservative economy for her field.
“There were not many careers in that, so I ended up starting Feminique Boutique as a way to offer that kind of experience to women.”
Jill went back to get a masters degree in human sexuality at Widener University.
“I did it because I am interested and passionate.” She was accepted into the doctoral program as well at Widener. Jill McDevitt is almost like a local celebrity. She opened up the Feminique Boutique in May 2008 and has experienced much scrutiny under the public eye.
The opening of Feminique Boutique did not go smoothly.
“The borough of West Chester wouldn’t give me a permit because of the nature of the business,”said McDevitt but finally she was given a permit to open the store. She came into West Chester with many protests against her. McDevitt is not originally from West Chester.
“I went to visit a friend and really loved the town. West Chester is a really cute downtown and I thought that this would be the perfect place to open up a store.” Jill makes sure to reach out to the community of West Chester in a positive way.
“We donate giftcards, products, and money to Planned Parenthood.” McDevitt also works for Planned Parenthood as a sex educator and does workshops for the LGBT youth group.
With all of the success from opening Feminique Boutique, McDevitt thought it would be amazing if she could open up a branch of her store in a mall.
“Starting in November of 2009, business was going well and it could go better if I had a second location in a mall. I was doing my Christmas shopping and thought, Wow! There are a lot of people in the mall.” McDevitt started looking at different locations.
She did her research by finding out what their lease info was, and sending in applications.
“I didn’t hear back from anyone but on the first week of March, the short term lease consultant from King Of Prussia called me.” McDevitt was shown a few stores in which she could have Feminique Boutique.
“We went back into the office and talked about rent and all the details. I wanted to be perfectly clear, so I said to him ‘In full disclosure, so we don’t have problems later, you do understand and you did thoroughly read my website and my application and you are aware of the business that I run”
McDevitt was surprised when the short term lease manager asked her if she sold “toys.” When McDevitt was told that she couldn’t sell toys, she mentioned that the mall had a Spencers.
“When you go through the differences, one company is owned by a female and one is owned by a male. The company owned by the male caters to male sexual interest versus the female sexual interest and that is blatant sexism.”
The King of Prussia mall released a statement as follows:
“The King of Prussia Mall reviews hundreds of lease applications each year. We reserve the right to reject applications based on a variety of suitability issues, including what we believe is the best fit of merchants for the family-oriented customer base we’ve built up over a long history. In this case, we decided not to offer a temporary lease to this company in accordance with the business practices we’ve established to serve our retailers and the customers they wish to attract.”
McDevitt argues that the King of Prussia mall does not know anything about human sexuality or children being exposed to sexual material and messages and what that does for development.
“They haven’t done research like I have.” McDevitt also states that she has nothing against Spencer’s. “The store is about gag gifts, which is fine, I am not trying to bad mouth the store because they have their own place and that is great! I just want an equal opportunity to put out my message.”
So how does McDevitt plan on rectifying this case? She plans on making it a social justice issue.
“I want to raise awareness about sexism and about sexuality.”
She adds that “it’s okay to discriminate against having sex toys in a mall; it is socially acceptable but it is still discrimination and that is illegal.”
Angela Thomas is a third year student majoring in English and minoring in web technology. She can be reached at AT683005@wcupa.edu.