Archive | March, 2013

How do fashion labels treat the people who make our clothes?

25 Mar

@sssukiii brings us an insightful infographic to encourage us to think critically about what we buy: Ethical Fashion Guide.

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Click on the Ethical Fashion Guide link at the top of the page to open the guide. The red sewing machines indicate better policies.

A few months ago I  read this horrifying article about the corruption surrounding the Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh. Workers sewing clothes for Walmart, Sears and MJ Soffe, were told to sit at their machines after a fire alarm sounded. As they’d never had a fire drill practice before, most of the workers did as they were told, until smoke started spiralling up the stairs. There was no fire escape. Then the lights went out. Many tried to escape through the windows, which were blocked by grates. By chance some were able to escape by climbing down a web of flimsy scaffolding that builders had left by the building.

The complexity of supply chains and the income they bring to families and third world nations makes it all too easy to ignore the lack of information about the conditions our clothes are made in. When we feel compelled to find out more, that same hand wringing complexity may leave us wondering where to buy our clothes. Garments account for 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s total export earnings; it is virtually the nation’s only industry. It also has the lowest labour costs of all the garment’s producing countries in the world.

Improving labour conditions may change this, making the country less attractive to organisations like Walmart, which is one of the biggest buyers of clothes made in the region. The fact that responsible practices are so relative is why it’s now more important than ever for brands to ensure they’re transparent and clear about the conditions their products are made in.

We decided that some kind of visual and easy to understand guide was needed to help people make sense of how brands are responding to socially conscious consumers. Two organisations working to raise awareness of how companies are improving labour conditions are http://www.labourbehindthelabel.org/ and Netherlands based, http://rankabrand.org.

Rank a Brand have several criteria which they use to score brands on their labour conditions, accounting for things such as whether:

–       companies have a code of conduct, outlining hygienic conditions and standards against forced child labour and discrimination.

–       their workers can join trade unions

–       their factories are audited and audit information is responded to

–       they aim to improve labour conditions as a wider organisation

This straightforward system, which aligns with the structure of a basic code of conduct, was ideal for creating a visual tool to compare how ethical brands are.

The graphic we’ve created shows how little high-end brands invest in demonstrating their integrity despite being all about image. Several exclusive brands, including Paul Smith and Dior, stand out for the lack of information they offer consumers about how their clothes were made. A few such as Burberry claim to use British suppliers, however, as they haven’t felt the need to tell us who these suppliers are, or the conditions they work in, they have been placed at the dubious end of the scale.

Company practices are of course always changing, so the graphic functions as a snap shot of what industry is currently doing. Rank a Brand’s research shows how vastly brands differ in the way they’re improving labour conditions and how relative these ethical practices are. Being able to compare these visually may help people make a more informed, if not ideal, choice.

In this sense, simply boycotting brands may not the answer. Pressure needs to be put on improving ethical supply chains. So if you discover that your clothes were made in bad conditions why not turn that shame into action by contacting the company who made them?

By @sssukiii

Letter to CNN’s rape apologists

21 Mar

Dear Ms Crowley and Ms Harlow,

After a few days away from the Anglophone media, I was this morning alerted to your news report, date 17th March, on the trial of the Steubenville rapists: the high school boys who kidnapped a 16 year old girl who was vomiting at the roadside and fell unconscious, then drove her – over a period of several hours – from party to party where they repeatedly gang raped and urinated on her. They and their delighted, laughing pals filmed the attacks whilst shouting comments such as “she is so raped,” “they raped her quicker than Mike Tyson!”, “they raped her more than the Duke lacrosse team!”; and she was “deader than Trayvon Martin” and then shared videos and photographs via social media, which, incidentally, went viral. Laurie Penny has compared these images to the photographs taken between the 1880’s and 1930’s, which show white Americans grinning beneath the naked mutilated body of a black man or woman hanging behind them from a tree. The lynching photographs were souvenirs of a collective action whose participants felt perfectly justified in what they had done, just as those Steubenville boys did. And you reinforce their sense of justification.

