I’ve just begun a new series of posts on the Modern Day Slavery blog (http://moderndayslaveryblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/confessions-of-a-shopaholic-part-1/) about changing my shopping habits in the face of slavery and human trafficking.
I’m a self-confessed “girly girl”. Make up, shoes, handbags, pretty dresses, the latest nail colours – I like them. And with the girly girl territory seems to come an avid enjoyment of shopping. Shopping has tended to become, in the lives of a lot of us girly girls (and others), a hobby. Something during which we socialise. Something we do when we’re stressed out. Something we do when we’re not feeling great. I used to enjoy being a girly girl shopper. Until I realised the cost of it.
This past summer was the time when I became very aware of human trafficking and as my heart was broken over it, 2 things struck me in relation to me being such a consumer:
1. It isn’t fair for me to have so much when others have so little. Why do I have 50+ pairs of shoes when little girls have none? Why do I have the money to spend on clothes I rarely wear when others don’t have a spare change? Or worse, don’t have enough money to buy, making them desperate and vulnerable to organised crime? Why do I have the choice of clothes I have when other women are forced to wear clothes they see as inappropriate in order to make their bodies attractive to men who violate them?
2. My shopping habits contribute to the demand for slavery. No, I don’t visit brothels or have a slave in my house. But some of the clothes shops I shop in use forced labour as a means of providing me with low prices. My sparkly purple Blackberry contains materials sourced by slaves. The chocolate I would like to enjoy at Easter time may contain cocoa harvested by slaves. The magazines I buy are littered with pages encouraging the sexualisation and objectification women which encourages the demand for sexual exploitation; encouraging the consumer in me to put my instant gratification above my social conscience.
Above my social conscience? That’s a clumsy phrase. Above the knowledge that the 27 million people who are enslaved in the world today are my brothers and sisters. If my beautiful younger sister was caught in slavery and I could send her money to help her instead of spending it on another handbag, I would. If she was caught in slavery, and I could help by not buying the product she was enslaved to produce, I would stop buying it.
Where does this leave me? On a journey, involving fighting consumerism, fighting the elements of our society which encourage slavery, and being a responsible shopper. Should I boycott certain shops, or write them letters instead? Which petitions do I sign? Can I use unknown sources on ebay and in markets? What should I do with the clothes and shoes I have but don’t wear? I don’t have all the answers. But thus begins a series of blog posts documenting my search for some of them.