adobe indesign database Buy Adobe Illustrator CS5 for Mac OEM - Online Software Downloads Center adobe creative suite 3 contents adobe photoshop cs upgrade windows Buy Adobe Illustrator CS5 OEM - Online Software Downloads Center adobe indesign cs2 warez adobe indesign free downloads Buy Adobe Creative Suite 5 Master Collection OEM - Online Software Downloads Center open sourc corel draw adobe illustrator adobe photoshop free online tutorial Buy Adobe Flash Professional CS5 for Mac OEM - Online Software Downloads Center fonts for adobe photoshop cs adobe creative suite 2 Buy Adobe Flash Professional CS5 OEM - Online Software Downloads Center purchase adobe photoshop cs2 transparent colour gif in adobe photoshop Buy Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended for Mac OEM - Online Software Downloads Center adobe indesign cs palettes adobe photoshop and not elements cs Buy Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 for Mac OEM - Online Software Downloads Center oem adobe photoshop cs2 download adobe photoshop 7.01 Buy Adobe InDesign CS5 for Mac OEM - Online Software Downloads Center adobe indesign xml adobe photoshop 6 upgrade Buy Adobe InDesign CS5 OEM - Online Software Downloads Center adobe cs3 keygenerator dreamweaver adobe illustrator tutorials post cards Buy Adobe Creative Suite 5 Master Collection for Mac OEM - Online Software Downloads Center adobe photoshop black and white images adobe creative free photo suite Buy Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 OEM - Online Software Downloads Center adobe illustrator course outline adobe photoshop elements 5.0 photo editing Buy Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended OEM - Online Software Downloads Center adobe cs3 photoshop oem

Posts Tagged ‘consumerism’

(red): Selfish giving?

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Part one of a two part series by William Zhang

A giant global initiative’ aimed at you…
If I told you that some of the largest multinational corporations in the world have joined together to form a giant global initiative’ which is targeted at you, the consumer, what would you think? With names including Microsoft, Apple, Motorola, Hallmark, Converse, Gap, Emporio Armani, and even American Express, you’d probably think it must be some sort of a marketing conspiracy by the most powerful companies in the world to get us all to spend more money and boost their profits.

What if I told you that these companies are not after your money for their profit, but to help the fight against AIDS in Africa — would you believe me? That these enormous companies, with a combined profit exceeding the GDP of many small nations, are committed to fighting the ongoing struggle against AIDS. And that so far, $100 million has already been contributed by this initiative. That we’re not talking about simple donations and charity, but something much bigger and more sustainable.
red-ipod
Don’t believe me? Just walk down to an electronics store and look for a red coloured iPod. That’s right — a red iPod. Trust me, there’ll be one there. This little red iPod is proof that these huge multinational companies are not all about sales and profit.

What’s so special about a red iPod?

The answer is PRODUCT(RED). PRODUCT(RED) is a global initiative in which some of the world’s largest companies are working together to promote their unique PRODUCT(RED) branded items. What makes these products special is that up to 50% of the profit from their sales is given to the Global Fund, an organisation established to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa. The PRODUCT(RED) range includes iPods, laptops, credit cards, watches, shirts, shoes and even birthday cards. Usually, there’s little or no difference in price between a PRODUCT(RED) item and a normal one.

aids ribbonAccording to its website, PRODUCT(RED) is neither a charity nor a campaign, but an “economic initiative that acts to deliver a sustainable flow of private sector money to the Global Fund.” The key word here is sustainable. Rather than simply asking these corporations to donate a chunk of money to the Global Fund, a sustainable and longer lasting flow’ of money is created through giving a percentage of the profits from consumer purchases. Sounds good right? Before we can dig any deeper into this issue though, we need to know what exactly holds together the PRODUCT(RED) initiative.

What does the initiative rely on for its success?
While on the surface it may appear that the ultimate aim is to help AIDS victims in Africa, once we look a little closer it becomes clear that all three groups involved (consumers, companies and the Global Fund) are in it for themselves. Ultimately, PRODUCT(RED) is based on the premise that our actions are usually motivated by personal gain.

As consumers, we think that we are getting a great product, while at the same time supporting a great cause and making a statement about our values. In effect though, our actual motivation is the feeling of generosity and satisfaction from knowing that part of our purchase is going towards helping AIDS victims in Africa. It’s this feel good’ sensation which motivates consumers. We’re encouraged to think: “Why not? I’m going to buy this anyway, so why not do some good if it doesn’t cost me much extra?”

The companies involved are also motivated by self-interest, concealed behind the mask of good will’ or charity’. Ultimately, they hope their image and reputation will be enhanced, which will have a positive impact on their profits. After all, profit is the primary goal of private sector business. These corporations are aware that as consumers become more ethically minded, lab-workthey’re more likely to buy products which give them the feel good’ sensation.

Finally, the Global Fund is obviously motivated by the boost to their finances, allowing them to build more treatment centres, research facilities and improve medical supplies in Africa, especially for women and children.

What’s wrong with a bit of self-interest?
Although there is a tendency in society to see self-interest as selfish and egotistic, it is the key factor holding together the PRODUCT(RED) initiative. Like it or not, in this case at least, philanthropy is only a mask for self-gain.

For instance, if the companies involved did not gain from PRODUCT(RED), it’s unlikely that they would have even taken part and the initiative would never have gotten off the ground. In a survey by The Conference Board, a business research organisation, 77 % of businesses said that the needs of the business itself is the most critical factor to affect their giving’ to charity, campaigns or initiatives). This pretty much confirms that corporate philanthropy is a myth.

Likewise, if consumers were not motivated by the feel good’ sensation, the PRODUCT(RED) label would become just another brand among the ranks of Ralph Lauren, VISA and Sony Ericsson. This feel good’ sensation is the major point of difference’ for the PRODUCT(RED) brand — it lets you be both consumeristic’ and socially conscious’ at the same time!

A win-win situation for everyone?

By now, you’re probably thinking: Great! I get an awesome feel good’ product, the companies enjoy some promotion and the Global Fund is able to do more to combat AIDS in Africa. If only it were that simple.

If you read a little more about PRODUCT(RED) on the internet, you’ll find several articles where it is quite savagely attacked . For example, check out Spending to save, (Product)Red: help or hindrance?, or the Buy (Less) Crap campaign, which questions whether shopping really is the answer. Before you make up your mind though, read on to my next article and see why I really think it is worthwhile to support PRODUCT(RED).

TAKE ACTION!
red girl

LEARN MORE

Give (red) a chance!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Part two of a two part series by William Zhang

red paint brushIf you went over to your local hospital with a group of friends and volunteered to clean and repaint the entire children’s ward, only to demand afterwards that you all be shown on the 6 o’clock news so that the entire country can see what great people you are, would this be considered socially acceptable? No, of course it wouldn’t be.

