Slavery and the Apparel Industry: The good and the bad

free2work.org has come out with a report that ranks companies in the apparel industry in terms of slavery and child labour. The report has graded companies based on “the extent to which a company has traced its suppliers and established systems throughout its supply chain that can enable it to prevent and address modern slavery”. This is a composite score, based on company policies that address issues of slavery in the supply chain, traceability and transparency, monitoring and training, and support for workers’ rights. While there is a ton of detail on the report on their website (http://www.free2work.org/trends/apparel/), here are some of the findings. Of the following companies that scored a D or an F, many the ones you expect to see on the list:

  • Abercrombie and Fitch (current target of a labour rights violation campaign related to child labour in cotton production)
  • Aeropostale
  • Aramark
  • Armor Holdings
  • Blauer
  • Bob Barker’s
  • Carter’s (current target of a labour rights violation campaign related to child labour in cotton production)
  • Express
  • Forever 21
  • Fruit of the Loom
  • Garan
  • Lacoste
  • Propper
  • Quiksilver
  • Robinson Textiles
  • Rocky
  • Sketchers
  • Spiewak
  • Walmart (current target of a labour rights violation campaign, as always)

Companies that scored an A or a B also include the ones I would expect, like the Fair Trade lines, and also many others that surprised me:

  • Adidas
  • Alta Gracia
  • American Eagle
  • Eileen Fisher
  • Esteem
  • Gap (YET, current target of a labour rights violation campaign related to factory safety)
  • Gildan
  • Good & Fair
  • H&M
  • HAE Now
  • Hanesbrands
  • Indtex
  • Levi’s
  • Maggie’s Organics
  • New Balance
  • Patagonia
  • praNa
  • PUMA
  • Solidarity (Fair Trade line)
  • Timberland
  • Tompkins (Fair Trade line)

So here’s our shopping list: No Walmart, no Abercrombie and Fitch, yes Adidas and Gap.

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Pink, or my rant against the gender assimilation of children

I hate pink. Despise pink. The colour. I have nothing against the singer – she’s lovely. The root of my hatred may go back to the solid fuchsia track suit of my early childhood (thanks, mom!), but I also have an ethical bone to pick with the colour pink.

If you walk into any toy store you will immediately notice a strict colour divide. As you know, pink is for girls. So if you are a toy manufacturer and you have an idea for a girls’ toy, make it pink. with a hint of mauve – not a strong purple, but a soft version would be acceptable. No need to consider any other colour in the spectrum. All other colours are for boys.

And this is a problem because only a small spectrum of toys are deemed “girls’ toys”. All other toys are for boys. So if it is a doll, a house or any part thereof, or a fairy/princess, it will be pink. And a girl who wanders into the toy store heads straight for the pink aisles, where they have a choice between a ridiculous amount of dolls and accessories, houses and accessories, and even fairies/princesses and accessories. And then they come to the middle aisle where the colour changes and they know that these toys are not for them. Because they are not pink. And a boy would never dream of wandering into the aisles of pink – we do not want our boys to play with dolls. That would be terrible, and we must make it very clear that dolls are not for them.

Even at my favorite second hand store, the toy section is divided in two, helpfully labelled “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys”. But you can tell which one is for girls, because only pink (and mauve) toys are on that shelf. And the boys’ toys includes everything else. Now, there are only two small shelves of toys in the story. It would not be overly strenuous for the shopper if they were all mixed together and the shopper had to look through all of the toys. It may actually be helpful – what do you get for the girl who has everything? A boys’ toy.

So, here is my question to you: if we mix it all up and use all colours for all toys and just put them on the shelves, maybe grouped thematically or alphabetically, what would happen?

Because here’s the thing: my 3 year old son loves trucks, LOVES THEM. And when people see him playing with trucks, they often comment on how much of a boy he is, as if he could be anything else. But he also loves fairies and princesses, dolls, and tap shoes. And pink.

And his 3 year old friend across the street, she loves her dolls. LOVES THEM. But she also loves cars and trucks, castles and blocks. And her favorite pajamas are not the pink Dora jammies, they are the black ones with bones on them.

There are differences between girls and boys. I do agree with that. But if we truly believe that boys and girls are so completely different, why do we need to try so hard to make sure boys do boy things and girls do girl things? Why can’t we make cool toys and put them on a shelf and let each child decide for themselves?