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Sep/Oct - Half the Sky (2016) > Cheap Clothing/Fairtrade

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message 1: by Katie (new)

Katie Whitton | 3 comments While reading the book, there was a part where the author had written that we should continue to buy cheap clothing which has been manufactured in sweat shops and exported to US/UK as it gives women jobs. My problem is, I've watched 'The True Cost' which shows the abhorrent conditions the women work in; they get abused, earn little money and don't see their family.

I now feel that I'm a bit caught in the middle as I want these women to have the opportunity to a job but I also don't want them to work in horrendous conditions. If i buy cheap clothing from Primark/H&M/supermarkets, the woman will continue to work in those conditions and if I try to buy fairtrade, then on a positive note it would lead to factories thinking about women's working conditions, but more likely the factories would shut down and less women would be able to get employment.

What does everyone else think?


message 2: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments I think that fair trade is the only solution in the long run. Because since we live in a capitalist society, we as the ones who are buying clothes are actually quite mighty.

When producing clothes that aren't bought anymore, conditions will change. For the better!


message 3: by Aakriti (new)

Aakriti Gupta (aakritty) | 1 comments Considering the fact that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, I strongly feel fair trade and sustainable clothing is the way forward.
I personally feel, we have to evolve to better models. If more people buy fair trade and ethically produced goods, yes it will be expensive but ultimately it will encourage more businesses towards better practices. The other side of the story being protesting and demanding better regulations and worker rights. In any case, as a consumer we vote with our money.


message 4: by Tim (new)

Tim Frankly, I think as soon as the term "creating jobs" is brought up in a discussion, I know for a fact I'm going to have a lot of work to do if I'm to continue said discussion. To put it bluntly: I never buy that line and neither should you. It is ultimately demand that creates jobs - demand for labour which is ultimately determined by the demand for a product or service (meaning: the consumers at large create jobs). However, to suggest that sweatshops are in any way a positive thing for any society, and that the people working in them should be grateful for the employment opportunity, makes me want to cut off the conversation straightaway (not meant to address you, Katie, so don't worry). I'm afraid that I am guilty of purchasing from cheaper clothing shops though, but I find myself not having the time to find out what stores employ fairtrade, on top of calculating whether or not it's financially wise of me to purchase from them, on top of the question of whether or not the clothes are my taste to begin with. Also, as we live under a capitalist system (as MeerderWörter said), I as a socialist find that most if not all products - clothes included - are produced in a manner that is unethical to one degree or another, but that knowledge seems to have a backwards effect on me, because it makes the difference between Western workers and Eastern (sweatshop) workers seem smaller than it does to most others, thereby desensitising me - in some way - from matters that are (and should be) considered urgent matters.

Anyway, I don't think ethical consumerism is a sustainable solution, especially not under capitalism. The best to hope for, as long as capitalism exists, is stricter regulations, but even that is going to be complicated, unless most if not all countries where sweatshops are still used do it at the same time, and getting there at all will - and I mean absolutely WILL - require direct action by the workers, as it did in both Europe and the United States before. As Aakriti put it (quite nicely): we vote with our money... but voting in and of itself really isn't as efficient as we wish it were.

That's really my two cents on it (for now), but I would like to close with a question for you fellow OSS members. How would you people say you define socialism and/or communism, and what do you make of it (in terms of desirability and achievability)?

I personally feel like there's a lot of misunderstanding surrounding both and given that most of us are familiar with the concept of intersectionality, I reckon this would be as good a place as any to discuss it.


message 5: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Well, I think the way communism and socialism in the former eastern European countries were is not the thing we should work towards. It ended for a reason.

But I think we should work towards a society that is built on Marx' ideal of socialism and communism, because that is something completely different to what the socialist countries made out of it. I had a lecture in sociology about it, and I asked my professor exactly about this: So Marx saw something completely different in socialism and communism than they did in the former eastern european countries. And she said yes.

Tim, People Tree is a sustainable company, who also looks after their workers. For your interest, Emma designed clothing for them and visited the workers. Their products are also of a good quality. Maybe you wanna check this out:)


message 6: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Dewar | 4 comments Kia ora Katie and all. Good question! An approach I try to take when buying anything is to ask - who profits? and what's the cost to nature and people?

The 'fast fashion' produced by the big high street stores is designed to be disposable, exploiting our human desire for novelty. It needs to be cheap so we can feel ok about indulging in a new shirt. To sell things cheap but make a profit means squishing costs - so cheap fabrics and low wages - the lower the better. If one country regulates to improve wages and conditions for women working there, the big chains just move their contracts to somewhere less regulated.

