Feminism and the ethics of purchases

Shopping for clothing, cosmetics and other personal items is associated with either cheap or expensive brands. Unfortunately or fortunately in today’s overconsumption society we are all entering a process of consuming more and more goods, with higher frequency. However, how many know if the product they are buying is fast fashion, ethical, cruelty free, vegan, ecological? Why should we care more about these terms? Where is feminism when we buy certain goods? What role does hypocrisy in semi-learning play?

Occasioned by the documentary “True Cost”, which I recommend everyone to watch, I began to better understand the above terminology and began to evaluate my needs and priorities with different criteria. Every time I looked at a garment, a cosmetic or any beauty product that I would definitely have in my closet, I asked myself the following questions: First, “Do I really need this product?” and if so “how many times will I use it”? In short “will I do amortization?” Then, “where was this product produced and by whom”?

The last question is what concerns me the most now. The ethics of a market as well as the conditions that accompany it, such as worker exploitation, hygiene conditions, etc. About 85% of workers in the clothing industry are young women aged 18-24, who earn less than $ 3 (2.51€) per working day. Indicatively, the average monthly wage of workers in Bangladesh is 5,000 taka, ie $97 and 81.06€. Also, this meager wage is not guaranteed, as if the workers do not manage to complete as many pieces of clothing as their employer has arbitrarily set (where employer means the respective company), they are not paid at all.

Then, according to a report by Labor Behind the Label’s, a UK-based non-profit cooperative, Cambodia was found to have poor ventilation and heat, lack of access to water, overwork and exposure to chemicals in factories lead to frequent fainting and malnutrition among workers. In addition, there is the real threat of death, as evidenced by disasters such as the fires of the 2013 garment factory in Pakistan and the same year the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Eighty percent of the 1,129 people killed when the factory collapsed were women, along with a large number of children.

Evidently, this undermines and degrades the very existence of many  women, children, men and individuals in general. At this point, I would also like to make a brief reference to the impact that the clothing industry[i] has on the environment. Fashion production accounts for 10% of humanity’s carbon[ii] emissions, dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams. 85% of all textiles go to landfill each year[iii]. And washing certain types of clothes sends thousands of pieces of plastic into the ocean[iv].

What can be done and how can each and every one of us can contribute to the solution of this problem? First of all, by not buying fast fashion clothes from expensive brands that exploit the workers and at the same time pollute and contaminate the Earth! If you want to take your conscious consumerism one step further, there are a plethora of brands that actively support and empower working women! Finally, the “recycling” of second hand clothes either by friends, relatives or from second hand stores, will give a second life to clothes that will never go out of fashion! When we talk about Feminism and human rights in general, we can not go blind in some areas! We are responsible and accountable for our actions, our decisions and our conscious choices! Love for fellow human beings is a universal message and human rights cannot be secondary! Let’s think about what and where we buy a good from and secondarily what habits and attitudes we support with our purchases.

[i] Unfortunately, there are not many details about the cosmetics industry.

[ii] This is more emissions than all combined international flights and shipping.

[iii] That’s enough to fill Sydney Harbor every year.

[iv] Overall, microplastics are estimated to account for up to 31% of plastic pollution in the ocean.