So, is it ok that a group of huge multinational companies are actively promoting their contribution to the Global Fund, a foundation set up to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria? If you’ve read through any of the articles I listed in Part One, your answer will probably be an outright NO WAY!’ Before I tell you why I think it really IS worthwhile to support PRODUCT(RED), let’s take a closer look at the issue from the critics’ perspective.

Who benefits most?
Essentially, the argument is about whether the multinational corporations are benefiting more from their increased sales and improved corporate image than the AIDS victims are benefiting from the improvements in medical care, treatment and research centres.
Many of the critics point to the reasons why companies choose PRODUCT(RED) over alternative ways to contribute to “worthy” causes.
Bono
The first reason is the initiative’s visibility. With backing and support from celebrities such as U2’s Bono, Giorgio Armani, Julia Roberts and The Killers, any association with the PRODUCT(RED) brand in the media and with youth culture is likely to hugely benefit the image, prominence and reputation of the companies involved.

The second reason is PRODUCT(RED)’s ability to mask the actual extent to which the companies are contributing to the initiative. All of the companies are made to look equal, despite the Red mobiledifferences in the amount they actually contribute and the small proportion of the retail cost which actually finds its way to the fund. For instance, one percent of all spending on American Express’s (RED) card goes to the Global Fund as does fifty percent of the net profit from the sale of Gap (RED) items, and just $8.50 from the sale of a Motorola (RED) Motorazr. In effect, companies are contributing relatively little while being portrayed through PRODUCT(RED) marketing as giving generously to the cause.

What’s the problem?
Is PRODUCT (RED) the most effective way support the cause? A more transparent option would be a direct campaign set up by the company itself, meaning that a set amount of money would be given to a specific cause.

Another aspect of the PRODUCT(RED) initiative which has been brutally criticised is the amount spent on advertising and promoting the brand compared to the amount actually raised for the Global Fund. In its March 2007 issue, the Advertising Age magazine reported over $100 million had been spent on advertising, but only $18 million raised as a result. They make the argument that the Global Fund could have received that $100 million if the money was directly donated rather than channelled through PRODUCT(RED).

Some reports even go on to say that based on these figures, the companies have purposely chosen PRODUCT(RED) because it allows them to spend the difference between the $100 million and the $18 million on promoting their own corporate image and improving their sales and profits!

The crucial flaws to this argument are…
These critics have completely forgotten the other benefit of the PRODUCT(RED) initiative — not financial support, but simply bringing the issue of AIDS and poverty in Africa under the public spotlight. For example, some consumers would have had little awareness of the growing AIDS crisis in Africa had it not been for the PRODUCT(RED) advertising campaigns. You sure can’t beat an ad during the half-time break of the American Super Bowl watched by 90 million people!

CashMany critics have also ignored a crucial statistic which blows their argument into tiny fragments: the amount of money raised for the Global Fund is now over four times more than the amount the private sector had contributed prior to the establishment of PRODUCT(RED). An increase of over four times their original funds! Surely you can’t say that PRODUCT(RED) is just an attempt by companies to improve their corporate image if they’ve managed to quadruple the finances of the Global Fund within a two year period?

The reason why the arguments against PRODUCT(RED) are flawed is that they insist on focusing on what the companies are getting out of it by comparing it to alternatives, such as giving set amount directly to a cause, rather than looking at the initiative in terms of the beneficial changes it has made to the lives of the victims of AIDS, disease and poverty in Africa. The truth is, it IS a win-win situation for everyone involved, even if some groups (such as the multinational corporations) appear to win’ more than others. Some people are upset that the companies are even benefitting from PRODUCT(RED) at all!

These people forget that in a world driven by self-interest and personal gain, this imbalance is crucial to holding the entire initiative together (see Part One). Ironically, in attacking the imbalances of PRODUCT(RED), such critics are actually affirming the very principle which PRODUCT(RED) relies on for its success!

My (RED) soapbox:
Global Fund LogoWhatever the motivation of PRODUCT(RED) companies, the initiative has undeniably made a real difference to the medical treatment of AIDS victims in Africa. Does it really matter that the companies are in it for themselves or that only a tiny proportion of the funds are actually going to the Global Fund? No. I don’t think that’s the important thing.

“When I was going to medical school a few years back, we would see patients and send them home knowing they were going to die without medication … I don’t feel that way now. The money we got from (RED) through the Global Fund is helping to save lives. That’s the important thing.”

Dr. Asiimwe, Managing Director for the Treatment and Research AIDS Centre, Kigali.

The important thing is that lives in Africa are being saved. The important thing is that we need to stop this argument against PRODUCT(RED) because while we argue, lives are being lost. PRODUCT(RED) needs your help, not your criticism. So buy (RED). Save lives. Has there ever been a better reason to shop?

LEARN MORE:
Visit joinred.com to find out more and check out all the cool stuff you can buy to support PRODUCT(RED)

And find out more about The Global Fund
Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) The main advocate for global action on HIV/AIDS that aims to strengthen and support the response to the epidemic

The Who, What, and Why of Tuberculosis.net

Unicef on malaria

TAKE ACTION:
red girl
What do you think? Have your say on the forum!

Join the PRODUCT(RED) campaign

Help to spread the word

Feast or Famine?

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Food for thought… burger Food is an integral part of human existence — we need it to survive. It is part burgerof a global system linked to issues like trade, genetic modification famine, slavery, health, food miles and sustainability. Sounds complicated huh? It gets even more complicated when you consider the huge number of media messages and images we are bombarded with every day, telling us what to eat, how to look and what is beautiful. Basically, food corporations want us to eat cheaply produced food lacking in nutrition and stuffed with chemicals, harvested by poorly-paid labour and flown half way across the world, while advertisers and the media place unrealistic expectations on us to be thin and beautiful. An exaggeration? You decide.

