God's Politics

God's Politics


Julie Clawson: My Search for the Justice Bra, Part 1

posted by God's Politics

I realized the other day that I needed a new bra. Usually I would hop in the car, drive to the nearest Victoria’s Secret, and buy some mass-produced, synthetic hot pink thing that claimed to make me sexy. Easy enough. But I just couldn’t do it this time. My conscience wouldn’t let me.
Over the last few years, my knowledge of justice issues has grown. I can no longer ignore the realities of sweatshops, child labor, toxic pesticides and dyes, and unjust trade laws. Sure, it’s easy to walk into the mall and buy whatever is on sale. It’s easy to not care about where my clothes came from, who made them and under what conditions, and what their long-term effects will be. I buy things without asking those questions all the time—like I’m sure the ad execs want me to. Of course, I’ll buy the fair trade coffee or the organic produce when it’s readily available, but, when it comes to just about everything else, I still know how to mindlessly consume with the best of them.
But not this time. I decided to see if I could find a new bra that was ethically made—just to see if I could do it and to force myself to actually put my money where my mouth is. So as my friends rolled their eyes and offered sarcastic “good lucks,” I began my search for the justice bra. But first I set my criteria.
The bra had to be made from an organically grown material. No synthetics made from petroleum, no pesticides that harm the environment and the farmers, and no unsustainable practices. Since hemp growth is restricted, bamboo isn’t usually sustainably grown (and who would ever want a wool bra?), organic cotton seemed to be my best option. Cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world, accounting for 25 percent of total pesticide use. Since we don’t eat cotton, the amount and types of chemicals dumped on cotton crops aren’t as restricted as for other crops. These chemicals are taking their toll on the environment as well as on human health. The EPA considers seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton as “likely” or “known” human carcinogens. Every t-shirt made of conventional cotton requires a quarter pound of harmful chemicals. I can’t knowingly support that. So to be ethical, it had to be grown using ecologically friendly practices.
It also couldn’t have toxic dyes in the fabric—dyes that hurt the environment and are potential carcinogens. I didn’t want fish to die or metals and chlorines to seep into my skin just so I could have hot pink. Numerous chemicals are used to dye most fabrics and these chemicals generally do not break down in wastewater treatment plants. And often to get the dyes to set heavy metals are used in the process. All of this is in the clothes we wear. It hurts the environment and it’s unhealthy. So standard number two was that the bra had to be free of harmful dyes.
Finally, the bra had to be fairly made. From the farmers who grew the fibers, to the weavers who spun the fabric, to the tailors who assembled it, each person (adults, not children) along the way had to have been paid a living wage (usually much more than minimum wage), not been coerced to work, and treated humanely. I’ve read the reports of the growing numbers of Indian cotton growers who are committing suicide because under “free trade” agreements they can’t earn enough to survive by growing cotton. They deserve to be fairly compensated for their labor, not cheated because the hypothetical potential of cotton flooding the markets drove down prices. I also didn’t want to support a company that holds women (or children) as virtual slaves in a sweatshop (where often the women also have to perform other “services” for their male employers in order to keep their jobs). Nor did I want to support a company that pays their workers a wage that isn’t sufficient to live on just so the company could make a bigger profit. Whoever made my bra needs to be able to make a living doing so. And not a degrading, oppressive living either, but one that treats them as a real person.
Not too much to ask, just an ethically made bra. I could find that somewhere, right?

Julie Clawson is a church planting pastor in the Chicago area and the coordinator of the Emerging Women blog.
(Check back soon for part two of Julie’s search for an ethical bra.)



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jesse

posted July 26, 2007 at 11:24 am


Not to be crude, but women who only wear clothing “organically” and “fairly made”, and “pesticide free” generally do not wear bras. Good luck with your search!



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dave

posted July 26, 2007 at 11:59 am


but women who only wear clothing “organically” and “fairly made”, and “pesticide free” generally do not wear bras.
Uh… that is a really big assumption there.



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Moderatelad

posted July 26, 2007 at 12:09 pm


dave
or in some cases a ‘little’ assumption.
Just kidding -
Have a great day -
.



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Ross

posted July 26, 2007 at 12:42 pm


For some reason I’m guessing this article wouldn’t be quite as interesting if Julie was out searching for the “Justice Hand Bag” or “Justice T-shirt.” I wish her well.



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js

posted July 26, 2007 at 1:18 pm


I’m guessing that most of you that are making suggestive comments about women’s bodies and underclothing think you’re funny. You’re not. You’re offensive. And your rude, patriarchal comments are not welcome. Sure the author is being provocative by commenting on shopping for a bra. She’s also being honest. Try and think about her argument, and not her breasts.



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aaron

posted July 26, 2007 at 1:21 pm


Ouch, I hate to see the price she’s gonna pay, my wife’s unethically made, environmentally toxic, mass produced bras cost around $40-50.



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Matthew

posted July 26, 2007 at 1:35 pm


As a point of clarification, while cotton is not regulated as a food crop, the majority of the plant by weight does end up in the human food chain. This is all the more reason to seek out organically grown cotton. Best of luck in your search.



