Posted on Sunday, October 26th, 2008 at 2:36 am
Author: Feature Writer
Gc contributor: Renee Martin
It seems as though controversy and Governor Palin are going to be wedded to each other until Election Day. In this week’s startling revelation the public learned that 150 thousand in RNC donations was spent to purchase a new wardrobe, hair styling, and make-up for the Governor.
Who says that McCain didn’t pick her for her potential to be election eye candy?
Much of the conversation regarding this revelation has revolved around the double standard when it comes to appearance between men and women in the public eye. Campbell Brown commented on CNN, “Compare that with the attention given to Senator Barack Obama’s $1,500 suits or Senator John McCain’s $520 Ferragamo shoes. There is no comparison,” she said.
It is clear that for Brown the issue is not about the money that was spent but about the fact that this is only a story because of the inequality that exists between men and women. She went on to further state, “I speak from experience here. When I wear a bad outfit on the air, I get viewer e-mail complaining about it. A lot of e-mail. Seriously. When Wolf Blitzer wears a not-so-great tie, how much e-mail do you think he gets? My point is for women, unfortunately, appearance is part of the job.”
While I would agree that this is indeed a women’s issue, I feel that it is also important to note the women who are not being discussed in this recent controversy. It is well known that the fashion industry is highly dependent on sweat shop labour to produce cheap garments for the Western world.
The majority of these labourers are women of colour and they are invisible, not only in this particular situation, but often times when it comes to discussion about the ways in which the fashion industry can have negative impact on society.
The stores listed on Palins shopping extravaganza were Neiman Marcus ($75,062) and Saks Fifth Avenue ($49,425). It’s important to remember that these well-known retailers were once linked to the slave labour of women from Thailand.
Seventy-one workers were found in a factory in El Monte, California in 1995 and after an investigation it was discovered that the clothing that they produced was headed for Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth avenue. The women were threatened with rape, beaten, and kept under surveillance for over 18 hours per day.
Why don’t we remember this? Why does no one in the mainstream media care to find out how Neiman Marcus and Saks get their stock supplies today?
This incident, while horrific, isn’t even unusual.
The garment industry is rife with labour exploitation. Over 50% of garment factories are in violation of at least 2 labour laws, which, according to the Department of Labour, makes them sweatshops. They are particularly guilty of underpaying their workers. Paying a ridiculously low price for a piece is meant to encourage productivity and increase profits; but what it leads to are wages that fall well below the federal minimum.
These companies prey upon either recent immigrants or “illegal workers”, who have often taken out a debt to reside in the States. To pay off this debt they work in the factories, but at a rate of pay that is often below subsistence, they are never able to discharge their debt.
This is a new age Jim Crow debtor system which keeps workers tied to the very factories that are exploiting them. For many, fear of deportation stops them from reporting abuses, or seeking to redress non payment for services rendered.
90% of labourers engaged by sweatshops are female and this would make this issue a a feminized form of poverty. When feminists, politicians, and media pundits discuss the issue of Palin’s wardrobe these are the women that they are ignoring.
They forget that there is more at stake here than Palin’s ability to bond with the Joe Six-Packs of this world.
Repeatedly throughout the campaign, Palin has been referred to as a “maverick.” Yet choosing to blindly consume to uphold an image is not the marker of a woman who seeks to thwart convention.
It is particularly disturbing from a woman who claims to be concerned about the environment. While some may say that it is not realistic to have expected Palin to enter the world stage wearing used clothing, purchased from a Salvation Army for example, is it not a sign of true leadership skills to take risks and guide the populace on a different path? When Ghandi appeared to the world in his simple home spun clothing, we discovered that simplicity in and of itself can be a powerful tool. If the message is compelling the package that it arrives in is irrelevant.
When we examine so-called scandals like “wardrobe gate,” we need to begin to look beyond Western privilege and deconstruct the ways in which our consumption patterns not only impoverish women but harm the environment. We cannot allow popular Western issues surrounding gender and sexism to blind us to the plight of women of color who are affected by race, class, and gender all at once.
Our binary world view often excuses our culpability and blinds us to the ways in which we our participation in the overly biased capitalist system affects the life chances of millions.
And so, what I would like to know is: who made Sarah Palin’s expensive wardrobe? And were they paid a living wage for it?
Global Comment © 2012 | Design & Developed by : Slate