Stuffed or starved? child with foodThere are 800 million people in the world who go hungry every day and there are over a BILLION people who are obese. There is enough food in the world for everyone, but the systems in place mean that some people don’t get enough food and others have access to lots of unnutritious food. Fast food outlets and supermarkets have made food convenient and easy… you don’t have to think, just eat! Un-conscious eating is making us unhealthy and a lot of us obese. But as we keep over-consuming in the developed world, many people in the developing work — including those who pick our cocoa beans, coffee beans, bananas and tomatoes — are struggling because they don’t have access to affordable food. More info: stuffedandstarved.org Killing us softly mannequinsFiji, a country that traditionally valued the fuller figure’, was affected by an outbreak of eating disorders three year after television arrived in 1995. A study by Harvard Medical School found that 74% if teenage girls surveyed felt they were “too big or fat” and 15% of the girls reported they had vomited to control weight. The introduction of western values and (unrealistic) images of beauty was seen as the likely cause of the increase in eating disorders. More info: Borrow the movie Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising Images of Women (DVD) from the Global Education Centre library Freeganomics dumpsterIn the US it is estimated that half of the food produced each year is thrown away. You probably know about vegans but have you heard about Freegans? Freegans are a group of people who live solely off the waste of others and distance themselves from big corporations and consumerism. They go through dumpsters outside supermarkets and other shops (known as dumpster diving’) and pick out the unspoiled food that has been thrown away. They also grow their own food or contribute to community gardens. They are not poor or homeless, they do this in an attempt to minimise their impact on the planet. More info: http://freegan.info When cows lay eggs?! cowNot sure where your food comes from? You’re not the only one. A recent survey of 1,000 British kids aged eight to fifteen revealed some strange ideas. In answer to the question: If cows ate grass, what colour would their milk be?’, eight percent answered brown, green or not sure. Ten percent of the city kids in the survey (the country kids did a little better) didn’t know where yoghurt came from and eight percent were unable to say which animal beef comes from. Of the same group, two percent thought that bacon might be from cows or sheep, and that eggs come from cows. More info: www.foodroutes.org Are biofuels worth it? cropAlthough recently highlighted as a key solution to another pressing global issue — climate change — the production of biofuels may actually be causing more harm than good, particularly when it comes to food. Biofuels need a large amount of water and fertile land — land often found in developing countries which could otherwise be used to grow food crops. The UK government’s Chief Scientific Adviser recently described the global rush to grow biofuels as “profoundly stupid”, pointing out that a global food crisis is going to hit before some of the more serious impacts of climate change. More info here. LEARN MORE: Find out about food production and distribution at Food First or Global Issues TAKE ACTION! It can seem too big and complicated to do anything about, but taking action is the ONLY way things change, so here are a few suggestions to get you started. Get reconnected with your food by growing your own veggies. Check out the action section on www.sustainablehouseholds.org.nz for some great tips on organic gardening. Watch these DVDs, all available to hire FOR FREE at the Global Education Centre: Media that Matters — Good Food A Selection of Short Films on Food and Sustainability What’s Really In Our Food? InsideNew Zealand SuperSizeMe The Future of Food This article originally appeared in Tearaway magazine as part of the Global Focus project.

XMAS - Treasure or trash?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

By Elisabeth Perham

baubleChristmas should be a time for celebration, a time for sharing, being with family, celebrating all that is good. While this may be the case, the unfortunate truth, like the Climate Change movie says the inconvenient truth, is that the annual Christmas craze is one which is seriously damaging the health of the Earth.

Funny how Christmas now starts in October. The mall decorations go up, ads encourage you to start your shopping and catalogues arrive in the mail. Nearly three months away and already we can’t escape it. Not that I’m a scrooge, far from it! In fact, I love the holiday season. Yet I find myself becoming more and more concerned about the festival of consumerism that modern-day Christmas is.

rubbishAnd not just consumerism at Christmas, but throughout the whole year. Landfills swell, temperatures rise, neighbourhoods flood and hurricanes devastate cities. You already know all this, we all do, but do you care enough to do anything about it? In the most recent statistics available (ie. 1997: so archaic that it’s shameful) New Zealanders disposed of 3.4 million tonnes of waste into landfills. That’s almost a tonne each! What’s worse is that this is so much more than we used to dispose of. In the Auckland region, this was an increase of 73% per person of rubbish from 1983. Imagine what the figure is now — and what it will be like in ten years’ time.

It may seem rather macabre to be bringing this up when this season should be festive, but it is in fact the perfect time. At Christmas our already ludicrous consumption goes up a further 25%, and as about 80% of goods made for consumption are thrown away within six months of production, this means a whole lot more waste.

Fact: in the UK alone, at least 1 billion Christmas cards will find their way to the bin by the endwheelie bin of this holiday season. Although similar figures are not available here in New Zealand, if we sent cards at the same voracious rate as our British counterparts (which is unfortunately quite likely), this would mean we send a whopping 66.5 million a year. With one tree required for the production of 3000 cards, we could unwittingly be sending 22000 trees through our postal system.

But the news isn’t all bad. If we all make just a little bit of effort, the bad we are doing CAN be reversed. Ladies and gentlemen, the Earth can be saved! For every tonne of paper we manage to recycle, 13 trees, 31780 litres of water and 2.5 barrels of oil are conserved. For every one tonne of aluminium recycled: 13,300 kWh of electricity is saved, 95% less air pollution is produced and 4 tonnes of chemical product are conserved.

So this Christmas, do give thanks: give thanks for the Earth being the one planet in the entire universe that can sustain your life. Give thanks for the generations that will follow you. Make it a Merry Pollution-Free Christmas for all your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

References:

Zero Waste
Waste Online
http://ims.npt.gov.uk/imsapps/waste/waste_christmas.aspx


TAKE ACTION

It’s easy to make Christmas less wasteful, and just a little effort from all of us will make a big difference. You’ll be helping save the Earth and, who knows, you could even save some money! It’s a simple matter thinking about the three R’s:

Top ways to Reduce Christmas waste…

  • Think carefully about the gifts you buy.
  • Buy Fair Trade if possible and look for environmentally-responsible producers.
  • If you’re not sure what to buy, give money or vouchers. That way the gift is less likely to be thrown out.Be imaginative with presents.
  • Buy a couple of chickens for a family living in poverty on your mate’s behalf (Oxfam:Unwrapped )
  • Make vouchers with promises to cook tea one night or do the vacuuming for a month. A spot of baking never goes amiss either, and it can be really fun!!!
    xmas treeChristmas Trees:

  • Use an artificial tree, much more environmentally friendly than a real one.
  • Better still, decorate a living tree in a pot and let it live! Both these options can be reused every year without the need to chop down yet another tree…

    Christmas Cards

  • Send e-greetings instead of cards. Try www.christmas-egreetings.com for a range of awesome cards (cheaper too).

    Food

  • Buy food in recyclable packaging… and recycle it!!! (Especially don’t buy things in Styrofoam packaging. It never decomposes… ever!!!)
  • Things you can Re-use…

    Wrapping

  • Use string, not tape. That way it’s easier for others to recycle it too.
  • Remove your Christmas wrap carefully and tuck it away to wrap next year’s presents.Make tags/cards
  • If you’re into saving money and like to be creative, use the pictures off the front of received cards to handcraft your own highly personalised cards and gift tags.
  • Re-Gifting - If you are given a gift you don’t like, don’t throw it out!!! Donate anything in good condition to a charity shop or pass it on to someone else. Or jump on Trade Me: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure after all. Or give it as a gift next year — just be careful you don’t return it to the same person.
  • crushed cansAnd don’t forget to Recycle…

  • Put all those bottles, cans, cards and packets in the recycling bin. Most cities now have street collection, but if this isn’t available, it’s only one trip to the recycling depot. It’s really not that difficult. To find out what the deal is in your area check out this link.

