So, here is my first attempt at 'Feminist Friday'. I shall have to give the credit for this idea to my friend Sinead, who asked to see something a little more 'serious' on the blog, and suggested I had a look at this article. Apologies if this is not terribly articulate, I am actually feeling a little peaky this evening, but after saying I would do this today I thought it was important to stick to some kind of deadline.
Rosselson in this article (and Naomi Wolf, in this one) is attempting to draw attention to the fact that despite the rise in awareness and production of ethical clothing within the last few years, 'fast fashion' still continues to be the predominant mode of shopping within Western culture. The fact we can now buy a dress for £5 and keep our wardrobe up to date with the latest trends without breaking the bank, is not without its consequences. Women are the primary consumers of this type of clothing, and likewise have a responsibility to the thousands of women who produce these clothes in extremely poor conditions in the sweatshops of the East, such as Bangladesh. This idea of spending is so tied into our Western construction of what makes us 'women' that it can be difficult to see a way forward. But, as Western women with the money in our pockets, it is our responsibility to attempt to withdraw ourselves from this constant cycle of consumerism.
For me personally, this has been an issue that's been bugging me for a while. I do try and buy most of my clothes from charity shops, or from retailers whose prices would indicate a more responsible ethical method of production. However, this has become so ingrained in our high street that even retailers such as Marks and Spencer, who market themselves as a wholesome British brand, are sourcing their clothing from Bangladesh (and as all of you who know my love of M&S, this makes me very sad). I am personally debating whether to give up high street shopping, after also reading this post over at Silence Sweetheart. It also makes me question whether I really want to go into the fashion industry- do I really want to spend my time supporting an industry that perpetuates this constant 'need' for clothing that is being produced by poor women who can't even afford to feed their families? This isn't to even mention the environmental impact that fast fashion has. In a world in which we are so aware of the damage we are doing to the planet, the fact we pump out so many garments, (whose production is often harmful to the environment, such as cotton) that often end up on landfill sites, is frightly shameful. And all of this in the name of looking on trend.
Of course I understand that for many people, myself included, fashion is a way of expressing yourself and can do wonders for self-esteem. But really, in the face of all the problems it creates and people it exploits, how is this in any way important? I am also aware that for many women in Western society it is the fashion industry that provides their jobs, whether that be in publishing, marketing or retail. However, surely there must be a way to provide these women with jobs whilst also providing garment workers with fair levels of pay and labour rights. Whether that be through campaigning, buying from ethical brands or from donating some of those many shoes to your local Oxfam, we have a responsibilty to adress this problem. Only then will we be able to have a 'guilt-free' shopping spree.
Let me know what you thought about today's piece, and whether you like seeing this sort of thing on the blog. I am also open to any suggestions for future columns, although I have got a few ideas floating around in my head to do soon. Hope this has been thought provoking... I'll be back with my staring at my feet shots soon!