Yeah, but from where?

I love online shopping but I’ve been stopped in my tracks lately when I see “Imported” in the description.

I want to know where it came from. I want to know who made it. I want to know that it wasn’t one of the 900 people who died in the factory collapse two weeks ago. I want to know that it was not one of the 9 people who died in the factory fire today.

It’s not even the collapse of the factory in Bangladesh that started it, though it broke my heart. It was an article I read almost two months ago on Jezebel about Beyonce’s H&M Line that took me off guard and made me much more conscious of the price of my clothing.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know that conditions in sweatshops were bad, but naively I never thought of what that actually meant. It was this what got to me.

Management hired young women from Asia, stripped them of their passports, forced them to work grueling hours for awful pay under a managerial regime that subjected them to routine rape. One woman hung [sic] herself in the factory’s bathroom with her own scarf after allegedly being raped at the hands of a manager. The Jordanian Department of Labor, when informed of the abuses, did nothing.

After Kernaghan’s exposé, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Lands’ End stopped doing business with Classic (they represented 8 percent of its export trade), but the factory’s chief customer, Wal-Mart, was unfazed. One serial rapist manager was fired, but many of the other managers accused of rape are still employed there, and women continue to disappear from the factory under highly suspicious circumstances. (Colleagues believe they are being murdered or sold into sexual slavery). According to documents recently smuggled out of the factory, 75 percent of Classic-made apparel is still going to Wal-Mart and Hanes.

As a rape victim, this punched me in the gut. As a woman, it disgusts me. As a human being, it’s just plain unjust.

For whatever the reason for my interest, it’s wrong. When going to work means risking being raped, murdered, or sold into slavery, there’s something VERY wrong. Yet, up until reading that article, I ignored it.

As the privileged, middle class, urban American I am, I never had to think about it. Whether this is a self guilt trip or a reality check doesn’t matter. I need to wake up.

And I don’t know what to do.


Right off my own back…

And it’s the “Made in Bangladesh” that I’m ashamed of, not the size… for once.

Obviously, I can be much more careful about where I buy my clothing. But what else? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what goes in my body but I haven’t ever really given much thought to what I put on my body, except for whether or not it shows off my fat rolls.

I don’t have a lot of answers because from a preliminary search, it’s pretty hard to find the source of the fabric beyond which country it came from, but I can at least start with making a few changes.

1. Buying clothing that was made in the US – This sounds so nationalistic and I hate that part of it, but our workers are protected much more than those in Bangladesh.

2. Owning less clothing – It’s a bit more expensive to buy clothing that I know isn’t from a sweatshop, so as a result, I have to be at peace with owning less of it.

3. Donating to organizations that fight for workers rights – Admittedly, I’m not much of a donor. I usually plea not having enough money but, honestly, I probably just spend too much on happy hour. I just found this organization and it sounds pretty legit. I mean, will a small donation help? I don’t know but it certainly can’t hurt.

Having just literally knocked almost all of my favorite stores off the list of places I can shop, I’m going to have to be much more creative about where I buy clothing but my frustration isn’t just about whether my hands are dirty or not. My frustration is that these things are happening.

So, I guess this post is me learning to ask the question, with humility and sincerity, what can I do? How can I help?

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