walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Sweatshops and coolness


Lindy West reminisces about boycotting clothing stores in her college years that she couldn't shop at anyway. Why isn't it cool to boycott stuff made in sweatshops anymore? And how come we aren't stopping with the cheap shopping? Weirdly, the answer is in part supplied in the 2013 article on Jezebel by Jenna Sauers linked to at the bottom of this one: labor activists in places like Bangladesh don't _want_ you to stop buying. They want you to apply pressure to their government(s) to improve building codes and enforcement. So hey, West: go read Sauers. Not hard. Boycotts are now counterproductive, and it's not just because organized labor is weak in the USA.

I would also point out several other things that have happened since West's college days.

Mike Daisey conned This American Life -- and then they absolutely shredded him. That, right there, was probably the very, very end of using sweatshop accusations to make people feel bad/change their behavior.

Dov Charney, more recently, lost his job (finally). American Apparel was the Go To source (expensive and with a very limited size range and basically pretty skeezy) for non-sweatshop college fashion. And it turns out that the guy pushing those values might actually have been worse even than he seemed.

Finally, in the years since West was in college, the rest of the countries stable enough to have industries that ship shit to us have finished going through the demographic transition. You'll note that the child deaths associated with the sweatshop in the 2013 article were kids in the day care facility on site for employee use, not children working in the factory. And the adults working in those factories like their jobs better than not having a job, especially if that means going back to rural poverty -- they just don't want to die, so they'd like clean water, building codes, etc. so they Don't Die, which means better governance, not fewer factories.


West's nostalgia for the activism of her youth is not entirely novel. But it was jarring. It's always jarring when people who I am pretty sure are substantially younger than me get all nostalgic for something.
Tags: economy, politics

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