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kevin s.

posted July 26, 2007 at 1:40 pm


“Not too much to ask, just an ethically made bra.”
Preferably one that doesn’t chafe.
“Try and think about her argument, and not her breasts.”
Thank you for getting to the chest of the matter. Chest? I mean heart. Heart of the matter. Seriously though, your rebuke has chastened me, like the sermon on the mount. I mean…



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jesse

posted July 26, 2007 at 1:40 pm


I’m guessing that most of you that are making suggestive comments about women’s bodies and underclothing think you’re funny. You’re not.
–The comments were actually pretty funny. The author definitely intended this to be a little humorous, or at least cheeky. Why get your panties in a bunch? (for lack of a better phrase…;)



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kevin s.

posted July 26, 2007 at 1:49 pm


In all seriousness, though, it’s nice to see someone living their convictions. I had not previously thought about the unregulated nature of cotton pesticides.



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Wolverine

posted July 26, 2007 at 2:03 pm


js,
I’m not being funny, I’m deconstructing the oppressive patriarchal assumptions of language. Can’t you tell the difference between immature humor and postmodern literary criticism?
Yeah, well neither can I.
Wolverine



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Moderatelad

posted July 26, 2007 at 2:27 pm


This has coused me pause to think that I am now on a weightloss program and I am going to look for a ethically made Jock. Natural fibers, one that does not use dyes at all and will allow the proper support needed for the activity. Maybe Union Made in the USA. I will gladly walk a brest with Julie on this issue.
Julie might have caused more thought on this issue than some will give her credit for. Humor is a great way to address most issues and disarm those that might not be open to the topic.
Have a great day -
.



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Anonymous

posted July 26, 2007 at 3:28 pm


Let’s look at the issues mentioned here and deal with them:
1. Sweatshops and child labor. If these people were not working there, where would they be working? Would they even have jobs? Or would they be starving on the street? Good working conditions and the lack of children working are luxuries. Only within the last 100 years have Americans even been able to adopt these conditions. Always remember to ask: compared to what?
2. Pesiticides. Which is better: enough food to feed a growing population, or malaria?
3. Dyes: Toxic in what quantities? Driving fast in a car is dangerous, but how fast is too fast?
4. Petroleum: What’s wrong with oil? God made it, we can use it.
5. What is sustainably grown? Over what time period? Who would ever want a wool bra: Exactly. Most clothing in the world before the adoption of cotton and eeek petroleum and other substitutes was wool or animal skins. And most people did not have enough clothes. So which is more ethical: Exposure to the elements, or to clothe the naked?
6. If all our t-shirts are so toxic why are we living so much longer?
Your concept of ethics and justice is extremely shallow and short sighted. The true issues are those of big corporations with politicians in their pockets, which can be resolved by getting rid of politicians better than by getting rid of big corporations, and Christian responsibility to care for the least of these.
Nathanael Snow



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Mike C

posted July 26, 2007 at 3:56 pm


Nathanael,
Your questions lack imagination and reek of despair and apathy. Your point seems to be that since you can’t imagine a better way, we might as well settle for the bad situation we have now. You set up all kinds of false dichotomies – sweatshops vs. no jobs, pesticides vs. malaria and hunger, synthetic materials vs. being naked (wtf?), etc. – and fail to imagine a better, third alternative.
Instead of sweatshops, why not factories that pay their workers decent wagers? All it would take is for consumers to start demanding it. Instead of pesticides why not sustainable farming practices and the elimination of cash crop farm subsidies that prevent small farmers around the globe from being able to raise food for their own families or to sell their crops at living wage prices? And there are plenty of other ways to make clothes than with synthetics and pesticide treated fibers.
Have we gotten so used to the status quo that we can’t even imagine that another world is possible?



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jurisnaturalist

posted July 26, 2007 at 4:34 pm


Where are the factories going to get the money to pay better wages? Where are the people going to work if the factory decides it is better to go out of business than to pay higher wages?
Shall we just bleed the owners of corporations for the sake of others? Who then has a right to say who gets what?
I’m saying that the process is more complex and that the real solution is too difficult and requires more courage than shopping for a green bra.
Buying a green bra robs a sweatshop worker of a half hour’s pay.
Removing the barriers to immigration, limiting laws to protecting rights and thereby eradicating corporate privileges, assuming full responsibility as individuals for caring for the least of these… these are the measures that the gospel calls for.
A green bra may assuage one woman’s guilt (until she discovers how much extra gas she used trying to find one), but the money from such an exchange most likely will circulate only among other greenies, and seldom trickle down to those most lacking resources.
Again, we must discern between human rights justice and an arbitrary definition of justice which involves such vain and luxurious trifles as green bras.



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Randy

posted July 26, 2007 at 4:52 pm


Is this really about the destination or about the journey? This could be any everyday object we take for granted. So it’s a “foundation” garment – who cares? What will the author discover about the product, and more importantly, about her decisions regarding these types of purchases?
That’s the story I’m interested in reading.



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aBhantiarna Solas

posted July 26, 2007 at 4:53 pm


Where are the factories going to get the money to pay better wages? Where are the people going to work if the factory decides it is better to go out of business than to pay higher wages?
What if the factory started manufacturing “green” bras … trickle down economics works in both directions (up and down) or it doesn’t work at all. Money doesn’t just flow in one direction …
If it becomes apparent to manufacturers that people are willing to pay more money for “green” goods then the manufacturers will produce them … thus giving people a living wage. But if we (the consumer) don’t begin demanding it at some level the cycle will never be broken.



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Mike C

posted July 26, 2007 at 5:01 pm


Where are the factories going to get the money to pay better wages?

From us. Wouldn’t you be willing to pay a few extra cents for your clothes if it meant you could quadruple the wages of the person who actually made them for you?
When sweatshop workers are making mere pennies per garment it doesn’t take much sacrifice on the part of the consumer or the corporations to make a big difference in the standard of living for these workers.
Frankly, I doubt we’d even notice the difference. If the price of your $30 jeans at Old Navy suddenly went up to $30.50, would you even bat an eye?



