When Dr. Valverde first mentioned we would be partaking in the Be Green challenge I was like “Pfft, piece of cake. I only buy food anyway,” but now that challenge has started I’m worried that I might not make the rest of the quarter without buying something.
I get a high from shopping; I like finding a “good deal” and I like having new things, especially clothes. My affinity for clothing probably stems from the marketing of the fashion and apparel industry, its artistry, and cool factor (which has also induced early onset of insecurity and low self-esteem) but the more I learn about the clothing and garment industry, the more I love and hate it at the same time. Due to the nature of this blog and challenge, I will just talk about why I hate it.
As I learn more about the exploitation of sweatshop workers, I start to see myself as an ignorant and uncompassionate person of consumerism, basically I buy things without thinking of where it came from or where it was made, or I buy things even while knowing it was made unjustly. There is a part of me that really hates myself for buying these things and a part of myself that is perfectly indifferent.
The videos that we watched in class, Made in LA and China Blue, and this week’s reading “Santa’s Sweatshop” showed different aspects about sweatshop workers, their fight for equality and recognition, and the market environment that encourages cheap labor. Another book of a similar topic is Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang, you can consider the book like a written version of China Blue but set in an electronics company. In the book, Chang follows two factory workers in Duangguan and shows their “attempts to rise from the assembly lines”.
Here is an NPR spot for Factory Girls: http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=95691866&m=95691837&live=1
This book really made me think about the impact of sweatshops and what they mean to the developing countries whose growing economies are due to these factories. Are they good or are they bad? Can factories practice fair labor and still develop without the corruption and schemes that occur in a place where everyone’s MO is survival? This book definitely made shopping for new products more confusing, however I felt that I learned more about what sweatshops mean for the people working there and hopefully I can use what I learn to become a more socially conscious consumer. So to practice what I learn both inside and outside of class and for the sake of this challenge, I will try not to buy new products, to learn more about where the products that I purchase come from, and to adhere to my conscience when shopping. Challenge Accepted!
China Blue. Dir. Micha X. Peled. Teddy Bear Films Inc., 2005. DVD.
Made in L.A. Dir. Almudena Carracedo. Independent Television Service, 2007. DVD.
Chang, Leslie T. Factory girls: From village to city in a changing China. Random House LLC, 2009.
Holstein, Palmer, Ur-Rehman & Ito. “Santa’s Sweatshop: In a Global Economy, it’s Hard to Know Who Made Your Gift – and Under What Conditions”. U.S. News and World Report. Vol. 121. Issue 24. Dec 16, 1996. p. 50-54, 56-57, 60.