Did you miss me? I definitely missed y’all. It turns out that having a captive audience is addictive. So Hawaii was lovely-but I am delighted to be back in the blogosphere with you.
Here were are-WTF Wednesday. And I have a post I’ve been thinking about for a while. I know we’ve all been thinking about the tornadoes across Oklahoma (and as a former Okie myself-I definitely have been) but I haven’t yet been able to give up the tragedy of the 1,000+ people who died in Bangladesh April 24th. Because that tragedy, unlike the Boston bombings in my hometown or the Oklahoma tornadoes, was my fault.
I have never set foot in Bangladesh. To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure where it is. But my closet is chock-full of clothes sporting its name. Bangladesh is a huge supplier of garments to stores like Forever 21, H &M, Old Navy, and Zara (all stores where I love to shop). The cheaper the item, the more likely it was made in Bangladesh. Why? Because their workers are paid the worst, and their conditions are the most deplorable. All that cheapness doesn’t come free. For our convenience, someone else has to suffer.
I started thinking about this at Christmas with the Amazon shipping. I mean, same day? How does that even work? I knew there were not robots packing my items in a warehouse, but people. The more I read, the more horrified I became-stories of employees not given bathroom breaks for hours and hours, experiencing multiple stress injuries from repetitive movements, and then, when they got too slow or voiced a complaint, dismissed without ceremony. There were always lines of people willing to take their place-everyone wants a little extra cash over the holidays. These workers were not being treated as people but as tools: something with one purpose to be used until it is no longer optimal, then to be discarded and replaced. Somehow that didn’t fit in with my image of goodwill towards men.
Anyone who knows me can tell you I ask a lot of questions. In the past few years, I’ve become very interested in where my food is coming from. Were my apples doused with pesticides? Was the cow my milk came from treated with growth hormone? Is my chicken free-range? Essentially, I wanted to know if my food was natural, and thus safe. Factory farms, I’ve learned, pump so many things into the animals and then treat them so inhumanely that the food that results cannot be ethically good (and may not even be physically good, either). Well folks, factory-made clothing is just the same. Except instead of cows and chickens, it’s people who are being treated inhumanely. And that makes my $7 tank tops morally liable.
Look, Laura, you might say, but I’ve seen you eat at McDonalds! You’re not a vegan. You don’t really remove yourself from the factory farm system. So get off your high horse. Friend, you are right. I haven’t removed myself. Because it’s really, really hard. I like the taste of meat, and I like the cheapness of fast food. And I like being able to eat with friends without having to scrutinize the menu and ask embarrassing questions of the waiter to find something I can eat. So I feel you. This ethical eating (and dressing) thing is HARD.
But-I am trying the best I can. Any time I can make a substitution, I do. I buy organic apples and berries despite the higher cost and then tighten my belt in other areas. Given the choice between two products, I buy the one with less packaging to cut down on garbage. And I eat at restaurants that I know serve local, sustainable foods. You don’t have to be a total convert. Every little bit helps.
Because this stuff matters. Our world is small. Our resources are finite. And everything we consume (food, clothes, electricity) belongs to the same finite system. If we are using something, others cannot be using it. And our country is using a lot of things-cell phones and clothes chief among them-that are really causing the lives of our brothers and sisters in other countries to be Hell.
I’ve done some reading lately about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster. In New York City in 1911, 146 women were killed when the garment factory they worked in caught fire. The bosses locked the doors (a common practice to curtail unauthorized breaks) so when the blaze started, women could not escape it. Many jumped from high windows to their deaths. It is one of the deadliest incidents in New York City history after the 9/11 attacks. The public was so outraged by the deplorable condition of this factory and the shocking manner of these women’s deaths that legislation was passed that protected workers across the board, which led to the ladies’ labor union.
146 people died at Triangle. Over a thousand died in Bangladesh last month. Let’s have some outcry, shall we?
I for one vow not to buy any garment with “made in Bangladesh” on the tag. And I also vow to buy secondhand before new. I know it’s not much, but it’s a start. Will you join me?
We vote with our wallets, plain and simple. When Abercrombie and Fitch recently came out as a company that is anti-plus-size, many people (myself included) decided that if that company’s policies were so gross, that we would take our shopping dollars elsewhere. I felt no pain making that decision (partly because A&F is so expensive and their clothes aren’t that great anyway). But if I can defiantly be anti-fat-discrimination, shouldn’t it be just as easy to be anti-basically-slavery? Yet I know many will not see it this way. Bangladesh is a world away, after all. Or at least I think it is.
What we buy matters. Please join me in the Bangladesh boycott until all factory owners have signed the Bangladesh Safety Accord, which guarantees safety regulations inside the factories for the workers. We must show the factory owners that we do not support their practices, and until conditions improve, we will not buy their products.
I know my blog alone won’t change anything. But it’s the best I can do. Will you add your best to my best? Together, we can make a difference.