A version of this article was originally published in JET magazine.

Dressed to kill

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

By Hannah Newport

hangerExcited doesn’t begin to describe how Jimmy’s feeling right now. He’s holding those pants like their God’s greatest gift, and he aint lettin’ go. ‘Thanks Mum!’ he cries. ‘I mean, um, cheers… you can go now.’

Little Jimmy thinks that the snaz new pair of Dickies his adoring mother has just purchased is going to solve all his problems. He truly believes. Finally no more spit-ball sandwiches from those dastardly 6th formers. No more childish treatment from the aloof and awe-inspiring 7th formers and certainly no more sickening pity from the teachers. Who knows, the girl with the pretty pig tails from science class might even smile at him.

Jimmy may be deluding himself just a little, but how many of us do the same thing? How many of us feel our adolescent problems will be solved by the power of a logo or a look’? A bit of retail therapy will calm our self-conscious nerves! We’ll happily pay the price for a branded t-shirt if it’s going to help us fit in with the crowd. We’re hooked on sweet, sticky conformism, and boy does it taste good.

MannequinsBut while expensive items tailor our ‘personal look’ (to be like everyone else’s), and boost young Jimmy’s cred, what are your clothes saying about you? And what’s the true story behind the labels we love?

The reality is most clothes we buy were made in overseas factories, usually in developing countries where work is done in extremely foul conditions. Workers are often teenagers and women who are low paid and treated badly by employers. How ironic that some of the garments they make to survive are then bought by children and teenagers on a whim. We are all in danger of letting the right label or ‘look’ take over our own sense of identity or, even more frighteningly, our sense of morals.

Swaetshop workersMost Kiwi brands have stopped printing ‘Made In New Zealand’ on their labels, and now manufacture in China instead. It doesn’t take a genius to infer this is cost motivated. Profit wins out over supporting local products and concern about the transporting costs upon the environment.

But hidden among the wonderful sea of apathetic youth that we are, are the odd students who break the stereotype; they’re actually thinking about life, the universe, and clothes. They’re few and far between, but isn’t that always the way?

Susie Harcourt, has been working as a volunteer at Trade Aid for more than a year now.
‘I’d say teens are more materialistic than ever,’ she says. ‘And also there’s more material to be materialistic about. People have money, children have money, and the advertising is more than ever before.’

‘Most kids probably don’t know; don’t particularly want to know. Don’t really care. A lot of people are aware of it, but they sort of feel that it’s not their position to do anything about it.’

ShoesAnd often, it’s not even as clear cut as knowing about it, or not. There’s this whole other grey area, where un-conformist and ‘cool’ overlap. ‘Fashion isn’t just about clothes, it’s often about ideas. The fashion when I came to high school was to buy organic food, buy fair trade shoes, things like that. But then when it went out, suddenly a lot of people who cared about that stuff suddenly stopped caring about it, because it went out of fashion.’

‘People do have this thing on the surface, where they want to be seen as having a social conscience, want to be seen as standing up for things. They want to be seen to be ‘good people’, basically. But that doesn’t extend into the way they live their lives.’

So what can we do? Susie volunteers at Trade Aid. Others, like Steph Cairns vent their individuality on a sewing machine. ‘There’s lots of reason for making your own clothes. Number one is that it’s just cheaper. I’m a poor student, so it’s the best thing. And basically you’re not taking part in the whole capitalist machine. If you’re doing your own thing and making your own clothes then you’re not taking part in the cycle of exploitation. Some people don’t have an understanding of how much work goes into something. Maybe that’s why they don’t care so much about slave labour.’

ScissorsWhether it’s taking to fabric with a pair of scissors, or carving your own style through donating time to a cause, it’s about expressing yourself; stepping away from the clothes that ‘everyone’ wears and from what they represent.

Che TshirtAnd the ultimate example, both Susie and Stephanie agree, is the use of Che Guevara’s image in popular culture. ‘People think they’re being so revolutionary by wearing this image on this t-shirt, but they don’t even know what it means,’ agrees Stephanie. These clothes or items that are sold to us, in countries like NZ, have usually been made in sweatshops. ‘Che Guevara was working for a world where people weren’t oppressed like that, and didn’t have to work for someone else’s profit. It’s sort of like this phoney radicalism. Just the fact that they’re wearing it on a t-shirt; it’s the most hypocritical thing, and nobody realises.’

While the masses are dressed to kill, a few among us question why someone you have never met is making some very personal decisions for you, about the shoes on your feet and the way of the world. All in the name of profit.

But hasn’t it always just taken a few to lead the way to change?
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ Margaret Mead

Learn More:

Take Action:

  • Make your own clothes
  • Volunteer your time, eg at Trade Aid
  • Find out more about your own jeans brand, or Google where your t-shirt was made
  • Write to your favourite shop and tell them you love their stuff but want it to be fairly traded
  • Go op-shopping / buy second-hand stuff

A version of this article was originally published in JET magazine.

The confusion between sexuality and liberation

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

Nicole Mathewson

barbiesHand in hand with celebrity worship and the “dumb is cute” motto for women (see my article Stupid Girls) is a sensation identified as “raunch culture”. The concept of “Sex-positive feminism” centers on the idea that sexual freedom is an essential part of women’s freedom. However, while the movement may have started off to create sexual equality, the modern and popularised version is now leading to women being exploited through a false sense of sexual liberation. Sex-positive feminism isn’t a new idea (it was formed in the early 80s), but it is becoming increasingly popular.

An example of raunch culture is the $100 million DVD series “Girls Gone Wild”, (where College-aged girls exploit themselves and each other by performing sexual acts for the camera). Bill Horn, a spokesman for Mantra Films which produces the series argues that women are much more in touch with their sexuality these days, and that women “line up around the block to get in our events.” [1]

This idea that women can now make their own sexual decisions and control their sexuality is challenged by Ariel Levy, author of ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’. She believes that if people weren’t so uptight in their attitudes surrounding sex (abstinence only education is taught in 80 percent of public schools in the US for example), they wouldn’t need to have such confining and limited shorthand for sexiness.

“Raunchy and liberated are not synonyms. If male chauvinist pigs were men who regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be female chauvinist pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves.”

So it’s not about suppressing your inner sexiness and confidence, what it IS about is not compromising anything else (i.e. intelligence and dignity) in the process. It’s about being yourself and not exploiting yourself, or other women, for a false sense of empowerment. How is a wet t-shirt contest empowering? Why do women take part? Partly to attract the attention of opposite sex, and partly it seems, because they feel if they don’t, it will tell others that they are uncomfortable and embarrassed about their sexuality.