As you are no doubt aware, when the girl (commonly known in the media as Jane Doe) and her family reported the crime to the police, she began to receive death threats as inhabitants of the town of Steubenville, Ohio, united in an attempted mass cover up of the rapes, in order to protect the implicated young boys, who happened to be the town’s star football players.

You could say that Jane Doe has been raped many times: firstly by the boys that invaded her unconscious body; secondly by the party-goers who watched and did nothing; thirdly by the people that delighted in sharing and mocking pictures of her ordeal via social media; and now by the great masses of rape apologists who rally behind her rapists rather than her (you may count yourselves in this final category).

Pardon the digression. Back to your news report. To jog your memories, here is a link to your report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cvUCDjLDIk. I have also enclosed a transcript of your dialogue in case your internet connection is too slow for you to watch the video comfortably (see below).

In your report, the two of you, plus your “expert”, Paul Callan, express incredible levels of sadness, sympathy and regret for those poor rapists who will spend over a year in a detention centre for their crimes. You feel, I quote, “incredibly emotional” at the sight of these boys crying in court as “their lives fell apart”. Indeed, Ms Harlow, in terms of the compassion you feel for the two boys, you say that you’ve “never experienced anything like it.” All three of you lament that these boys will now be labeled as sex offenders for their whole lives, despite being “good students.”

It’s so very sad when rapists get caught, especially when they are good students. I feel your pain… I really do (I don’t) … and so I have developed a few tips to help you help other defenceless young boys in potential danger of having their lives ruined with custodial sentences and appearances on the sex offenders register:

1) Don’t commit a sex offence*

I can’t think of any more tips.

Yours sincerely,

Joanna Allan

* Kidnapping someone, repeatedly raping them, urinating on them and filming it constitutes a sex offence.

P.S. Will CNN be televising a public apology for this appalling piece of journalism?

P.P.S Your report on this trial breaks my heart. I have never been more amazed and disgusted by anything I have read or heard from a journalist.

TRANSCRIPT FROM CNN NEWS REPORT ON STEUBENVILLE VERDICT

CROWLEY: “Again, this case was played out in juvenile court, that is why there was a judge, no jury. He decided on the verdict, as well as, you heard there, talking about the sentence.

We want to go now to CNN’s Poppy Harlow. She is in Steubenville, and has been covering this trial.

I cannot imagine having just watched this on the feed coming in. How emotional that must have been sitting in the courtroom.”

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: “I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional — incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.

One of — one of the young men, Ma’lik Richmond, when that sentence came down, he collapsed. He collapsed in the arms of his attorney, Walter Madison. He said to me, “My life is over. No one is going to want me now.”

Very serious crime here. Both found guilty of raping this 16- year-old girl at a series of parties back in August, alcohol-fueled parties. Alcohol is a huge part in this.

But Trent Mays was also found guilty on a second count and that is of felony illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material because he took a photograph of the victim laying naked on the floor that night. Trent Mays will serve two years in a juvenile detention facility. Ma’lik Richmond will serve one year on that one count that he was found guilty for.

I want to let our viewers listen because for the first time in this entire trial we have now heard from the two young men. Trent Mays stood up, apologizing to the victim’s family in court. After him, Ma’lik Richmond.”

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRENT MAYS, FOUND GUILTY OF RAPING IN JUVENILE COURT: “I would really like to apologize to (INAUDIBLE), her family, my family and community. No pictures should have been sent out or should be taken. That’s all. Thank you.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: “Anything you’d like to say, Ma’lik?”

MA’LIK RICHMOND, FOUND GUILTY OF RAPE IN JUVENILE COURT:” I would like to apologize. I had no intention to do anything like that and I’m sorry to put you guys through this. (INAUDIBLE) I’m sorry.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW:” I was sitting about three feet from Ma’lik when he gave that statement. It was very difficult to watch.

