Thursday, November 28, 2013

Objectify Women and Protect Immigrants! All With American Apparel

As some of you may know, I am the office manager at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center.  Part of my job includes ordering merchandise for our small bookstore/gift shop.  I have no background in retail and had no idea how difficult this part of my job would be. There are many elements to this I could discuss but what has really been alive for me lately is the world of clothing and the controversy around organic, made in the USA, sweatshops, fossil fuel and consumerism.

So I basically have to decide with every item I order how universally likable is said object, will people buy it and how much will people pay for it.   Holy shit!  You ask 100 different people what they think about a particular item of clothing for example and you get 100 different answers.  I took on the task of ordering new sweatshirts and long sleeve t-shirts for the fall/winter seasons.  This included deciding which sweatshirts to buy and what image to put on them.  As the director said to me one day, I was fun at first and then it got to be not so fun as it took up more and more work time, brain power and kept me up at night ("what if everyone hates them and I wasted thousands of dollars??!!").

The logo stuff took time and some hounding of contributing artists.  But more painfully I had to figure out where to order the blank sweatshirts from.  Here at Green Gulch using organic products is very important so we have often used the company Econscious for our clothing needs.  And they are pretty good.  Their website says all the right things.  For the sake of the environment I do believe organic is better.  Not using petrochemical fertilizer is simply better.  Chemical fertilizers are toxic and they get into ground water, kill animals and poison people who come into contact with them.  Things can get a little sticky when you start to look at certifying organizations and their actual standards (see QAI, the world's largest organic certfier) standards are known to be broken or sometimes like in the case of China, they do not allow foreigners to inspect their farms and the US agency must rely on a contracted third (fourth) party certifier. There are great certifying boards in the US, often times local to certain areas, but if a farm uses them it is often on top of using the USDA "McCertifier".  This is one of the problems with all of our products coming from overseas, it is often much more difficult to monitor quality, working conditions, employee payment, etc. even when organic.

Yikes! At least she looks like she weighs more than 90lbs?
Which brings me to American Apparel.  This is where I have to come back to the buddhist concept of "holding two truths."  American Apparel was founded in the '80s by Dov Charney who is dedicated to a model of local manufacturing of goods.  On the one had you've got this guy who has had several lawsuits filed against him for a variety of types of misconduct in which the claims are pretty heinous and he also uses horrid advertising that objectifies and sexualizes women to the extreme (see right) but on the other hand he is doing something no one else is doing: producing mainstream clothing IN THE UNITED STATES. In fair working conditions, with decent pay and benefits and the fact that the production is local allows for a level of transparency just not possible in foreign countries.  They even do their own garment dying in SoCal, which brings just one more step of the process into the realm of humane treatment.

So when Megan at the Feminist Current blog mentions in many places, how disgusting the founder is and her general abhorrence of the existence of AmApp, I feel guilty!  After much time debating the merits of various options (availability, fit, feel, colors, organic, made in US) I chose one sweatshirt from Econscious and one from American Apparel.  I think my partner was a bit disturbed that I paid more money for a sweatshirt that wasn't even organic but I do think there's merit to Made in the USA.  And my only option for doing that is to simultaneously support fair working conditions and the exploitation of women.  Not so clean.  It never is.


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  2. lol, the amazing spider woman !?

    you blink and ten years have past ! :o)

  3. Sunday's NYT Style Magazine includes an article about "women's pubic hair" and its current avant garde style. A lovely photo accompanies the one page article. The author must have tongue -in-cheek, owing to the quotes, historical references, and overall brevity. The author, Amanda Hess, does not offer her own preferred style, an obvious omission. She does include a modest fact: one of the most popular post cards at the Musee' d'Orsay is Courbet's "L'Origine du Monde", a 19th century masterpiece complete with details of a reclining chanteuse. So, there really isn't anything new "under the sun".