God's Politics

God's Politics


Julie Clawson: My Search for the Justice Bra, Part 2

posted by God's Politics

(Click here to read the first part of this series.)
In my search for an ethically made bra, I came face to face with the two distinct worlds of justice issues. There are those who are passionate about caring for the environment and then there are those who seek justice for people, and it appeared that ne’er the twain shall meet. I found the sites where collective groups of women in Africa made clothing for fair wages, but used cloth made with environmentally unfriendly practices. Or I found clay-dyed organic cotton bras, but had no clue to how they were made. After e-mailing the company, I might hear back that they care about their employees (whatever that means), but there was no concrete certification that fair practices are used.
Granted, there were a small handful of companies that carried lines of trendy organic fair trade t-shirts designed for the emo crowd. They’re cool, but I needed a bra. Eventually I found a site in the U.K. that carries organic, ethically hand-stitched lingerie. But I needed everyday wear, not five-minutes-in-the-bedroom wear. And I wasn’t willing to pay their $100 price tag either. I knew this endeavor would require more funds than the typical sale bin at the mall, but I had my limits. There has to be a balance between saving a buck at the expense of a worker in a third world nation and throwing one’s money away on luxury items. (And no, I don’t see being an ethical consumer a luxury, just part of living out that whole loving one’s neighbor thing.)
Then finally, after a couple of weeks of fruitless searching, I stumbled across Rawganique.com. It’s a business based out of an off-the-grid island in Canada where they grow their own organic food (eaten vegan and raw), power their computers with solar and wind energy, and promote their products as “a quiet, old-fashioned retreat from the hecticness and rampant chemicalization that are characteristic of the modern, conventional world.” It looked promising. As I researched further, I discovered that their clothing met all of my criteria—they care about the environment and people. And they sell bras (which are actually cheaper than those I typically buy at the mall—ethical and affordable!). Mission accomplished: I found my justice bra.
But why, I have to ask, did I have to dig up some hippie commune sort of place in order to find this? It’s great that they are doing this, but with all the attention justice issues are getting these days, one would hope that ethical shopping would have become a bit more mainstream. What’s the deal? Is it just easy to talk about this stuff and never actually live it out? What will it actually take for us to change the injustices in our economic system and shop for a better world? That’s what I want to know.
And in case you were wondering, I really like my new bra.

Julie Clawson is a church planting pastor in the Chicago area and the coordinator of the Emerging Women blog.
(Click here to read the first part of this series.)



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Eric

posted July 30, 2007 at 2:22 pm


What’s the “emo crowd?” Congrats on finding a bra!



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kevin s.

posted July 30, 2007 at 2:24 pm


Proverbs 31:24
Sounds like you’ve found a niche market.



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Moderatelad

posted July 30, 2007 at 2:32 pm


But I needed everyday wear, not five-minutes-in-the-bedroom wear. And I wasn’t willing to pay their $100 price tag either. I knew this endeavor would require more funds than the typical sale bin at the mall, but I had my limits.
TMI – way too much…
So what is your price on ‘ethics’ these days? Most of the time when people set a limit on something due to ethics – they either pay the price or due without.
TBT – I was hoping that you would find what you needed. Guess you are just like the rest of us – you are governed by the ‘almighty dollor’.
Have a great day –
.



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Eric

posted July 30, 2007 at 4:57 pm


Mod – There’s nothing wrong with saying I’d rather keep looking for a less expensive, ethical bra. It’s one thing if she went back to the “unethical” bra store and bought one there, but she didn’t. She found an ethically made one for less money that I assume was more practical than lingerie.
Get off her back.



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Mike C

posted July 30, 2007 at 5:37 pm


So what is your price on ‘ethics’ these days? Most of the time when people set a limit on something due to ethics – they either pay the price or due without.
TBT – I was hoping that you would find what you needed. Guess you are just like the rest of us – you are governed by the ‘almighty dollor’.

Whew! Good thing you found some self-righteously petty way to dismiss her and the point she was making. For a minute there I thought we might actually have to take her seriously and – God forbid!- possibly even make some changes to our own buying habits.