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Wolverine

posted July 26, 2007 at 5:07 pm


Julie Clawson wrote:
Every t-shirt made of conventional cotton requires a quarter pound of harmful chemicals.
This sounds awful if it’s true. Does anyone have a source for this? And what exactly qualifies as a “harmful” chemical? Any chemical is at least potentially harmful if it’s misused.
Wolverine



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Cathy

posted July 26, 2007 at 5:11 pm


Back in 1992 my husband and I had a store that sold environmentally friendly products. Some of those were clothing items such as socks, tee shirts and undershirts that were made from organically grown cotton. I think that this many years later with more awareness of the impact we are making on the environment, it will be possible to find the bra she is looking for.



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Rick Nowlin

posted July 26, 2007 at 5:17 pm


jurisnaturalist — I think you miss her point. The issue ultimately is doing what’s right according to what she believes to be Biblical principles, with buying a bra merely the jumping-off point. My trouble with your view is that apparently you don’t realize that what you do (how you spend your money etc.) actually does affect other people, for good or for ill. Contary to the Marxist viewpoint, we are not just economic beings; we are created by God to reflect Him.



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Wolverine

posted July 26, 2007 at 5:23 pm


Mike C wrote:
Wouldn’t you be willing to pay a few extra cents for your clothes if it meant you could quadruple the wages of the person who actually made them for you?
That’s assuming that the actual cost of labor is a minimal portion of the cost of the overall product. But I don’t think you can assume that. For one thing: if wages were such a small part of the overall cost of a brassiere or a pair of jeans, the pressure to keep wages low would be minimal, and the temptation to resort to sweatshops would be much less.
If that were the case, garment manufacturers would do much better by competing on style or quality of fabric, which (I would have to imagine) would be more important to purchasers than a price advantage of only a few cents. And in the bargain they would probably gain higher quality workmanship.
I’m not saying that workers don’t get taken advantage of, or that we shouldn’t try to solve the problem. But it’s gonna take more than spending an extra fifty cents on a pair of jeans.
Wolverine



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Bill Samuel

posted July 26, 2007 at 6:15 pm


It’s hard to tell if she’s serious about justice issues from the piece she wrote. The humorous tone and the fact that she actually saws nothing at all about any process she went through to actually find such an item was not encouraging. The piece could appear in a blog or e-zine by a right wing group or individual which regularly makes fun of socially conscious efforts, and that audience would scream with laughter and just assume it was satire.
BTW, if you put in “organic cotton bra” in Google, among the first few entries you can find an organic cotton crossover bra for $18. This is from a “conscious” merchandiser (Gaiam), but they don’t really say anything about labor conditions or such justice issues directly.



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Mike C

posted July 26, 2007 at 6:22 pm


Wolverine, do some research. You’ll discover that sweatshop workers really are paid only pennies per garment. Most make only a few dollars per day, and usually this is below the cost of living, even in the developing countries in which they live.
It’d be nice to look through rose tinted glasses and think that if the corporations could afford to raise wages they certainly would, but the reality is that they can and they simply don’t.



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Mike

posted July 26, 2007 at 6:28 pm


the fact that she actually saws nothing at all about any process she went through to actually find such an item was not encouraging.

This is a two part post. I’d assume that the rest of her description of the process of finding the bra will be in part 2.



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Julie Clawson

posted July 26, 2007 at 6:55 pm


Wow. Interesting responses here. Thanks for the comments and the questions. I don’t want to respond too much at the moment, but just clarify a few things.
Yes, this is just the first part of the story. Yes, I am very serious about justice issues. And while I intended to be humorous in writing about bra shopping, it is a part of the most basic everyday normal life. I wanted to see if I could “live justly” in the everyday and not just in my ideals. As a consumer I hold the power (albeit small) to tell companies what I want (to demand the supply as it were). So my choice is to ask for ethically made items. Will that hurt the big companies? Maybe, but not as much as they have hurt the workers. I guess I just don’t think that getting rich is sufficient justification for destroying lives and the environment. There are better ways that provide dignity for all involved.



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Rick

posted July 26, 2007 at 6:57 pm


Not that I’ve come across many bamboo bras, but the farmers of northern Thailand (where I live) have been growing and harvesting bamboo for all sorts of purposes in a sustainable fashion for centuries.



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jesse

posted July 26, 2007 at 7:03 pm


Wolverine,
They took down your first post. I guess mildly irreverent humor does not fly at Sojo. Too bad for the readers.



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jesse

posted July 26, 2007 at 7:05 pm


I guess I just don’t think that getting rich is sufficient justification for destroying lives and the environment.
–Come on, Julie. You’re more honest than that. No one gave this as a justification.



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Don

posted July 26, 2007 at 7:08 pm


Julie:
Responding to your post above, I’m with you all the way. I’ll look forward to reading your second post.
Thanks!
Don



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Anonymous

posted July 26, 2007 at 7:26 pm


mike c; your words reek of misunderstanding and lack of imagination. this world that God has blessed us with is what it is. your wonderful intentions and your spiritual insights are really nice but do not work in the real world that most of us live in. as christians we will all do what we understand we should do to bring justice to all. meantime the world which is not christian will do the same. you and clawson keep chanting your political line and bashing the free enterprise system. your call for government intervention is off the mark. prayer and spreading the gospel would be more productive, i think.