The only way to get better wages and conditions for women workers is to protest against these practices. The most effective protest is to hurt the big brands profits by stopping buying stuff made in sweat shop conditions out of materials that are harmful to nature. (Non-organic cotton is brutal on land and people because of pesticide use and uses masses of water to grow, for example.) The broken 'consumer' economic system has given us the power to drive change through what (and if) we buy. If we all only bought Fair Trade the big brands would change really fast and conditions would improve.

But really we need to move away from the post-war economic system that depends on us buying more and more 'stuff' ...


message 7: by Katie (new)

Katie Whitton | 3 comments Thanks for your responses, I was just a bit shocked by the comment in the book so was wondering if I was missing something.

I think ethical clothing has a long way to go until it is a viable solution to ending the terrible labour conditions that these women face. For me, I would gladly wear ethical clothing as long as you could get regular things like a white t-shirt, a grey jumper and jeans but everything seems to scream 'I buy ethical!!!' with all their patterns etc, it's not wearable - for me.


message 8: by Laure (new)

Laure | 392 comments Half the Sky really changed my point of view on the topic. I cannot really label the clothes production companies as evil anymore, when I think of the women that got empowered thanks to the job opportunities they received.
Yet, working conditions in these factories are terrible and sometimes life-threatening (see the process to create "used-like" jeans, or even the building maintenance, cf. the tragedy of Rana Plaza).
Actually, many NGOs plead against the boycott of these companies, as people (women) desperately need these jobs.
=> see cleanclothes.org: https://cleanclothes.org/issues/faq/b...

And this very interesting article of the Huffington Post, of which a lot reminded me of what is develóped in Half the Sky: http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/ar...


message 9: by Tim (new)

Tim I very much disagree with that, Laure. People (women included) need jobs like these, as much as the Western workers did during the first and second Industrial Revolutions, which is to say: not at all. What these people need is not these jobs, but to have their basic needs met, which I think is what you actually mean when you say "people (women) desperately need these jobs". They need to pay their rent, pay for their food, water, and for whatever other things can give them any temporary distraction of the hollow lives they're forced every day to live.

For crying out loud, it's come to the point where many Chinese factories have had to install suicide nets under their windows and in their stairwells to catch workers who try to kill themselves on the job. Nothing empowering to it and I'd be the last to call it a choice, much less an opportunity.


message 10: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Tim wrote: "I very much disagree with that, Laure. People (women included) need jobs like these, as much as the Western workers did during the first and second Industrial Revolutions, which is to say: not at a..."

Tim, I must go with you here. Have any of you ever read Friedrich Engel's writings about the working classes in England?
I'm glad we're past these conditions in England, but sadly that's still how it looks like in South East Asia, at least I don't know different. I was shocked when I read it, and needed 3 hours for 36 pages, because I couldn't believe what I saw.


message 11: by Laure (last edited Dec 07, 2016 02:23AM) (new)

Laure | 392 comments I agree with you both, the working conditions are awful and I obviously stand against them (already said in my comment).
But well, "no job" is also not the solution - if it was that easy, workers of these companies would quit. Same for the workers of Western countries during the industrial revolution! To get autonomous, you need money, so you need a job. Where else are jobs offered in developing countries?

Of course, this is in the frame of our capitalist, globalized world. But for the moment we live in this world and I believe the system is not going to change soon, not there...

Fair-trade is one of the ways, but the price is often dissuasive. I get the point of "consuming less" - this is also one of my goals.
But boycotting the big companies is not a real solution. What the Huffington Post article pointed out is that a real control of working conditions is needed... by the government of the country where the factory is located. See the example of Brazil. This works. Obviously, this is not going to happen magically, there needs to be pressure from other countries so that some adopt these controls and these regulations. Some examples of such international pressures were mentioned in Half the Sky, about reproductive rights if I remember correctly (not sure). This could also be set about working conditions!


message 12: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Well, we're so many people here, why don't we use that power?

Mods, since Emma is so well-known, do you think that we could work out something? Us, Emma and the UN (UN Women especially, but we should use all resources available I think.)
Like, a big petition or something similar?

We could also ask Avaaz to help us - they have a few MILLION members.


message 13: by Laure (new)

Laure | 392 comments MeerderWörter wrote: "
Well, we're so many people here, why don't we use that power?

Mods, since Emma is so well-known, do you think that we could work out something? Us, Emma and the UN (UN Women especially, but we should use all resources available I think.)
Like, a big petition or something similar?

