Why Fair Trade, Organic Clothes Matter.

No one wants to be the seven months pregnant lady, yelling at a Malawian sitting legless in a rusty wheelchair on the crumbling edge of a gas station triangled between a red dirt ditch, smoldering trash pile, and mango grove. But that lady, I was. Eyes fixated on the apple squishing at his lips.

Rain fell; water balloons bouncing off my own baby belly and bursting off my bony shoulder blades. Just me and this man, the boy and the apple, and the rain.

In my defense- if there can be a defense to this scene- I had just given that apple to the boy. The boy walked to the back and gave it to the man. The man held it up to his mouth and I lost mine at the confrontation this man had pimped out this boy for food and I was complicit in the scheme.

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That day was a blistering reminder we cannot remain blissfully ignorant of our transactions. What we do is part of a bigger picture.

That was almost ten years ago.

With the ubiquity of smart phones and simultaneous dawn of social media, immediate access to global information sits in our hand. As global consumers it feels either irresponsible or ignorant to pretend like we do not know how the way we spend our money ripples back to affect all those along the supply line.

I started an experiment in wardrobe purchases (because it was bothering me that I didn’t know if that clearance tank I got at the big box store was sewn by a woman fired for having a miscarriage on the job with working conditions that derived the death, or if those leggings sewn in Bangladesh were done by a man recently beaten for trying to unionize against false pay slips).

Sixth months ago, I began only buying clothes for myself second hand or from clothing companies that were forwardly embracing both rights of their workers and healthy environmental practices. (Finding things for the kids has been much harder, but that is a discussion for another time and we basically live off kid hand-me-downs anyway.)

No more snagging the dress in the fun print off the clearance rack, barely slowing my cart  before heading to the bread aisle.

Peace out, Urban.

Current fashion also aided my endeavors thanks to the snap-crotch leotard-as-shirt making it’s rounds back from the worst depths of the early 90’s to the women’s department. Befuddlingly, these are “in” again and I spent a good five minutes gawking at the absurdity while having a real Hamlet style existential soliloquy moment via one-sided text conversation to my best friend. How are these a thing (again)! Resist, dear women, resist!

Putting that $6 boho shirt back was easy when holding the hanger I heard the lamenting wail of factory women world-round.

I know that feels dramatic and ridiculous and not every article of cheap clothing we buy here bragging about the sale we scored comes at the cost of someone else’s humanity, but….this is the way my brain works and I’m still banking it does more than not.

Yes, the cost is the cost. Clothes made responsibly cost more money to purchase. It makes more sense to buy staples and signature clothing pieces that will withstand the passage of time.

At thirty-four I know what I’m about and my sense of fashion is a little “quirky”, so I also often use the KonMari method and purchase clothes that lift my spirits. The balance to this expense is the reality that my favorite purchase last year is the gray tank I practically stole from the thrift store for 75cents and wear at least twice a week.

Transparency is beginning to happen because you and I as consumers are saying this matters to us. Companies like Target are listening and are making new initiatives in their responsible sourcing processes all the way from the agriculture where the raw materials are produced, to the humanization of the workers and are trying to change their practices.

This Christmas my stocking was filled with organic cotton, fair-trade socks and big booty underwear. Nothing says “I REALLY love you” from my husband than generously gifting extra soft, extra wide panties because we all know that’s what he’s going to bed with until these lovelies disintegrate off my body from overuse because I also have a slight problem with throwing things away.

 

I leave you with a quote I have rubbed smooth like a worry stone this past decade lifted from the journal of a wise, wise man, Thomas Merton:

” Therefore, if I don’t pretend, like other people, to understand the war, I do know this much: that the knowledge of what is going on only makes it seem desperately important to be voluntarily poor, to get rid of all possessions this instant. I am scared, sometimes, to own anything, even a name, let alone a coin or shares in oil, the munitions, the airplane factories. I am scared to take a proprietary interest in anything for fear that my love of what I own may be killing somebody somewhere.” 

Purchasing responsibly resourced clothes is potentially another one of those annoying group projects from school days where I carry the load of work while apathetic partners do diddly- where I conscientiously change the entire mindset of our family’s consumer purchases for the benefit of people I will never know and a future of our planet I will never see.

I’m okay with that. But, I hope with time, you’ll join me.

 

 

That Whole Target Bathroom Policy Thing

Is Target Bathroom Policy Statement 2016 the new Starbucks Christmas Cup 2015? We’re still stale with the stench of that one even though most of us thought it was ridiculously misunderstood media hype. And didn’t we already spin this “protect families” argument, California, in 2008 when as a state we tried to vote down gay marriage rights? So far the biggest threat to my family has been our self-destructive pride and selfishness. No matter what your views on this are, closing your eyes and wishing a dichotomous way onto a deconstructivist culture is not the same as engaging in the world where all these realities exist.

There is a vivacious transgender woman who cashiers for us at our local Target. The number of times I have felt unsafe in the transaction: zero. The number of times my kids have stared: zero. If we find ourselves washing hands beside her, I imagine it will remain the same. Except I doubt that will happen because I am willing to bet she uses an employee restroom or that hidden single room behind the electronics section to avoid potential conflicts – crushing lessons of past experience learned.

Transgender bathroom policy doesn’t affect our family in any way while shopping Target, except maybe encourage me to shop there more often (if that’s even possible) because I take it as a bold statement of peace. I want to be a part of that. I want my kids to be a part of that. No, I will not be signing your Target petition under the main banner to protect me, the mom, and my kids.

And now I’ve offended so, so, SO many of you because I straddle a no man’s land of too conservative for the liturgists & non-churched and too non-churched for the conservatives in my life. Like my children, my head and heart live in a vast both/and question mark where the only certainty is God – in all male and female characteristics and generosity of goodness and love and grace- can handle it.

Do you know who I think is out to get my kids? Everyone. As a mama, every single person no matter how spiffy they look on the outside are potential threats to the physical and emotional safety of my littles. THAT is why we go as a family into the women’s restroom much to the smadness of my young son. That is why my kids know they aren’t allowed to play hide-and-seek in public places. That is why we call body parts “vagina” and “penis” (which is still really hard for this Midwestern 80’s girl to do) and normalize talk about appropriate vs inappropriate touching.

General vigilance and learning to trust our gut in our surroundings is what the kids and I talk about. This kind of wisdom is what I want the kids to know to navigate through the days, the years. Listening to their intuition and knowing they can rely on it – that’s what I want my kids to practice daily in our care. Tethering an awareness of their physical environment to their brain and stomach assessment, knowing their instincts are good, learning to take in character – this is what we circle back to in all public places.

Yes, I’m afraid. I’m afraid for the safety of the transgender community who are trying to do something as simple as pee in public. I’m afraid for all of us that when one person is dehumanized, we all have our humanity dulled. I’m afraid we will continue to confuse Christianity with protecting our privilege. I’m afraid we will STILL be discussing all this in a rageful way and all this anger of entitlement in our Americanism will seep into the fabric of my children. There are many things to fear here, but potty stops at Target (like most of the things in my red shopping cart) aren’t on that list.