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Moderatelad

posted July 26, 2007 at 7:30 pm


Yes, this is just the first part of the story.
Oh my – it means that we have something to look forward to…
My – what is the next piece of clothing giong to be that we chatt about. It was sorta humorus but can you imagine Mrs. Dobson, Mrs. Kennedy or dare I say Mrs. Clinton talking about this issue using their breasts support system – I don’t think so.
Maybe a little more substance the next time.
Later -
.



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laura grimes

posted July 26, 2007 at 8:16 pm


I often buy bras at the Salvation Army Store and Goodwill. My philosophy is: if I am willing to lie down on an exercise mat at the gym that has been used and sweat on multiple times, if I am willing to stay at a hotel on a vacation and sleep on sheets that others have slept on, why would I be squeamish about a used bra? It doesn’t meet the organic, etc. parameters, but it is a cheap example of “Reuse”. I have bought hi-end French designer bras in very good condition. I do draw the line at used panties.



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Wolverine

posted July 26, 2007 at 8:39 pm


Dear Moderator,
Since we are being treated to a discussion of ladies undergarments (including “used panties”) I do have to say I am a bit disappointed by your removal of my earlier post, composed as it was of double entedres of the mildest sort.
On one hand, you want to be thought of as the sort of free-wheeling publication that can publish the story of a woman’s quest for the Green Bra of Justice, but you cannot handle a witticism about her story providing moral uplift?
C’mon folks, get a sense of humor.
Wolverine



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jerry

posted July 26, 2007 at 8:50 pm


i am soooooooooooo excited about laura grimes undergarment exploits. and clawson—–what can i say. so jo is truly blessed with women of such substance and imagination. i can’t wait for the second part of this really neat comment. (sing songy) i love sojo.



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Rachel

posted July 26, 2007 at 10:16 pm


C’mon boys, grow up! You mean you really can’t hear the word “bra” without having to snicker and make juvenile remarks? I feel like I’m back in Jr. High School.



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Anonymous

posted July 26, 2007 at 10:17 pm


Why am I not surprised at the pre-adolescent remarks, weakly labeled as humor, from Kev, Mod, Jesse and Wolvie? They just cannot resist a meander through the world of 12 year-olds.
Subsequently, a good discussion. To those who want to trivialize the quest, remember, every journey starts with one step. A green bra today, maybe a green clothing industry tomorrow.
Unfortunately, most commercial enterprises today are more focused on making money than on making a good product. That will only change when consumers demand it.



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Moderatelad

posted July 26, 2007 at 10:26 pm


Posted by: Rachel | July 26, 2007 10:16 PM
Please – a little humor is needed. Did Julie really think that once she used the “B” some would not have a little fun. And I will ask you – if Mrs. Dobson or Mrs. Graham or even Mrs. Clinton used their need to purchase new undergarments and then went into great length about what they are looking for – there would be a few others on this site that would lampoon at least two of these ladies?
Good issues to deal with – just made a little ‘boob-boob’ in the framing of the issue. I am not saying that it is not entertaining and that is a good thing – it got peoples attention.
Just giving you my support – tee hee
.



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aaron

posted July 27, 2007 at 12:12 am


The PCocrats strike again!



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Mike C

posted July 27, 2007 at 1:30 am


keep chanting your political line and bashing the free enterprise system. your call for government intervention is off the mark.

Funny, I don’t remember doing anything of the sort. Let’s see… I suggested that consumers ought to start demanding clothing made at living wages. What else is that except using capitalism to serve the cause of justice? And I suggested that we should eliminate government subsidies of cash crops. In other words, the opposite of government intervention. I’m not quite sure what strawman stereotype you think you were responding to, but it has nothing to do with anything I said.



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jurisnaturalist

posted July 27, 2007 at 6:31 am


If a few people, who find it imperitive to their ethic, shop consistently for green clothing the market for green clothes will expand (slightly). But it will do little to shift the fundamental problems which concern the greenie.
I also want better working conditions for everyone, which is why I support open immigration. Allow people to come here and work, if they can get here on their own. If there are some who need help to escape a situation where they are being oppressed the church needs to step in and rescue them.
Environmental concerns need to be addressed as well, but only after human rights are established. First and foremost are life, liberty, and property, and right to contract. The best thing we can do to help preserve and establish these rights in other places is to protect them here at home. Property is ever more under attack by emminent domain and rising taxation, especially at the local level. Liberty remains the target of both liberals and conservatives when they want the state to step in and handle the responsibilities belonging to individuals for them.
It is imperative to view green clothing as a luxury good. The rest of the world just isn’t ready for it yet. They are still trying to get out of poverty. Which will mean more pollution, more factories, more chemicals, and the like, for a season. Britain, the United States, and most other developed economies went through a similar stage, only moving toward greener methods once everyone had enough to eat, and wasn’t dying of insect borne diseases.
Ultimately, it is presumptuous to try to tell other people where they shouldn’t work and how they shouldn’t farm. It is an imposition of an arbitrary morality and this is the final injustice.
Nathanael Snow



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jsens

posted July 27, 2007 at 7:49 am


Assuming she needs to prove that all of her requirements have been met beyond a reasonable doubt, she will never find this, or any other article of manufactured clothing, because it doesn’t exist. I think her message is basically anticapitalistic and intended to show how bad she perceives our capitalistic system with its international components to be.
This is at bottom a search for perfect justice and nobody has found it yet.
Peace.



