I normally try to keep away from the political or semi-controversial posts here (even though I have very strong opinions about a lot of things) but there’s something that’s been weighing on my mind more and more recently that I felt I needed to share. Take this as your disclaimer that some of what you’re going to read below you may not agree with it but it’s merely my passionate opinion so do with it what you like.
As well all know, most of our goods in the US these days are produced in China…especially clothing and shoes. I naively thought for a long time that this was a good thing because it must be benefiting the people of China right? Wrong. In almost all cases the only person it benefits is the CEO of the company while the workers are forced to mass produce that Marc Jacobs purse or Forever 21 shirt in horrible working conditions for almost no pay. That Apple computer you’re raving about? Yep, that was either made in China completely or most of its parts were.
This frustrates me on a variety of levels. In America, we have such a huge problem with Communism supposedly yet we have no problem exploiting its people so we can have a fancy purse or a new wardrobe. It would be one thing if we were ensuring the workers were not overworked and underpaid but let’s be honest, we know that’s probably not happening and how could it when the products are being made thousands and thousands of miles away? Furthermore, companies are saving hundreds of thousands (probably even millions) of dollars to have their products produced in China yet the cost of the items to the consumer is the same. You’re still going to shell out $400 – $800 for a Michael Kors or Kate Spade purse and you know where all that extra profit is going? Into the CEO and other executive’s pockets most likely. It doesn’t give back, it doesn’t go to the community…it buys someone a new Jaguar or Rolls Royce.
One of the worst offenders for me is TOMS shoes. I just recently bought a pair and ignorantly didn’t bother to check the “Made in” label. I thought “ok, I’ll spend $53 on these shoes because with every pair you buy, they give a pair to a child in need.” That’s great and I am all for that. But when I found out the shoes were being made in China, it infuriated me. The whole idea behind the company is to give back yet they’re being produced in what I’m pretty sure are unsafe and unfair working conditions overseas. So we’ll exploit one group of people to make the shoes and then give a pair to a child in need? A complete contradiction to the message of the company. And where is the majority of that $53 going? I still hope it’s for some kind of aid or giving back but who really knows?
The latest trend in clothing production is to use cotton imported from Uzbekistan where children are forced at a very young age to pick the cotton for hours upon a hours a day. I found out that Forever 21 had been accused of this (as well as sweatshop labor… unfortunately no big surprise there) and that H&M was working on rectifying the use they’d made of Uzbeki cotton in their clothing.
I am certainly no angel in this either. I bought Forever 21 clothes for years knowing full well they probably were not being made under good circumstances. I bought the TOMS shoes. I’m vowing not to turn a blind eye to this anymore though. I’m not going to support companies who utilize sweatshop or unfair labor practices just so I can save a few bucks on a shirt or a pair of jeans. If more money has to come out of my pocket in order to be one less person contributing to this problem, then I am more than happy to do that. It’s sad how difficult this practice is though because so many things are made in China or other places and we have no idea as the consumer, how they are being produced and we’re so far removed from it, I think a lot of us don’t even think about it.
I admit I may not have all the facts and a lot of this is just from things I’ve read or speculation but that’s also part of the problem for me. Like I said earlier, there’s really no way for us to prove or disprove that what we’re buying is being made in safe and fair working conditions with appropriate wages being paid and that actually disheartens me the most.
I know this post may seem out of character for me but one of my main goals in writing is not just to tell my story, but to help people and hopefully affect them in one way or another, and for me that means people all over the world. So if I can shed some light on this issue to even one person, then I feel like I’ve done my job as a fellow human being. It is my feeling that we are totally, 100% put on this Earth to help make it better, to help make each other better, and to help those in need and if the clothes and products were are buying going completely against that, then I can’t just sit behind my laptop and be silent.