You know, something that came up throughout this sentencing. Ma’lik’s father had gotten up and spoke. Ma’lik has been living with guardians. His father, a former alcoholic, gotten to a lot of trouble with the law, been in prison before.

And his father stood up and he told the court, ‘I feel responsible for this. I feel like I wasn’t there for my son.’ And before that, he came over to the bench where his son was sitting. He approached him, he hugged him and whispered in his ear.

And Ma’lik’s attorney said to us in a courtroom, I have never heard Ma’lik’s father before say, I love you. He’s never told his son that. But he just did today.

This was an incredibly emotional day. These two juveniles being carried out and they will be committed today, Candy.”

I want to bring in Paul Callan, our CNN legal contributor.

You know, Paul, a 16-year-old now just sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, still sound like 16 year olds. The other one, 17. A 16-year-old victim.

The thing is, when you listen to it and you realize that they could stay until they’re 21, they are going to get credit for time served. What’s the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, Candy, we’ve seen here a courtroom drenched in tears and tragedy and, you know, Poppy’s description, I think, you know, sums it all up. But across America scenes like this happen all the time.

I know as a prosecutor and defense attorney, when that verdict is handed down, usually it’s just the family and families of the defendants and the victims, there’s always that moment of just lives are destroyed. And lives have already been destroyed by the crime. And we got a chance to see that.

But in terms of what happens now, yes, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law and, by the way, the laws in most other states now require such a designation in the face of such a serious crime.

That will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Employers, when looking up their background, will see they’re registered sex offender. When they move into a new neighborhood and somebody goes on the Internet where these things are posted. Neighbors will know they’re a registered sex offender.

It’s really something that will have a lasting impact. Much more of a lasting impact than going to a juvenile facility for one or two years.

Things people wouldn’t say about/to men

7 Mar

In an attempt to preserve and document #thingspeopledontsaytomen:

“Look how he’s dressed. What a cunttease!”

“You may well have a point, sir, but nobody will listen to you unless you stop being so shrill and hysterical”

“Raven haired George Osborne delivered the budget in his shiny black shoes and prim blue suit”

“If we had all-white, all-male shortlists we wouldn’t get very good candidates”

He’s a “Working Father”/a “Career Father”/a “Single Father”

“He’s such a whore/slut”

“Update your wardrobe with this seasons must-have colours!”

“Stop being such a big boy’s shirt”

“Let’s go over and listen to the commentary from the boys’ event.”

“Hahahaha a male mechanic? Can they even take a wheel off?”

“Don’t be so sensitive! Jokes about men being raped/beaten/murdered are just harmless banter”

“So when is she gonna put a ring on that finger?”

“He’s really clever & successful but I bet he would give it all up to be pretty. It’s a shame for him”

“Why didn’t you change your name when you got married?”

“He must be lying. He’s a manipulative attention-seeker”

“What’s up with the temper? Having your raspberry week, or what?”

“Do you want to share a school run?”

“Phwoar look at the legs on that. I was talking about the beer, honest dahlin'”

“Damn baby, how are you? You’re sexy. Why won’t you talk to me? I’m just trying to be nice, you fat bastard.”

“If you didn’t want strangers to shout things at you about your body, then you shouldn’t have worn those shorts”

“Men are really bad at spatial awareness. It’s because of cave people that men have car accidents all the time.”

“Your biological clock is ticking!”

“Oooh, a business trip! Are you going to get some time for shopping?”

“Most men secretly want to be raped. It’s nature.”

“What are you wearing?”

“Your anger at being treated like a subhuman fucktoy is probably due to a hormonal fluctuation, nothing more.”

“Nothing grosser than a man who doesn’t shave his entire body. Ewwwwwwwwww!”

“I think you’re so *brave* for not wearing make up! I wish I could get away with that.”

“GET YOUR COCK OUT FOR THE LADS/GIRLS!”

“Look at David Cameron pouring his curves into his suit.”

“All that beer is gonna go straight to his hips!”

“Don’t rape.”

“You manage to combine being a full-time scientist with being a father?! Amazing!”

