People often try to express their feminism through their physical appearance. Sometimes, this translates to wearing t-shirts or badges with slogans on them. To the wearers of this clothing or badges, they seek to symbolize their support for equality. However, this equality isn’t just in terms of gender. This equality seeks to bring to the same level people from all genders, races, religions, and economic background. These t-shirts and badges might, on face value, be feminist. However, the dark truth of these commodities is as unfeminist as possible.
HOW ARE THESE PRODUCTS UNFEMINIST?
In all advertising, companies try to portray themselves as ethical brands that do not support discrimination on any level. Around International Women’s Day, they publish posters on posters about gender equality, equal wages and whatnot.
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However, all these brands are for-profit organizations at the end of the day. Their sole purpose, above anything else, is to earn profit. This works on a simple logic of minimizing the production cost. Sadly, the way that this cost is minimizing is the problem.
They use cheap labour from developing countries to manufacture their products. The workers are made to work at extremely low wages, with below average working conditions. Approximately 80% of the workers in the garment production industry are women. In addition to working for low wages and in poor conditions, they also have to suffer from gender-based violence in the workplace.
A report by the Fair Wear Foundation, titled “Breaking the Silence” brings to light gender-based violence in workplaces in various countries.
Uganda – 90% female workers sexually harassed by male seniors
Cambodia – 33% of female garment factory workers sexually harassed in the 12 months preceding the study
Indonesia – 85% female garment workers concerned about sexual harassment
Women working in these factories come from low-income background. Hence, working in these factories becomes their only source of income. As a result, they do not have the option of fighting this violence. This is because the fight comes at the cost of their livelihood, which they cannot sacrifice.
WHICH COMPANIES ARE AT FAULT?
If underpaying workers was a crime, almost all major brands would be termed guilty.
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A study conducted in 2019 showed that the percentage of workers being paid a justifiable wage within Asia, Africa, Central America or eastern Europe was zero.
Additionally, out of the 32 companies that are considered to be the leaders of the global fashion industry, only 1 company pays its workers a living wage. Gucci was able to provide that they pay 25% of their workers a living wage. The other 31 companies include ASOS, H&M, et cetera.
Feminism needs to focus on these workers. After all, until we are all free, we are none of us free.