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Don

posted July 27, 2007 at 7:56 am


Nathaniel, you say the market will expand for what you are calling “green” clothing if more people demand it. That contradicts what you said in your final paragraph, about imposing an arbitrary morality on people. This shopping is entirely voluntary and will achieve desired results through market forces, which you entirely agree with. I don’t see why you should complain about this. I also think you underestimate the potential size of this market. (I shouldn’t have to say that what Julie is looking for goes beyond environmental consciousness and sustainability. It also involves the treatment of people, not just the natural environment. I’m not sure why you continue to refer to her quest as one for “green” clothing since it involves so much more than that.)
Your calling people like Julie “greenies,” however, suggests contempt for her attitue. I find that viewpoint to be rather narrow.
I see no validity whatever to your statement that we must view the kinds of commodities Julie is seeking as “luxuries.” Just because the Western, developed world went through a development stage where workers were treated like slaves and the natural environment was allowed to degrade is no reason by itself that the developing world today must repeat the same history.
Raising peoples’ consciouses regarding the purchasing choices they make could change the course of events for the people in the developing world. It isn’t asking too much for the wealthiest people in the world to consider how the ways they spend their money impact those much less fortunate than they.
Peace,



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Al

posted July 27, 2007 at 8:03 am


You could try to buy through an ethical organization such as “10 thousand villages” (2 in the Chicago area). These store have independent distribution channels for goods produced and paid for fairly. I don’t know if they have the clothing you want, but they would be a resource of persons interested in the same ethical concern your article suggests



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Marcello

posted July 27, 2007 at 8:52 am


Wolverine –
If I had known that your original post was going to be deleted I would have copied and saved it! It was a light-hearted response to a light-hearted blog entry, and it definitely put a smile on my face. Thank you!
No thanks whatsoever to the moderator, of course. Perhaps the moderator believes that men shouldn’t be allowed to have a sense of humor. What a shame.



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Rick Nowlin

posted July 27, 2007 at 11:17 am


It is imperative to view green clothing as a luxury good. The rest of the world just isn’t ready for it yet. They are still trying to get out of poverty. Which will mean more pollution, more factories, more chemicals, and the like, for a season.
An example of where that analysis fails: Haiti. The country has been deforested because people needed trees to survive, but the topsoil required to grow crops and the like has washed away.



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Rachel

posted July 27, 2007 at 12:55 pm


“Environmental concerns need to be addressed as well, but only after human rights are established.”
But Juris, a safe and healthy environment IS a human right!
“Raising peoples’ consciousness regarding the purchasing choices they make could change the course of events for the people in the developing world.”
Well said, Don! As followers of Christ, we must seek to see God’s will done here on earth, and how we spend our consumer dollar is an important part of that.



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neuro_nurse

posted July 27, 2007 at 3:34 pm


“You set up all kinds of false dichotomies – sweatshops vs. no jobs, pesticides vs. malaria…”
Sorry, I know DDT is a dirty word in this country, but the fact of the matter is that DDT does indeed save human lives in malarious areas.
I hate the thought of using pesticides.
I don’t think my wife had ever seen a cockroach until we moved to New Orleans, so the monsters here really freaked her out. I threw a fit when I saw the can of Raid she brought home one day and just about forbad her to use it in the house – or anywhere else.
In retrospect however, when I was living in Ethiopia, I sprayed insecticides liberally on the occasions when our house would be invaded by ants. (one time I decided to be eco-friendly – or maybe we were just out of insecticide – and used boiling water to kill the ants crawling all over the kitchen. It worked, but it made a huge mess)
Nevertheless, even though some of the anopheline mosquitoes that are vectors for malaria are developing resistance to DDT, it is still one of the most effective ways to prevent malaria transmission.
Seek peace and pursue it.



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MaryC

posted July 27, 2007 at 5:00 pm


The British and Japanese-based company, People Tree, which sells fairly-traded clothes produced in environmentally-friendly ways (organic, non-toxic dyes, etc), has just begun selling their products in the new WholeFoods Market in London. (They do some underwear, but not bras, yet.) Might it be possible to encourage WholeFoods and/or People Tree to begin selling their products in US?
In the meantime, anyone interested in learning more about People Tree should visit their website: http://www.peopletree.co.uk/index.html or http://www.peopletree.co.jp/
They do ship products overseas, but then that adds a certain environmentally-unfriendly edge to things. Mmmm…



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jesse

posted July 27, 2007 at 5:37 pm


If you do a Google product search for “organic cotton bra”, you’ll find that just one of the first five products is an actual bra, while the rest are “anti-bra” organic cotton t-shirts (e.g., “I hate bras”, “My favorite bra is this shirt”). Which kind of provides support for my original proposition re: women who wear organic clothing. Funny.



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grandrapidshippie

posted July 28, 2007 at 1:49 am


It’s just funny that the same people who are “haters” of sojo in every other thread are “haters” on this one. It’s amazing that you can oppose everything that sojo is about. I wonder if maybe some of you wouldn’t just be happier reading your “Purpose Driven Politics” or “Bringing up Hetero Republican Boys”.



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Don

posted July 28, 2007 at 9:52 am


It’s also ‘funny’ that this post is characterized by some as ‘anti-capitalist,’ when what Julie is doing is engaging the essence of capitalism.
D



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Marcello

posted July 28, 2007 at 12:03 pm


Do you see what happens when humorous posts get deleted? Everyone gets grumpy and miserable. What could have been a fun and friendly opportunity for open dialogue has degenerated into a squabble among cantankerous old curmudgeons.
Let this be a lesson to everyone: Humor serves a purpose. And political correctness doesn’t.