Ms Levy comments on Playboy Enterprises, a publication that has taken over the world with its merchandise brought mainly by women and girls. “Licensing is going extremely well because of the army of women and girls eager to sport the rabbit logo on their underpants or tank tops or pajamas, as an advertisement for their independence and sass.” playboy logoThat logo is also the emblem of a man (founder Hugh Hefner) who said in 1967: “I do not look for equality between man and woman … I like innocent, affectionate, faithful girls - and plenty of them.” Hefner is now in his 80s and has three official girlfriends, they range in age from 21 to 32 and all are platinum blonde and stick-thin. And these are the women who are going to teach us about liberation?

Even more worrisome is the fact that this kind of mentality isn’t just limited to adult women anymore:

“Gone are the days of voluminous, bulky and cumbersome underwear meant to be worn under layers of clothing. These days underwear has become briefer, bolder and more stylish. There is even underwear to complement different moods you wish to portray: frisky, seductive or mysteriously alluring.”

This advertising blurb isn’t talking about women’s underwear; It’s the way one British company, Jellydeal, introduces the latest trends in underwear for little girls - trends that have also become noticeable in Australian and New Zealand retail outlets for childrenswear. Children can now purchase padded and decorative bras in sizes 6 to 10 under the name of popular brands such as Barbie, Saddle Club, Disney and Bratz.

dolls face“Little girls like pretty things but do they need bras with padding? And should they learn so early that their bodies are for flaunting? More than just another nail in the coffin of childhood, these underwear trends contribute to the premature sexualizing of children with cynical disregard for the consequences,” says Angela Conway Victorian vice president for the Australian Family Association. [2]

Even the majority of popular music on today’s charts is adding to the “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” idea. Groups like the Pussy Cat Dolls give the idea that acting and looking sexually suggestive is beautiful and empowering. The majority of mainstream rap, hip hop and hard rock videos also feature such scantily-clad women. But surely the fact is that it is actually confidence in yourself that creates beauty.

While in the past pop acts like the Spice Girls sometimes dressed skimpily and danced in suggestive ways, they also showed that you didn’t have to have model looks to be beautiful- you could be the girl next door or like sport. They also had their own personalities, and while they were stereotype personalities, it was much more than the bland-cardboard cutouts that are modern groups such as Girls Aloud and the Pussycat Dolls.

Some people may argue that groups like PCD can do what they like - they’re not paid to be role models, they didn’t choose to be. But because of the kind of job they have, they are. It doesn’t help when all forms of media (including advertising and even cartoons) reinforce the image. Even children’s toys are following the trend.

garterRecently a “sexy” pole-dancing kit was been pulled from the toys and games section of a website run by Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, after protests from outraged parents. The Peekaboo kit, which includes a “sexy garter”, was sold in the supermarket’s toys and games section. “Unleash the sex kitten inside… simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go!” the blurb reads. [3]

After family campaigners slammed the kit’s status as a toy, Tesco removed it from that area of their site, but denied it was sexually oriented and said it was clearly marked for adult use. “Pole dancing is an increasing exercise craze. This item is for people who want to improve their fitness and have fun at the same time,” a spokesman said.

Bratz’ dolls promote an obsession with shopping, heavy make-up and provocative fashion. Some argue the Bratz phenomenon is no big deal, just toys and clothes with attitude.

However, according to Angela Conway:

“The ambiguities of the Bratz products’ images are creepily reminiscent of the kinds of fantasies and warped perceptions of women and girls so central to pornography,” “Defenders of raunch culture say turning pornographic imagery into a weapon of “girl power” liberates girls and women. But just how powerful will little girls be when, with pelvises thrust forward, they have learned the scripted moves and obsessions of the Bratz dolls, underwear, website and DVDs? They will take on a sexualized language they cannot possibly understand.”

Yes, parents should be responsible for how their kids dress and are allowed to act, but when all the kids are acting in this way (because they all want to fit in and be like each other and the “pretty and successful” girls on TV) it’s harder for parents to stop their kid from joining in. Parents aren’t immune to influence from the media either. They’re led to believe that this is just what kids do and look like these days.

We all believe it, because we’ve allowed media and advertisers to brainwash us into believing it. Real beauty and success comes in the form of being happy and confident with who you are — not from being a stick-thin girl wearing skimpy clothes and participating in wet t-shirt contests.

References:
Sex-positive feminism on Wikipedia

[1] “The rise of raunch culture - Feminists are torn: Is it porn or liberation of women’s sexuality?” By Mackenzie Carpenter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Wednesday, 12 October 2005

[2] “Young ones won’t be young for long - Stop stealing our daughters’ childhoods for cold commercial gain” By Angela Conway, The Australian, 2 Oct 2006

[3] “Outcry over tots’ pole-dancing kit” by David Braithwaite, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 October 2006

LEARN MORE

TAKE ACTION!

  • Challenge “raunch culture” by not falling for it!
  • Be yourself! If you’re not comfortable dressing or acting a certain way then don’t do it.
  • Live your life with your integrity

Stupid Girls?

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Nicole Mathewson

clothes dummyApathy and acting stupid in order to be cute has become a full-time occupation for celebrities, and stories about these women have overtaken real news. Even real news shows and publications regularly feature celebrity gossip in their headlines (recent examples include the divorce proceedings of former Beatle Paul McCartney and model Heather Mills, and the arrest of singer George Michael on drug possession). The ad for a new show on C4 - Meaty (Media Entertainment Around Town) - features host Shavaugn Ruakere talking about some of the planets big problems like unrest in the Middle East and dwindling oil supplies, then she suddenly stops and says - “Who cares?!” and beings to ramble on about the excitement of “real” celebrity gossip.

Don’t get me wrong. Four two-minute segments of a show like this every so often isn’t such a bad thing - it’s funny and can be an entertaining way to release stress and stop worrying for a while. The problem is that these shows are everywhere - and many people would choose to watch a “news” show like this instead of a show about what’s really happening in the world. A little apathy is fine - in fact it’s healthy (by preventing stress/anxiety overload - just my theory) - but full time apathy is not. And it’s not just females who are following this kind of news either.

We’re also being bombarded everyday with the idea that we have to look and act a certain way in order to be successful. It’s in advertising, movies, magazines, on TV, in clothing stores, in music videos, and from each other. Sut Jhally’s Dream World documentary explores desire, sex and power in music videos and notes that 90% of videos are made by men. The videos are commercials for artists and what better way to appeal to their prospective audience than by showing them their fantasies? In these fantasies the only purpose of the female gender is to be looked at. While music videos are just that - fantasy - the scary thing is the idea of women being a passive thing to be used and explored for their physical attributes has spilled over into real life.

Celebrity worship and the “cute but dumb” motto are taking over the world. “What happened to the dreams of a girl president - she’s dancing in the video next to 50 cent,” sings pop star Pink in the song “Stupid Girls”. “You don’t have to be stupid to be sexy”, Pink recently asserted in an Oprah show special.

