Actions Speak Louder Than Shirts

 On November 1st, The Daily Mail broke a rather scandalous story. Ben Ellery reported that the Fawcett Society’s “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirts, which are sold at Whistles department store for £45 ($70.43 US), are made by Bangladeshi garment workers in Mauritius who are paid only 62p (97 US cents) an hour and generally work at least 45 hours a week. When interviewed, the factory workers said that they don’t feel like feminists or empowered and instead feel trapped. The Fawcett Society, which works to advance feminist causes in Europe, has since apparently investigated. They countered that the working conditions in the Mauritius factories meet that country’s legal labor standards, but this should serve as more of an indictment of Mauritian labor laws than a valid defense.

Bangladeshi garment workers showing off their handiwork. Photo by Craig Hibbert.
Bangladeshi garment workers displaying their handiwork. Photo by Craig Hibbert.

Unfortunately, while this case has received a lot of international attention, it’s hardly unusual. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time a non-profit supposedly working to promote human rights or a cleaner environment sold merchandise produced by oppressed workers in an environmentally destructive manner, I could probably afford to wear nothing but organic cotton t-shirts produced by unionized workers in solar-powered factories. In the past when I’ve attempted to bring this to the attention of various non-profits I’ve worked for, I have always been either ignored or told that making their merchandise in a more ethical manner would cost too much. The problem with this argument is that, supposedly, the primary purpose of non-profits is to advance a certain cause, not to make sales quotas. If a non-profit can’t sell merchandise without undermining its goals, perhaps it should get out of the t-shirt/coffee mug/tote bag business.

Some non-profits may fear a loss of funding if they stopped selling merchandise, but the continued success of American Jewish World Service, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders, and many other organizations suggests that plenty of good can be done without diverting attention towards t-shirt sales. If non-profits cannot bear to break away from shwag sales or if they think that getting their logo on more people’s backs helps raise awareness, let them pay a little extra for an ethical manufacturing process to avoid well-deserved future embarrassment. Until then, those of us who are feminists, humanists (either secular or religious), or environmentalists can say so with our actions rather than our shirts.

My Uncle is Mr. November

cedarkeyWell if anyone was expecting either some sort of beefcake ladyporn or Derek Jeter I don’t have that. What I do have is even better. This picture is of a sunset over Cedar Key, Florida and was taken by my uncle Dave Cannon while kayaking. As it turns out http://www.paddling.net liked this picture so much that they decided to include it in their 2015 calendar. While Dave’s is, of course, the best all of the other months also have excellent photos so I would highly recommend that my readers order a copy. Also if anyone would like to see more of Dave’s photos or hear more about his kayaking adventures check him out at http://davesyaktales.blogspot.com/

Got My Boating Class Certificate, Thanks Dad

My dad is a very good boat driver, probably because he spent a lot of his childhood puttering around lakes in Wisconsin. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to pass that skill onto me, because coastal California doesn’t have many lakes big enough to putter around in. This became a problem once I realized that some of my future field sites are a bit too far from shore for me to swim to and I enrolled in the Scripps boating class.boating course certificate

As expected, my first day of trying to drive boats went pretty badly. I became convinced that ‘tiller control’ is an oxymoron, had a lot of trouble making tight turns or pulling up to docks, and despaired of ever passing the class. Thankfully my dad was in town that weekend and agreed to spend the afternoon helping me get some extra practice at boat driving in Mission Bay. I’m sure that can’t have been fun at the beginning of the lesson when it took me about five tries just to pull into a slip, but thanks to my dad’s very patient instruction I was able to improve a lot. By the end the only thing that fazed me was the one dock I tried to pull up to that had an anti-sea lion infrared targeting watergun that couldn’t tell the difference between sea lions and people.

That next Monday I certainly wasn’t the best in my class as some of my classmates had years of boating experience, but I did pass. Thanks Dad, I couldn’t have done it without you.