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jurisnaturalist

posted July 30, 2007 at 6:38 pm


I looked at rawganique, nice stuff. And easily made possible because of the vast quantity of these clothes being produced by unjust means.
For all clothing to be produced along these lines would be dreadfully expensive. Resources would have to be shifted away from food production. And we have not assisted our poor sweatshop worker. She now has one less bra to sew and may be sent home early.
The idea here is for demand for ethically produced items to drive the cultural shifts required for justice. I doubt the effectiveness of such a policy. Especially when it may contradict the greater demand for inexpensive products.
I recommend a more direct and confrontational approach: Renounce the state. Assume full responsibility. Work to limit the encroachments on liberty which generate famine and classism.
As for the dig on luxury goods:
It is often too expensive to not pollute. It is often too expensive to buy justice clothing. Most people cannot afford these things. This is my definition of luxury. I acknowledge that I live in the lap of luxury, in my 3 bedroom apartment and my 1983 Chevy Malibu, with no AC.
It’s all relative, I suppose.
Nathanael Snow



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jerry

posted July 30, 2007 at 10:07 pm


“……..i needed a bra…but i had my limits.”
“what will it actually take for us to change the injustices in our economic system?” did she try mall of america? equador? tahiti? santa barbra?
is this one of those deals where you set a monkey down at a typewriter and watch it peck out a blog comment? emerging women blog. hello! emerging from where? i am trying to find God’s politics in all this. help me please.
what is an ethically produced item? who gets to set the ethicalness of it? how many degrees of ethical are there? what are the limits? what are julie clawson’s limits?



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kevin s.

posted July 30, 2007 at 11:15 pm


I think Mod thinks she didn’t buy an ethical bra because she couldn’t find an affordable one because he misread the post.



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bren

posted July 31, 2007 at 1:54 am


There are quite a lot of people looking to find ethically made clothing and have been doing so for several years. As a result purchasing groups have been established. standards set, and inspections are made to ensure that the standards are kept. For example, Canadian universities have adopted ethical purchasing policies, and buy from the companies that meet the standards. So none of the college sweatshirts, or other college logo goods are made in sweatshops.
While some ethical clothing, like Rawganique’s, are made in British Columbia, some are also made outside of North America, so this work can also aid the economy of impoverished workers in those countries.
Those of us engaged in ethical purchasing efforts know that things will cost more than the goods made by sweatshop labour. No one has ever said that being ethical will be without cost. I’d rather pay a little more so that the worker can be paid more. rather than buy something cheaply at the expense of the worker.
Juris naturalist seems to think it’s too expensive to not pollute. And the cost of cleaning up the pollution isn’t expensive? Losing our forests, our snow, our ice, our way of life because of pollution isn’t expensive? I guess it depends on what you value.



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http://paulmayers.blogs.com

posted July 31, 2007 at 3:06 am


thanks Julie, really fascinating divide between ethical working pracitices and ethical/environment production…
of course i’m pleased that the hippies are selling their bras now rather than burning them, that must reduce CO2 emissions :)



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Anonymous

posted July 31, 2007 at 9:28 am


Well, I won’t pander to those who’ve posted self-righteous-slash-pretentious comments, except to say: give me a break and go work hang out with your pretentious friends in your coffee house, since you won’t be doing what the author did…oh yeah, try to make a change.
I applaud the author’s efforts and I get the point. If you visit sites such as “The Green Guide,” they amount to boutique sites for the wealthy-with-a-conscience. But I’m with the author, I can’t afford $100 bra. Maybe I could if I reduced my own grocery bill, along with my charitable and church giving. Keep it up Julie, I liked your article.
Annie



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Wolverine

posted July 31, 2007 at 9:28 am


I was tempted to dismiss this second post as basically an extended ad for Rawganique, but there is a larger point here that Ms. Clawson might not be aware that she made.
It is an awkward fact of life that there are moral issues where Christians cannot agree on the proper course to take. In Romans (14:1-12) St. Paul urges us to “accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgement on disputable matters”, giving the example of Christians who disagree on the eating of meat.
Now, Ms. Clawson has a rather demanding sense of environmental and labor ethics, higher than I think is necessary. But the beauty of a market economy is that she can find a brassiere that is made in such a way that she can buy it without it bothering her conscience.
Isn’t the free market wonderful?
Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it ain’t. But next time you see someone argue that a free market economy automatically leads to a “race to the bottom”, in which the environment is pillaged and labor is exploited, you might want to keep this little story in mind.
Ms. Clawson was free to follow the demands of her conscience because we have a mostly free economy. In a more tightly planned economy she might not have had that option.
Wolverine



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RadicalModerate

posted July 31, 2007 at 10:37 am


Congrats, Julie, on finding your justice bra!
I suspect, however, that applying these same standards to all areas of life would be exhausting, if not impossible. The Clawson children would be running around perpetually barefoot.
I think an exercise like this is good to bring attention to a particular situation, but trying to live all of life this way would be a full time job.



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Mike C

posted July 31, 2007 at 3:05 pm


I think an exercise like this is good to bring attention to a particular situation, but trying to live all of life this way would be a full time job.