Psychologist Dr Robin Smith says women are abusing and exploiting themselves. Many young women who act “stupid” are actually smart girls whose obsession with imitating celebrities keeps them from being their true selves. “The word for me isn’t stupid girls - it’s lost girls, it’s girls who are being defined by somebody else,” she says.

Actress Reese Witherspoon also went on record saying she was sick of this new trend. “It’s a new movement among young women that it’s cute to be dumb. I have a little girl, and when I see her looking at those [starlets] who are pretending to be dumb, I think that’s [terrible]… Our mothers and our grandmothers and the women that came before us fought so hard to overcome the stereotype of women being not smart enough to vote, not smart enough to [receive] higher education, to have great jobs. And to single-handedly go out in a very public way and say, ‘You know what, I don’t really care about what they achieved. I’m just going be stupid and that’s cute.’ I don’t think it’s a good message for young women.”
girl's eye
Blogger Richard Marcus comments that instead of just a few with gossip columns, the world now has whole cable channels devoted to the doings of the celebrity crowd. “Is there anything wrong with it aside from the obvious that people of dubious talent and abilities are being foisted on us and passed off as gifted? Oops, I think I just stumbled on something there without even noticing.” (1)

One 18 year old female from New Zealand said she watched celebrity news “like every day - thanks to E!” and bought magazines every week. She said it wasn’t the behaviour she was trying to copy, but rather their physical appearance to a certain extent. “I’m a fashion fanatic so I have to be up with the trends!” The idea of getting the inside scoop on exciting celebrity lives was also appealing to her. “I just think I have a sorry excuse for a life so its kinda funny and interesting knowing about someone else’s.”

Another 18 year old female, this time from Australia, said she also read or watched celebrity news almost everyday. “Mostly on websites that take the piss out of celebrities. I also read some of the magazines for a laugh.” She said she did not compare herself to celebrities, but believed the world had gone celebrity crazy. ” All this attention on people like Paris Hilton who do nothing. Her grandfather is rich so we should care what her dog is wearing? I don’t think so. There are people out there everyday that work to make the world better or they are trying to find a cure for cancer etc but all anyone cares about is how skinny Nicole Richie is.”

The obsession with celebrity and appearance is having a detrimental effect worldwide. Websites promoting and teaching pro-anorexia philosophies have popped up all over the internet. Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric disorder affecting around three in every 1000 females. It is considered the most lethal of all mental illnesses, killing one in five sufferers from starvation, organ failure, or suicide, and affects people as young as eight. “Pro-ana” websites share photos of scarily thin models and celebrities for ‘thinspiration’. The websites include tips and tricks on extreme fasting and exercise. Some even advertise accessories such as bracelets for users to snap against their wrists to remind themselves not to eat.

In the United States the number of eating disorder sufferers has more than doubled since the 1960s, according to the Washington-based American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, with an estimated 10 million females and 1 million males affected by anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating and other eating disorders. Forty-seven percent of U.S. females from fifth to 12th grade say they want to lose weight because of magazine pictures and 60 percent say magazines influence their ideas of desirable body types, according to the Philadelphia-based Renfrew Center Foundation. However the scary thing is that those images being portrayed in these magazines are completely unrealistic, airbrushed and manipulated. People don’t naturally look that way - it’s crazy to make them even try.(2)
putting on make up
It’s not just weight control that’s getting out of hand - darker skinned women are bleaching their skin to be what they think is “more attractive”. Health officials in Jamaica believe the practice dates back decades, but has increased significantly over the last five to ten years. The practice is encouraged by numerous reggae songs, including the early 1990’s hit “Dem a Bleach” by Nardo Ranks. “There’s a large segment of our population who are convinced that being lighter in complexion is to their advantage, socially, in terms of their relationships and economically, in terms of getting ahead,” says dermatologist Dr Clive Anderson. (3)

Asian women are also affected, but the practice relates more to being associated with the upper classes, female virtue and spiritual refinement, than celebrity imitation. One woman commented on Feministing.com - “A quick look at the popular Hong Kong actresses of any generation will show you that they are all overwhelmingly pale, with only one or two token dark-skinned actresses allowed per generation. It’s part of the virgin/whore dichotomy: pale-skinned skinny models and actresses are put on pedestals and given highly paid contracts and starring roles, while dark-skinned buxom actresses are marginalized into playing “bad girl” roles or porn.”

One man commented on a Guardian (UK newspaper) story about how females are allowing this kind of culture to continue by buying the gossip magazines and similar. “If you don’t like it then don’t buy it!” He said. And he’s right. By buying, reading and watching this kind of popular culture we’re letting ourselves be bullied, manipulated and pressured. Regardless of what other people might be telling you, acting dumb and refusing to reach your full potential will not get you respect - and is certainly not sexy! The obsession with celebrity is making us forget the real issues and forget our real selves.

References:
(1) Celebrity Worship And The Death Of Critical Thinking by Richard Marcus
(2) Fashion World Says Too Thin Is Too Hazardous By Juliette Terzieff
(3) The Skin Bleaching Phenomenon by Merrick A. Andrew

LEARN MORE

  • Read The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. Read this review.
  • Watch/Read the “Stupid Girls” episode with Pink on Oprah.com
  • Watch DreamWorlds (available from the Global Education Centre library).

TAKE ACTION!

  • Challenge the “sexy but dumb” motto
  • Encourage people to be themselves and have confidence
  • Start your own anti-anorexia and anti-celebrity obsession websites/articles/blogs etc.

Walking Billboard: What does your t-shirt say about you?

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Eva Lawrence

What’s up with inane messages on t-shirts? This morning, as I walked along Cuba Street, in Wellington I saw one that said “Lets go for no writing on this one” Huh? That’s up there with the “Vote for Pedro” that I see plastered on guys’ chests. One of my bro’s favourites boldly states “I eat glue” — OK, so that one did make me laugh. And I’m not saying this is only a phenomenon for guy’s t-shirts. There is a veritable smorgasbord of t-shirts for gals as well with obnoxious, trivial or otherwise odd messages.

What is it that makes someone want to be a walking billboard for a pointless message? What inner message are they trying to convey? Is it “I’m being ironic and you don’t get it” or maybe it’s “I don’t give a sh*t”.

And then there are brands… don’t get me started… Nike, Dickies, Tommy Hilfiger, (add your cool brand here). What is the inner message here? Is it “I like Nike” or maybe, “I wish I was a pro sports player” or maybe, “I paid $50 for this t-shirt”. According to Naomi Klein, in her book No Logo, the branding of people (face it: a big brand on the front of your t-shirt is branding not just the t-shirt, but you) is a recent thing.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to have messages on your t-shirt… I just don’t really get it. Why not brand yourself with a message that means something: “I give a sh*t” or “Save Happy Valley”. Or if being ironic is up your alley, how bout commenting on origins of the t-shirt: “Quality: just because it’s made using child labour, doesn’t mean it won’t last”
ironic quality ad

TAKE ACTION!

