The International Labor Organization reports that in some countries women can constitute as much as 90 percent of workers in the textile, clothing, leather, and footwear industries.
What impact does this have on one’s identity as a feminist?
Well, when tragedies occur at the factory level of production that impact the lives of those who make garments for the fashion industry, a majority of these victims are women. When our consumption habits support brands that neglect necessary ethical regulations, then the women who produce our garments face an immense amount of danger. Not only are their work environments unsafe, but they continue to work with insufficient wages to sustain their basic needs.
There are those who oppose simply boycotting unethical practices that endanger workers, as it may only collapse the local economy. This results in women being driven into a deeper cycle of poverty. Even worse, this allows brands, avoiding the need to make real change to their policies, to slip into another location or country and replicate similar conditions.
According to Nazma Akter, who has been working in the garment industry since the age of 11, solving the problem requires means other than boycotting. Consumers need to be conscious and active in asking questions about the companies that produce apparel, how the company treats its employees, and where the goods are being produced. She highlights how consumers have a great amount of power, of which they may not be completely aware. If consumers hold companies accountable through a blatant lack of consumption, then the companies lose a consumer base for whom they engage in these practices to produce large amounts of clothing.
For some, being a feminist may refer to one’s advocacy for the equal rights of women. For the conscious consumer, feminism requires advocating for the bodies, lives, and dignities of women who are producing our garments.
Not only is it chic to stand up for the rights of women in the clothing industry, but we agree that being a feminist requires much more than eradicating the exploitation of women in our immediate environment. Our advocacy requires awareness about the conditions women face abroad!
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