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kevin s.

posted July 28, 2007 at 2:46 pm


“It’s also ‘funny’ that this post is characterized by some as ‘anti-capitalist,’ when what Julie is doing is engaging the essence of capitalism.”
It was one poster, and that poster was noting that she seemed to have a nihilistic view of her quest, thus making a commentary on capitalism. I don’t agree with his interpretation, however.
“Do you see what happens when humorous posts get deleted? Everyone gets grumpy and miserable.”
Reminds me of 1992. Hopefully, we’ll at least get good music out of the deal. It’s about time we did away with the gaunt one-man-and-his-guitar-and-vintage-tee-against-the-world Johnny Mitchell acts playing the same song over and over. I’m waitin’ for the MUSIC to change.
But that’s off topic.



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kevin s.

posted July 28, 2007 at 2:54 pm


“It’s amazing that you can oppose everything that sojo is about.”
I liked the article.
“I wonder if maybe some of you wouldn’t just be happier reading your “Purpose Driven Politics” or “Bringing up Hetero Republican Boys”.”
Why the shot at Rick Warren? And, yes, I certainly hope I bring up hetero boys, and will consult Dobson’s parenting books for advice on how to do so, thank you.



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Don

posted July 28, 2007 at 4:43 pm


I wrote: “It’s also ‘funny’ that this post is characterized by some as ‘anti-capitalist…”
Kevin S responded: “It was one poster, and that poster was noting that she seemed to have a nihilistic view of her quest…”
Jurisnaturist also seems to think this is anti-capitalist, if I read him correctly. Maybe he can correct me if I misconstrued what he wrote.
Peace,



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jurisnaturalist

posted July 28, 2007 at 5:49 pm


Forget capitalism. I’m interested in what really works, and in assigning responsibility to the proper individuals.
If our author desires to do justice to the poor who work in sweatshops, she must allow them to keep their jobs. Rather, she must not despise hard labor under the hands of large corporations and management *per se*. She must present a viable alternative, and consider the worker’s alternative.
In many cases the workers’ alternative is agricultural labor, starvation, or prostitution. If textile work is this individuals’ expressed preference, then who are we to deny her that choice? Do we know better than she what is good for her? Oh, the patronization!
Now, I am ready to stand alongside anyone who wants to do something about the conditions of the least of these the globe over. My observation is that the closer a nation’s laws reflect natural law (juris naturalis) the greater potential that nation has for economic growth, and human rights improvements. Most often a government imposes TOO MANY laws, in contradiction or in excess of natural law. The vast majority of these regulations are well-intended, as is the search for sentimentally-minded apparel. But they often have unintended consequences the symptoms of which are then treated by imposing more new regulations. We ought, rather, to rid ourselves of these regulations, and work to limit the role of government.
As for the programs which are seemingly indispensable, such as welfare, medical care, etc. these issues are the sole responsibility of those who care about the plight of the least of these, such as myself. I encourage everyone who adopts Christ’s mandate to look after the least of these to likewise adopt His ethic to renounce manipulation of the political mechanism as a means to social justice or morality.
You may call me a capitalist, I prefer the term monotheist, because I refuse to acknowledge the state as a means for achieving the gospel. You may call me a libertarian, but I prefer the term juris naturalist because I believe in a natural law written into the fabric of human nature, and that the only force capable of changing our human nature is the redemptive blood of Christ, not man-made regulation.
Nathanael Snow
(that’s shrill!)



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Anonymous

posted July 28, 2007 at 6:34 pm


In many cases the workers’ alternative is agricultural labor, starvation, or prostitution. If textile work is this individuals’ expressed preference, then who are we to deny her that choice? Do we know better than she what is good for her? Oh, the patronization!
You COMPLETELY miss the point — it’s called economic exploitation, paying people virtually slave wages and limiting their choices just to make a few more bucks. And that’s why, at times, the Scripture directly contradicts what you call “natural law” — it simply does not account for sin. It thus, especially in the prophets, refers to justice, which assumes state involvement in ordering right relationships between persons. In this country we’ve needed to, for example, rescind laws that promoted racism because of the human race’s natural proclivity to try to be “better than” the next person. The idea that “regulations” somehow stall economic growth for all should have been dispelled by the Reagan and Bush II years, where more and more wealth flowed into fewer and fewer hands — but folks still believe that fiction because they want to avoid the concept of justice.



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Rick Nowlin

posted July 28, 2007 at 6:36 pm


That last post was mine.



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Wolverine

posted July 28, 2007 at 6:48 pm


It seems to me that this is one of those arguments where it’s easy to get caught up over abstractions (Natural Law! Exploitation! Freedom! Social Justice! Free Choice! Sustainability!) when what really matters is specifics.
So I guess the questions I would pose to Ms. Clawson are:
1. Which chemicals and methods are “too dangerous”, either for workers or the environment in general, to use?
2. What conditions, specifically, distinguish an intolerable sweatshop from a tolerable factory?
Ideals are great, but details matter too.
Wolverine



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jurisnaturalist

posted July 29, 2007 at 12:53 am


Rick,
would you recommend the state ordering what wages a textile worker should earn? And what wages an agricultural worker should earn? What about janitors, or inventors, or airline pilots and doctors?
How can the state know what the right amount is to pay each of these workers? How can it know whether a firm may stay in business if it adopts such wages? How can it know what money is worth when the state constantly expands the supply of money artificially and to the primary benefit of bankers?
You and I agree in principle on the evil of corporate welfare. Why not agree on the evil of state organized individual welfare as well?
These workers are exploited because they cannot leave, due to artificial immigration laws. They are exploited because the businesses are in bed with the politicians. They are exploited because they are denied property rights. The low wages are mere symptoms of these problems which we might agree about.
Nathanael Snow



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Rick Nowlin

posted July 29, 2007 at 1:51 pm


Would you recommend the state ordering what wages a textile worker should earn? And what wages an agricultural worker should earn? What about janitors, or inventors, or airline pilots and doctors?
Should the government maintain a specific pay scale? Probably not. Should it establish some reasonable guidelines? In a sinful world, probably. The reason we have government in the first place is because of sin, that people cannot be trusted to do what is right.
These workers are exploited because they cannot leave, due to artificial immigration laws. They are exploited because the businesses are in bed with the politicians. They are exploited because they are denied property rights.
And who establishes these injustices in the first place? In truth, the business community, which often even tells the government what to do and how to do it — or more accurately, what NOT to do the keep its gravy train running.