  • Make your own t-shirts — brand yourself and say what you wanna say
  • Buy t-shirts with messages you believe in (and understand!)
  • Go naked (or wear a top with no brand)


LEARN MORE

Read:
No Logo, by Naomi Klein
Branded: The buying and selling of teenagers, by Alissa Qurat

Watch a DVD:
“The Merchants of Cool” by Barak Goodman - a report on the Creators and Marketers of Popular Culture for Teenagers

“The Persuaders” - An exploration of the multi-billion dollar industries of advertising and Public Relations and the culture of marketing.

(all available from the GEC library - email: info@justfocus.org.nz).

Eating the media lunch

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Phoebe Borwick and Alyx Condon

newspapersOne would like to assume that they know what the news’ or media’ is if one referred to it in common conversation. In case not, here are some basic definitions:

News
Information about recent events or happenings, especially as reported by newspapers, periodicals, radio or television

Media
A means of mass communication, such as newspapers, magazines, radio or television.

Right. Now we’ve got that sorted, hands up who trusts everything they hear/read/see?

Sadly, most of the information that we receive as news has been filtered through the media machine and ends up containing some bias. Despite this, the information we glean from sources like television reports, the daily paper or the radio bulletins makes up our knowledge of the world around us.

Another major problem for us, the audience, is that our news is actually owned’. That is, people make money off of it. What does this all mean? That our perceptions of the world we live in can be skewed by spin doctors and press secretaries! As young New Zealanders, you and I need to be aware of what’s going on in the big wide world. As cheesy as it sounds, WE are the future. And contrary to the popular Split Enz song, history does repeat itself.

What is wrong with the media?
You want to sell someone a product? Easy. You dress it up in a spangly tutu and get it to tap-dance. You want to report a story on the stock market? Same deal. You make it sound exciting, keep it simple and voila! An audience is born.

Infotainment is entertainment masquerading as news. It links to sensationalism, which spices up a story to give it the oomph it needs to draw an audience. Skewing figures, exaggerating situations and fabricating events or facts are all methods used to make a story more appealingto a consumer (ie reader/writer). A quality piece of journalism would contain no bias, be wholly informative, entirely objective, thoroughly researched and devoid of sensationalism.

A journalist’s job is one that requires training and practice in order to be trusted as a reliable source. Biased reporting takes a side in whatever argument is being thrashed and it’s a journalist’s prerogative to eliminate this from their work so the readers can decide for themselves which side to take.
rupert murdoch
Our rights at home
In Kiwi country we live in a democracy; one that has ratified the UN Declaration of Human Rights which says that we all have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of press.

Mumbo-jumbo that basically means we can say and read what we like and our news doesn’t contain as much bias as there is in, say, China. Yet, we also have to deal with the issues of privatisation in the media — another fancy word that means that somebody owns it.

In New Zealand most of our major newspapers are privately owned: the New Zealand Herald, Sunday Star Times and the Dominion Post are just some of the more prolific names owned by one of either Fairfax (47% of all New Zealand publications) or APN News and Media (29%).

Why is who owns what important?
Because the number of journalists becomes limited and media outlets use the same sources and therefore end up saying the same thing.

Because there is little difference of opinion reflected and not so much diversity of view.

Because a CEO doesn’t give a hoot if you’re being fed the proverbial bull-puckey or not. (S)He cares about ratings and profit.

Yes, these are generalisations. But it’s also very important to understanding just why you and I need to look beyond what we’re drip-fed and form our own perceptions of the world.

The power of the dollar

In an independent journalist’s utopia everyone would have access to every newsbyte created. But to keep the media machine’s cogs well oiled takes money, and lots of it. To make that money, the machine is reliant on advertising.

The media is an industry. There is competition, there is profit to be made and there are audiences to attract. With so much of the mainstream media controlled by a select few, there often isn’t much room for diversity. The politics of business apply to the news we are presented with.

With profit as their goal, money and power are the two main factors that are usually at play when news content is decided upon. There is simply too much news out there for all of it to be reported and the selection of news rests with whoever is dishing it out, not by those who consume it.

Ultimately the advertiser decides what is — and isn’t included. US-owned CNN was reputed to earn a profit of $304 million in 2005 alone. That $304 million means that whatever is aired must reflect well on $304 million worth of shareholders, corporate power, associated companies, advertisers and political influence.

That’s a lot of people to please.Case in point: Chain-store giant Wal Mart has a lucrative advertising relationship with American broadcasters ABC and when Wal Mart was discovered to be abusing labourers’ rights, ABC refused to cover the story.

Other major news providers were happy to provide its’ citizens with the details, but ABC chose to run a only one story in which the department store was portrayed as a golden example of a workplace.
keyboard
Careful now…
The result? We are only offered news that will compel us to want more: that which invokes fear, creates stereotypes and misinforms the viewer.

We are told that Africa is starving and everyone has AIDS and that the Middle East is full of terrorists. AIDS and terrorism, of course, issues that need to be covered but the balance is unfair. What we don’t hear are the positive stories from these regions, or about people working for change in these hard environments. In a recent Global Education Centre survey, terrorism was cited as the number one global concern to young people in New Zealand. Yet, how big a threat is it to us really and what are the more real dangers that the media doesn’t highlight?

How can you stop being sucked in?
Back when TV was in black and white and radio was called the wireless’, journalism existed almost purely to inform and music to entertain. Over the years, the lines have become blurred. One is just as likely now to encounter political propaganda in a rap single as the latest pop trend on a 6.00pm bulletin. It is more important than ever for us as young people to shape our minds into ones that can see through the cut-throat profiteers’ tactics and form independent opinions.
tv reporter
TAKE ACTION!

  • Question, question, question:
  • Why is this story being told?
  • Has the full story been told?
  • Who wrote it and what stance are they likely to take?
  • Where did their information come from?
  • Does anyone stand to gain from this article’s publication?
  • Whose opinion is missing?
  • Why might the opinions stated be disagreed with?
  • Any other questions?
  • Create your own media: Shoot a video, write a blog or a zine or start a documentary library
  • Surf online to find decent journalism alternatives and independent media sources.
  • Some include:

We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us” — Virginia Scott

Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock” — Ben Hecht

This article was originally published in Tearaway magazine as part of the Global Focus project.

Dressed to kill

Friday, October 6th, 2006

Hannah Newport

Excited doesn’t begin to describe how Jimmy’s feeling right now. He’s holding those pants like their God’s greatest gift, and he aint lettin’ go. “Thanks Mum!” he cries. “I mean, um, cheers… you can go now.”
clothes hanging
Little Jimmy thinks that the snaz new pair of Dickies his adoring mother has just purchased is going to solve all his problems. He truly believes. Finally no more spit-ball sandwiches from those dastardly 6th formers. No more childish treatment from the aloof and awe-inspiring 7th formers and certainly no more sickening pity from the teachers. Who knows, the girl with the pretty pig tails from science class might even smile at him.

