(Edit: This post was prompted by the weirdness of working on a historical man’s tailored coat and some simple knit tops for my MIL at the same time. And crankiness. I get pretty cranky on this subject, I think I’d had a series of conversations about labor practices and was upset by them. I edited this post for style and clarity, because I wrote this some time ago and perhaps now I’m a better writer but I stayed true to the original tone.)
On the other end of the spectrum, I’m sweatshop sewing. Hooray. I wanted to just sit down and sew something start to finish yesterday, and the already cut MIL tops called my name. It’s all a little disheartening because between me and you I think the final product looks like a Wal-Mart special.
We don’t have Wal-Mart here but “Big W” is- well- big. Interesting to note that Big W uses exactly the same sort of signs, fonts, pricing schemes, logos and slave labor camps as the American abomination. I don’t bother pointing it out to people any more. Australians are clever enough to know that Wal-Mart = Evil, but point out Big W is the same company and they’re shocked. Shocked! I don’t mention it any more.
Target and K-mart are also big. I hate buying cheap clothes. Aside from the sartorial aspect, as a sewist I know what goes into clothes; when I pay $12 for a pair of knit leggings I know someone is getting screwed somewhere. I take full responsibility for screwing the person, whoever they are.
How could I go off on a Wal-Mart tangent like that? It’s so dreadfully three-years-ago… I’m sure I’m not offering new information. I ask myself- if it is so well known as to become a cliche that Wal-Mart makes profit off the misery of its employees at home and in the sweatshops, then why do people still shop there? It is the consumer who becomes the predator in this case, when they still choose to shop in such a place. That is how I feel when I walk into one of those stores, like a filthy consumerist predator.
Some people point out to me that when they buy at one of those stores they “get more for their money.” Really? Do I need five crappy t-shirts that would collectively last as long as one well-made ethical one?
Other people might say that they can’t afford to shop anywhere else. To them I say if you live in poverty here, you are impoverished by the standards of the West. I could consider myself poor. Then I look around and see I have a house. I have nutritious food, even if it is a little plain. We have a car. We have electricity and a computer and a phone. I have always been rather poor, but I never had to fetch drinking water and carry it to my house. Never. I have more than many people on this earth can dream of having.
The argument that a rich person can victimize a poor person because the rich person isn’t as rich as the other rich people turns my stomach.
We tell ourselves we are not actively hurting anyone, which soothes our conscience. It’s easy to write off horrific working conditions in a factory in an unpronounceable city on the other side of the world. We blame the company but forget that the company would not conduct business that way if no one bought their goods. Consumers, we are active and not passive. Every purchase has meaning.
I know I’m “preaching to the choir” here- I rather enjoy the many people in the sewing community who take issues like consumption and ethics to heart.