We could also ask Avaaz to help us - they have a few MILLION members."


What do you have in mind? :-)
I think we could do it - if we gather enough people, it will have to be acknowledged.


message 14: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Dewar | 4 comments Katie wrote: "Thanks for your responses, I was just a bit shocked by the comment in the book so was wondering if I was missing something.

I think ethical clothing has a long way to go until it is a viable solu..."


For basics these Fair Trade organic people might be worth a look? https://www.cottonroots.co.uk/catalog...

Buying local made in countries with minimum and living wages - and good environmental standards - can be a good option too. In the UK there's these people who do basics > http://www.josery.com/collections/wom...

We can change what's 'normal' and 'accepted' if enough of us act :-)


message 15: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Dewar | 4 comments Laure wrote: "MeerderWörter wrote: "
Well, we're so many people here, why don't we use that power?

Mods, since Emma is so well-known, do you think that we could work out something? Us, Emma and the UN (UN Women..."


Would LOVE to see everyone's thoughts on this - people power through 'stopping shopping' is something I'm exploring in my fiction writing.


message 16: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Laure wrote: "MeerderWörter wrote: "
Well, we're so many people here, why don't we use that power?
What do you have in mind? :-)
I think we could do it - if we gather enough people, it will have to be acknowledged. "


As far as I understand it, every member of Avaaz can start a petition to highlight/achieve something. (I'm a member too, let me think of something:) )
I would share it here, (obviously) and also ran it through twitter, since some mods of OSS have twitter too and we could all spread it around, also facebook of course, and other social media.

If you have any suggestions, I'm happy to hear from you (PM or here, as you like it!)


message 17: by Laure (new)

Laure | 392 comments MeerderWörter wrote: "As far as I understand it, every member of Avaaz can start a petition to highlight/achieve something. (I'm a member too, let me think of something:) )
I would share it here, (obviously) and also ran it through twitter, since some mods of OSS have twitter too and we could all spread it around, also facebook of course, and other social media.

If you have any suggestions, I'm happy to hear from you (PM or here, as you like it!)"


I always prefer petitions that are targeted - and I also think they're much more efficient. Name-shaming alone doesn't suffice obviously. I appreciate some of the work of Greenpeace for example, which really follows some industry giants, watching closely and reporting their misbehaviors, trying to put pressure on the long term for an improvement of their doings. But that's not something we'll be able to do ;-)
So. What's your (our) target? a specific region? a specific company? a specific practice? (yeah I'm a fan of "specific" stuff" ^^') :-)


message 18: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Laure, that is something we both completely agree on.

I haven't thought of anything yet. I was hoping people's brains would kick in and we had some sort of brainstorming.

Ideas, folks, are greatly appreciated!


message 19: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Dewar | 4 comments Happy New Year all. I Just read this and wonder if you'd seen it Laure and MeerderWörter? It gave me an idea! >
https://www.theguardian.com/world/201...

In short, last month tens of thousands of Bangladesh clothing workers closed over 50 factories that manufacture for Gap, Zara, H&M and others by walking off the job in protest at receiving pay that is under 20% of what is estimated to be a living wage. They earn some of the lowest wages in the world. Police injured 10 of the workers by firing rubber bullets and arrested 30 workers including 7 union leaders and a tv reporter. About 1,500 workers were sacked by the factory owners. Most of the rest are back at work. The factory owners are filing legal cases against workers.

An Avaaz petition could be structured to ask Gap, Zara and H&M - famous and influential brands who care about their reputation - to cease trading with factories who have fired workers or are pressing charges. And to urgently accelerate their efforts to establish fair pay in their supply chain.

What do you think?

(A well organised and specific (eg one Saturday worldwide) boycott of these brands' stores would in my view however be an even stronger way to send a signal to the whole industry. Buying cheap disposable fashion is what fuels this kind of thing.)


message 20: by Laure (new)

Laure | 392 comments Katherine wrote: "Happy New Year all. I Just read this and wonder if you'd seen it Laure and MeerderWörter? It gave me an idea! >
https://www.theguardian.com/world/201......"


Thanks Katherine for the link! Yes, this could definitely be a petition we could start!!
MeerderWörter, what do you think about it? :-)


message 21: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments I think it's a start at least. Let's see the potential of the internet.

Should I start something? I have an account at change.org...


message 22: by Robin (new)

Robin (z_rob) | 128 comments MeerderWörter wrote: "I think it's a start at least. Let's see the potential of the internet.

Should I start something? I have an account at change.org..."


Why not? It would worth giving it a try... :)


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