As a social worker, I talk and think about privilege a lot. “Privilege” was probably the most used word during my time at the UNC School of Social Work. So, as I begin this challenge of exclusively purchasing fair trade fashion and accessories for the next year, I can’t help but think about how much easier this challenge is for me because of the many privileges I have.
For example, I have privilege in that I am extremely wealthy compared to most of the world and already have a closet full of clothes, shoes, bags, and jewelry. It’s not like this challenge is going to be super hard since I already own approximately 100 shirts. Can’t find anywhere that sells fair trade bras? No big shake, ’cause I already have a drawer full of them. Heck, if I really wanted to, I could probably get by for several more years without buying a single new item of clothing.
(Side note: If you thought I was exaggerating when I said 100 shirts, you thought wrong. I just went and counted. This does not include camisoles. I challenge you all to go count your own blouses, sweaters, cardigans, t-shirts, etc. RIGHT NOW.)
Socioeconomic privilege also plays into my ability to purchase fair trade clothing in the first place. You aren’t going to find $10 shirts that weren’t made in sweatshops. To afford fair trade clothing, you’ve got to have some spending money. Which I’m lucky enough to have.
My ability to research ethical fashion and locate fair trade companies depends on Internet access, spare time, and ability. Again, a reminder of my privilege.
All this to say, I want to publicly recognize that this challenge would not be possible for many, and nearly every day I am grateful for the privileges I do have. My hope is that my choices as a consumer this year help to level the privilege playing field for others.
(Jeans photo credit: public domain image)