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Wolverine

posted July 29, 2007 at 4:03 pm


The reason we have government in the first place is because of sin, that people cannot be trusted to do what is right.
But government is people, just like business is people. It is naive to assume that government is any purer than the people as a whole.
And who establishes these injustices in the first place? In truth, the business community, which often even tells the government what to do and how to do it — or more accurately, what NOT to do the keep its gravy train running.
I would argue it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg problem. Is it the rich using government to protect their interests, or the politically powerful granting economic favors to reward their political allies?
Either way, it is activist government, a plethora of contradictory programs and laws, that creates the most opportunities for abuse by selective enforcement and non-enforcement.
Wolverine



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Rick Nowlin

posted July 29, 2007 at 6:02 pm


But government is people, just like business is people. It is naive to assume that government is any purer than the people as a whole.
Agreed, because government can also be abusive. That said, you just don’t necessarily hamper government, which in theory answers to the people, in favor of business, which answers to practically nobody. In this country, which is more laissez-faire than most, private entities and lobbyists represent far more of a problem than “activist government.”



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kevin s.

posted July 29, 2007 at 8:07 pm


“In this country, which is more laissez-faire than most, private entities and lobbyists represent far more of a problem than “activist government.”
Obviously, I disagree with you about private entities, but I will note that activist government creates more lobbyists. For that matter, the more powerful government becomes, the more private entities have the capacity to interfere with our rights. Eminent domain is a perfect example of activist government steered in accordance with the needs of private entities.



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jurisnaturalist

posted July 29, 2007 at 8:21 pm


Is it possible that we can study human nature as it is in its fallen state and make some observations?
Let’s start with: people are self interested.
As such people make decisions in their own best interest. The greatest demonstration of God’s redemptive work in our lives is that we can now set this prime motivator aside and instead make decisions based on a desire to imitate Christ, without regard to our own interests.
But we must base our study on the norm rather than the exception, and focus on the fact that most people most of the time make decisions based on personal self-interest.
Can we agree thus far?
Nathanael Snow



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Wolverine

posted July 29, 2007 at 9:03 pm


Rick Nowlin wrote:
That said, you just don’t necessarily hamper government, which in theory answers to the people, in favor of business, which answers to practically nobody. In this country, which is more laissez-faire than most, private entities and lobbyists represent far more of a problem than “activist government.”
There’s a lot packed into the two words “in theory”. Lemme ask you: does the government answer to the people in fact?
I would also challenge the assertion that business answers to “practically nobody”. Businesses answer to customers. If they don’t offer goods and services that people want, at reasonable prices, they don’t generate any sales. Now that’s a crude sort of accountability, but it’s real enough to matter.
Wolverine



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Rick Nowlin

posted July 29, 2007 at 10:53 pm


But we must base our study on the norm rather than the exception, and focus on the fact that most people most of the time make decisions based on personal self-interest.
We can indeed agree, and I see that as part of the problem. Not that we shouldn’t look out for our interests but not at the expense of everyone else, which is the issue I’m concerned about — I think, as much as possible, that we should work the system so that everyone wins or, at least, has a reasonable chance to do so.
I would also challenge the assertion that business answers to “practically nobody”. Businesses answer to customers. If they don’t offer goods and services that people want, at reasonable prices, they don’t generate any sales. Now that’s a crude sort of accountability, but it’s real enough to matter.
Except that when you’re talking about the very largest firms at the Wall Street level, the stockholders, and not the customers (who are taken for granted) call the shots. It often makes no sense on a business level to lay off a bunch of people, but that’s precisely what happens regularly because the stock rises whenever that happens.



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Rick Nowlin

posted July 29, 2007 at 10:55 pm


Obviously, I disagree with you about private entities, but I will note that activist government creates more lobbyists.
I disagree strenously with that — our system from the outset was built to cater to lobbyists.



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Wolverine

posted July 29, 2007 at 11:41 pm


Rick Nowlin wrote:
It often makes no sense on a business level to lay off a bunch of people, but that’s precisely what happens regularly because the stock rises whenever that happens.
No.
To give but one example: Ford Motor let go of a lot of personnel several months ago. The decision to release these people was based on the entirely rational basis that demand for Ford’s cars was way down. Ford’s stock continued to decline. Now Ford managed to make a profit, so their stock value may increase a bit.
Stock markets do not reward layoffs, they reward profitability. The two are not the same.
Wolverine