Jimmy may be deluding himself just a little, but how many of us do the same thing? How many of us feel our adolescent problems solved by the power of a logo or a look’? A bit of retail therapy will calm our self-conscious nerves! We’ll happily pay the price for a branded t-shirt if it���s going to help us fit in with the crowd. We’re hooked on sweet, sticky conformism, and boy does it taste good.

But while expensive items tailor our “personal look” (to be like with everyone else’s), and boost young Jimmy’s cred, what do they really mean? Even those of us less creatively dressed are judged on our appearance. So what are your clothes saying about you? And what’s the true story behind the labels we love?

More often than one would like to believe, the clothes we buy in NZ were made in a factory where the conditions are hard and workers are not allowed to bargain collectively in unions. And many of the workers are teenagers. There’s a vague awareness of this among teenagers, but it’s just not a priority when it has no noticeably direct impact on our own lives.

So, things look rather unenthusiastic for the ethics of tomorrow. Or do they? Hidden among the wonderful sea of apathetic youth are the odd students who break the stereotype; they’re actually thinking about life, the universe, and clothes. They’re few and far between, but so are red M & M’s.
susie harcourt
“I’ve never wanted Chuck Tailors,” says one such rule-breaking individual. Susie Harcourt, a Wellington 7th former tells sweatshops where to go, on a regular basis. She’s been working as a volunteer at Trade Aid for more than a year now, and yes, she knows a thing or two about this and that.
trade aid logo
“I’d say teens are more materialistic than ever,” she says. “And also there’s more material to be materialistic about. People do have money, children do have money, and the advertising is more than ever before.”

“We see groups of 8 girls who have little variations, but mainly looked just the same. And with girls it’s more obvious, but then you look at boys as well; you think about it, and you look at it properly, and it’s like- you all look exactly the same!” Aha, so it’s about being part of the crowd. We are all in danger of letting the right label or “look” take over our own sense of identity or, even more frighteningly, our sense of morals.

Decades ago now, many NZ stores, including Glassons and Hallensteins, stopped printing “Made In New Zealand” on their labels as they began to manufacture overseas instead. It doesn’t take a genius to work out this was cost motivated. Profit won out over supporting local products (and therefore employment) and ignored the environmental damage caused by international transportation.

Enter individual number two. When it comes to matters of an un-conformist nature, Stephanie Cairns (best known as the keyboardist from rock quest band “Cybersex on Mars”). has got an opinion all right.
stephanie cairns
“People are just lazy,” she says. “They’re easily brainwashed and they’re easily persuaded. When you see a cheap shirt that you like, you want to buy it, because it’s cheap.”

Most people avoid thinking about the conditions the clothes they buy were made in. “A lot of people are aware of it, but they sort of feel that it’s not their position to do anything about it.”

And often, it’s not even as clear cut as knowing about it or not. There’s this whole other grey area, where un-conformist and “cool” overlap. “Fashion isn’t just about clothes, it’s often about ideas. The fashion when I started a high school was to buy organic food, buy fair trade shoes, things like that. But then when it went out, suddenly a lot of people who cared about that stuff suddenly stopped caring about it because it went out of fashion.”
pile of clothes
“It’s sort of like when those wristbands that came out that said, “Make Poverty History” on them and they were made by sweatshop labour,” remembers Stephanie. “People do have this thing on the surface, where they want to be seen as having a social conscience, want to be seen as standing up for things. They want to be seen to be “good people”, basically. But that doesn’t extend into the way they live their lives.”
no sweat sneakers
It could be a little daunting, for a first-time freethinker: How do I show that I care, without showing that I want to show I care? Bit of a paradox. Perhaps the key is just playing a common-sense game of “match the pair”, between the issues that you care about, and the manner in which you support them. Is buying a candy cane from New World really going to help dentistry in the Middle East?

The ultimate hypocrisy, both young women agree, is the use of Guevara’s image in popular culture. “Have you seen my t-shirt that says, “Che Guevara is not a fashion accessory?” asks Stephanie.

“People think they’re being so revolutionary by wearing this image on this t-shirt, but they don’t even know what it means,” agrees Stephanie. These clothes or items that are sold to us, in countries like NZ, have been made in sweatshops.

“Che Guevara was working for a world where people weren’t oppressed like that, and didn’t have to work for someone else’s profit. It’s sort of like this phoney radicalism. Just the fact that they’re wearing it on a t-shirt; it’s the most hypocritical thing, and nobody realises.”

We’ve hit the nail on the head. Sure, it is ironic that in our efforts to “fit in” we’ve ended up looking like clone teens. But the ultimate irony can be found in the manufactured ideas, which we buy into with each purchase, then sell on again when the fad ends.

For a few though, it’s frustration at this hypocrisy that sparks alternative antics. Nothing drastic, just little variations to keep the sanity. For Susie, it’s her volunteer shift at Trade Aid. Steph, on the other hand, vents her individuality on a sewing machine. “There’s lots of reason for making your own clothes. Number one is that it’s just cheaper. Basically, I’m a poor student, so it’s the best thing. And another reason is basically you’re not taking part in the whole capitalist machine. If you’re doing your own thing and making your own clothes then you’re not taking part in the cycle of exploitation.”
sewing machine
Whether it’s taking to fabric with a pair of scissors, or carving your own style through donating time to a cause, it’s about expressing yourself; stepping away from the clothes that “everyone” wears and from what they represent.

And while the masses are dressed to kill, these individuals among us question. What they’re finding out is not altogether comforting; a profiteer you’ve never met has made some very personal decisions for you; decisions about the shoes on your feet and the way of the world. But after all, hasn’t it always just taken a few individuals to lead the way to change?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

LEARN MORE

Trade Aid
No Sweat Apparel American company No Sweat says it “defines the market for goods that support independent trade unions - the only historically proven solution to sweatshops”.
The Fair Trade Foundation (UK)
The Good Shopping Guide (UK)
www.ethicalconsumer.org
Make Poverty History in NZ
global issues magazine
Global Issues magazine 15 (July 2005) “Trade: A Fair Journey?”

fabric
An interesting article on the web about things being made in China called “A Life Without China” . It’s about New Zealand-based reporter Mandy Herrick who renounces Chinese-made goods for a month to reveal the depths of our growing dependence on the mega-factory of the world.

TAKE ACTION!

  • Make your own clothes
  • Volunteer your time, eg at Trade Aid
  • Find out more about your own jeans brand, or Google where your t-shirt was made
  • Write to your favourite shop and tell them you love their stuff but want it to be fairly traded
  • Go op-shopping / buy second-hand stuff

Photos of Susie and Stpehanie by Hannah Newport.