“I’m going to have to ask you to change jobs, because you’ve been sexually harassed by the boss.”

“He should “save himself” for marriage”

“You’re very handsome. How come you aren’t married? Is it because you work too hard?”

“He says he was raped but he was obviously asking for it.”

The pathologisation of women’s bodies: make your vagina “nice and tidy”

6 Mar

As thousands of British women are increasingly realising, most vaginas are disgusting in their natural state. If you want to be a proper woman, you had better tidy yours up and make it look as much like Barbie’s as possible: smooth, hairless, flat, and preferably plastic. You see, variations in the appearance of women’s intimate anatomy are not, as you may have previously thought, natural. Rather, they are downright pathological.

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As top Labioplaster (that is, plastic surgeon specializing in improving the aesthetics of vaginas by chopping off the labia) Dr Stern explains on his labiaplast site, women with “large and asymmetrical labia” can experience “severe embarrassment” should they ever be able to find a sexual partner. As a few of Dr Stern’s fellow labioplasters have stated (quoted on Jezebel), if you want to avoid your man retching in horror when you remove your knickers, best to make your vagina “nice and tidy” and give it that “petite, athletic” look by having your labia minor (the inner lips) removed entirely. This process is aptly named The Barbie.  Perhaps, when you’ve had your labia chopped off, you could give them to your favourite Ken as a take home gift.

Dr Stern, the Labioplaster, is also a Vaginoplaster. That is, he helps women who have experienced childbirth to make their vaginas “tight” again. Vaginoplasty involves Dr Stern removing the entire vagina mucosa, the soft lining of your vagina, thereby “increasing friction” for your partner, who may otherwise find sex “less satisfying than it once was” before you pushed out all his babies.  You should also try Vaginal Bleaching to make your bits “lighter and whiter”, because white and prepubescent is always best.

Be warned, surgery for your vagina is very expensive and might set you back a good few thousand sterling. Therefore, if you are poor, I suggest you take out a loan. If this is not possible, it is best to switch off the lights if you get with a man and definitely don’t expect him to perform oral sex. That is, of course, unless you have a vagina mint handy, to “flavor your secretions” and make your otherwise horrid juices stomachable for your man.

A proper woman should also do her utmost to avoid the general public having to endure the unsightly curves of her intimate area. Woe betide you if you should ever go out with Camel Toe. If you are unsure what Camel Toe is, check out one of the many British women’s magazines (such as Heat), which helpfully police the phenomenon by ridiculing women in the public eye who suffer from the affliction.

Are you worried that one day you might fall victim to Camel Toe? You should be. According to the makers of SmoothGroove, the shoe horn-like piece of plastic that combats the affliction, “a staggering 55% of women, irrespective of age, size or weight” experience Camel Toe at some point in their lives.” Camel Toe can cause critical levels of “embarrassment.” But SmoothGrove can make women’s lives “just that little bit easier.” As the makers say, the Camel Toe “remedy” allows “all women to get on with their lives without having to worry about how they look.” Well thank God for that. Thank God some one has been worrying about how to empower me as a woman, because all this time I had been preoccupying myself with other matters.

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I am grateful to SmoothGroove and the Labioplasters for helping me see the light. Before, I had worried about issues such as sexual violence, losing my job and the illness of loved ones. In more naïve stages of my life, I had felt embarrassed by events such as not realizing I have a snot on my nose, spitting food on people when I attempt (as I regularly do) to eat and talk at the same time, having the train’s digital bathroom door (that I have yet again failed to lock) opened by another passenger whilst I sit helplessly on the toilet seat out of reach of the “close” button, or watching unforeseen sex scenes on the television with relatives. All along, I could have put all my worrying and cringing energies into the aesthetics of my vagina. If only I’d fretted earlier, I could have had the ugly mess sorted by now.

Just so you know, Camel Toe is not yet a medical pathology. Say the makers of Smooth Grove of the Camel Toe terminology, “we’ve searched high and low for a medical term … but there isn’t one.” Watch this space.