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sara

posted July 30, 2007 at 1:07 am


Wow! What an awesome discussion so far!
I do agree that the fair trade, organic, and buy local movements really are capitalism at its finest.
I think that it really is true that we control the system. Most corporations do not sell fair trade clothing because it is profitable for them not to. The best way to change their practices is to change our patterns of consumption. We complain about manipulative advertising and the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” but the truth is that consumers hold the lions share of the power in our system.
There will always be people of conscience who will deal fairly in business, and praise God for them. But there will also always on this side of eternity be people in business who are all about the bottom line. So what if were were to change the bottom line? Big name retailers would stock organic and fairly traded items if it were profitable for them to do so. But short of a miracle in the industry(which could always happen, of course) many businesses will continue to maximize profits by minimizing costs.
It seems to me that fair trade (and the other movements) really yearn to see a miracle happen in the hearts and minds of consumers– we decide that there are more important things than money and that it’s worth it to pay a little more for oppression-free items.
This is, of course, much easier said than done and I know that I am something of a hypocrite just for writing it. I usually only buy fair trade when it’s not inconvenient to do so. And I also appreciate that it’s a heck of a lot easier to buy fair trade when one isn’t struggling to provide for one’s family or survive as it is. For others, however, purchasing fairly traded items instead of conventional ones would not be so sacrificial. I’ve been browsing fair trade online catalogs, and while things are frequently (though not always, not by a long shot) more expensive than comparable items at big chain stores known for low prices, one can usually find fairly traded items for sale for considerably less money than one would find items produced in sweatshops and sold in high-end clothing stores.
This is a sobering question to me but here goes: if it’s really true that consumers hold the lion’s share of the power in the consumption cycle, musn’t it also be true that we hold the lion’s share of the responsibility for what kind of cycle it is?
I need to (and am going to) change my relationship to money and my ways of consuming. It’s a really good thing that God is in the transformation business. Lord, change us and change the system.
P.S. (I know, I know, as if this post wasn’t long enough…sorry!) A sidenote, but one that I’m curious about: the economic impact of a surge of fair trade oriented consumers in the one-third world on garment workers in the two-thirds world.
I’m not an economist, but from what little I do understand of economics, I imagine that the effect would be largely positive. I mean, these things are never as simple as they seem, but here’s how I imagine things going:
Greater demand for fair trade = expansion of fair trade supply as more and more businesses move to get in on this suddenly lucrative niche
Expansion of supply = more workers needed
More workers making a fair wage = more money invested in local economies
More money invested in local economies = more small local businesses
So again, I’m not an economist, but wouldn’t the increased demand for fair trade workers and the boost given to local economies in the two-thirds world more than make up for any vacuum left by a decreased demand for sweatshop labor?



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Rick Nowlin

posted July 30, 2007 at 10:39 am


Stock markets do not reward layoffs, they reward profitability. The two are not the same.
In the biggest industry around here — health care — they certainly do, with hospitals and insurance companies around here doing exactly just what I was talking about (and my sister-in-law works in one); they less they have to pay workers the more the stockholders get.



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kevin s.

posted July 30, 2007 at 10:40 am


“Except that when you’re talking about the very largest firms at the Wall Street level, the stockholders, and not the customers (who are taken for granted) call the shots.”
Nonsense. If people stop buying your product, nobody is going to invest in your company. If you a are a company known for creating a popular product (like, say, Apple), your stocks may rise in anticipation of a new product release. But if that release goes bust, so does the stock price.
“I disagree strenously with that — our system from the outset was built to cater to lobbyists.
Which system? Which outset?



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kevin s.

posted July 30, 2007 at 12:30 pm


“In the biggest industry around here — health care — they certainly do, with hospitals and insurance companies around here doing exactly just what I was talking about (and my sister-in-law works in one); they less they have to pay workers the more the stockholders get.”
He didn’t say the two were not interrelated, but that they are not the same. Of course, if a company is not profitable, they must find a way to cut costs, or to raise revenues. Letting employees go is one way of accomplishing the former, but to simply understand this relationship without proper context is, well, lacking proper context.



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Rick Nowlin

posted July 30, 2007 at 12:37 pm


“I disagree strenously with that — our system from the outset was built to cater to lobbyists.”
Which system? Which outset?
The federal government of the United States of America, under the Constitution of 1789.
Letting employees go is one way of accomplishing the former, but to simply understand this relationship without proper context is, well, lacking proper context.
Except that, in these cases, the companies I’m referring to were actually already making huge profits even before any layoffs took place. Some years ago one of those hospitals donated $10 million to the city for “user fees,” such as police and fire protetion — imagine how much money the hospital was actually making!



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Jon

posted July 30, 2007 at 6:12 pm


The blurbs don’t address all of your requirements, but the bras at Gaiam might work. They’re at least made of organic cotton.
http://www.gaiam.com/retail/3/APP_Intimates_Bras



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Jean Yesthal

posted August 1, 2007 at 11:44 pm


Julie
go to http://www.Gaiam.com They have a catalog of clothing and household items that meet your criteria. Good luck
Jean



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Dot

posted August 3, 2007 at 3:09 pm


Is Julie a Church Planter for a specific denomination? Or a Church planner for her denomination? I’d be interested to know if she is a paid employee for her church or a volunteer? No judgment attached. Just a casual curiosity from an old lady who is interested in all things. I just bought some bras. Couldn’t have been concerned less about from where they came. Now I will be more a more inquisitive consumer. Thanks, Julie, for quickening my awareness. I consider myself a conservationist, but not a preservationist…. and certainly for justice all around. Thanks, Julie!



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Janelle

posted March 13, 2008 at 8:34 pm


Enjoyed the read.
Is part 2 ready?



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Penni

posted July 10, 2014 at 5:08 am


Excellent blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?

I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or
go for a paid option? There are so many options out
there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Many thanks!



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