Indeed, which is perhaps why we need communities of people (faith communities perhaps?) who will work together on discovering ways to put these ethical ideals into practice – so we’re not trying to do it all alone. If we all take the time to learn and focus on one particular area, and then share our knowledge w/each other, we reduce the work load for all of us – and we deepen community at the same time.



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mark

posted July 31, 2007 at 8:12 pm


Nathanael says:
“For all clothing to be produced along these lines would be dreadfully expensive. Resources would have to be shifted away from food production.”
And I say:
Prove it.
Nathanael says:
“Renounce the state. Assume full responsibility. Work to limit the encroachments on liberty which generate famine and classism.”
And I say:
I have some sympathy with this position. But to renounce the state without also renouncing the megacorporation seems to me at the very least naive.



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mark

posted July 31, 2007 at 8:25 pm


Well congratulations Julie. Glad you succeeded in the end.
Now, I’ve never personally looked for a fairly traded environmentally responsible bra, but I do try to apply those criteria to my purchases. In Britain I found a really useful resource was a magazine called Ethical Consumer (www.ethicalconsumer.org), which has been going for about 20 years now. I haven’t found a counterpart in North America.
Btw, I must admit to a sense of anticlimax. Two whole articles about bras and justice, and no feeble puns about uplift for the poor, or support, or… (Just a few rather cruder jokes from the groundlings last time round)
Mark



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kevin s.

posted August 1, 2007 at 12:16 pm


“Now, I’ve never personally looked for a fairly traded environmentally responsible bra,”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.



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bill

posted August 1, 2007 at 4:55 pm


Your next assignment is to locate a “Justice” Che tee shirt to wear to your next Jews out of Israel rally. Obviously writing about the Korean captives being held by the Talaban is too trivial for Sojo blogs.



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Jonathan

posted August 1, 2007 at 5:18 pm


I didn’t see my post appear on the first article. I suggested trying out the company named Decent Exposures. They may satisfy the criteria too.



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PH

posted August 2, 2007 at 3:20 pm


yay julie! it was a joy to read this article. i, too, have been on the search for socially responsible undergarments. thanks for the link to rawganique- i will definitely shop there next time i am in the market.
peace!



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Paul

posted August 2, 2007 at 6:12 pm


Someone should do a count of the gender ratio in this discussion! It seems to be mostly men.. I am a little uncomfortable about the proportion of men being critical about the bra buying process… perhaps the issue should be turned around to something equally personal to guys? How ethical are the guys?



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Ted Rushton

posted August 2, 2007 at 8:09 pm


Wonderful story about the naturfe of ethics in a material society; it should give everyone a pause to think.



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David Andrew

posted January 12, 2008 at 5:40 am


HaHa how funny. Glad that someone else, as a christian thinks their duties to this world include such things as buying ethical fairly traded products.



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Erica Stark

posted May 9, 2008 at 5:37 pm


Wow. Good post, good info. Thanks. I’ve been struggling with this issue for some time now: wanting very badly to consume ethically and yet finding it so hard to find the things I need. Someone said it’s impossible and it certainly seems that way at times. But we can’t give up hope.
I loved the website you found. You might also check out http://www.gaiam.com
This is Gaima’s code of ethics statement (let me know if this compares to rawganique):
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
One World by GaiamTM: Bringing People Together Through Fair Trade
We have partnered with Fair Trade, an organized social movement that promotes standards for international labor, environmentalism, and social policy, empowering artisans to maintain cultural traditions and create better lives for their families and communities. We travel the globe to find fair trade partners, providing livable wages, skills training and sustainable business development — helping to break the cycle of poverty. Our growing list of Fair Trade partners includes artisans in Cambodia, India and Vietnam.
Non-Gaiam branded products are sourced only from companies that verify their use of fair labor practices, which includes maintaining social responsibility in their factories.
Gaiam does not knowingly do business with any companies that do not adhere to basic humanitarian practices. We screen our factories for a commitment to social responsibility and fair wages as well as efficiencies in materials usage. We demand a minimum of compliance with local labor standards in all Gaiam contracted factories and we are investigating codes of conduct and international monitoring programs in order to verify the quality of working conditions and fair wages in our partner factories.
Erica
http://www.thomerica.com/erica



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Your Name

posted October 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm


Hi Erica! Did you end up buying a bra from rawanique? How’s the quality? Would you recommend them? Thanks for sharing your findings! :)



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sarah

posted October 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm


I read your entire blog entry except for the last line. Hahaha. Glad you like it. Thanks again for sharing.



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