I always get stuck on the small things, and maybe it’s because I am a woman and women are micro-focused and the outside world is too harsh for them and they do best in the home, where they can focus on sewing and child rearing.
It’s actually because I made this choice a while ago to make my life my activism. It’s not the most effective way to change the world, but it gives me deep pleasure, even when I’m failing. I continually see people making compromises, and it pleases me to push myself to stay as pure as possible. It’s good to have lines in the sand. It’s pleasurable to tighten them every once in a while. I tightened mine a lot in January, when I made a New Year’s Resolution to try not to buy things made in China and other countries known for sweatshoppy conditions.
I thought it would be hard but I also figured that I am not really a shopper, so how hard could it be?
Really, really hard.
(I call them quasi-poseurs because they reek of yuppie selfishness even though they are doing a rad thing — the guy admitted in a NYT article I can’t find that he started doing it for a book deal. Um, dude? A fucking book is a consumer item, yo. All your non-consumerism is going to be totally undone when your book [he does say it will be published in “some sustainable way”] comes out and you’re jetting all around the fucking planet to promote it. Also, the woman bragged about how she wouldn’t be able to live if she hadn’t bought some $400 calfskin boots right before it began or something – AND they allow gifts! I mean, I admire them for trying, but while society pays attention to media-savvy examples of a trend like them, I’m proud to be part of the real underground, the one that quietly keeps working at building a truly sustainable world. I’m glad they are doing what they are doing. I just have problems with our current media culture.)
So, the only loophole in my China resolution – and I am a firm believer in loopholes, if it helps you stick to something difficult – is that I can buy cookware and things I truly need for my business. But that hasn’t been the hard part. I really wanted 30 Oxo scoops for my dry goods, but that need passed. I would like new measuring spoons, and am holding out hope I’ll find some. My veg peelers are about to die, so I might have to bend the rules on that one, since I use them all the time. But those are fairly small purchases. Most of my big-ticket cooking stuff (like my pots and pans, swoon) is actually really high quality and made in Europe or the USA. The only thing I really use that loophole for are my containers, of which I do own hundreds.
I don’t usually buy new clothes, so that hasn’t been a big problem. I’ve been doing a barter for really lovely (handmade!) safe clothes lately, very fun. Gorgeous!
Not buying new clothes isn’t really a problem for me – even though I admit to spending a lot of time deciding what to wear and, yes, I keep a private “outfit diary” of photos of my greatest hits (super helpful!! I adore it!). I like clothes, but new clothes are just ugly to me. (Ok, ok, since I’m being so honest here I should, in the interest of full disclosure, admit that a cornerstone of my wardrobe are 6 precious pairs of Diesel jeans [estimated retail value: $1,200] I acquired for free as a benefit of Jacob working in the music business. Without my Diesels I would be rather bereft.)
I wear American Apparel underwear, and, as previously stated, am currently in the market for a new brand because of feministy, not sweatshoppy, concerns. I had a little H&M accident a few months ago resulting in two (insanely cute!) sweaters, but they were made in Romania. I know, that’s probably cheating, but the resolution was mostly about China, ok?
What has been so difficult are the little incidental things that everyone needs to buy now and then. It turns out that 100% of them are made in China. While it’s fun to buy handmade clothes because you can’t buy off-the-rack ones, or really expensive cookware because you know the people who made it are treated well, it’s both boring and annoying to spend half your life looking for non-sweatshop hardware supplies, pens, ziploc bags, hair dye, etc.
I recently decided to buy a clothesline, and completely forgot to check where it was made until I got home – China. But it, along with the infamous bike-powered washing machine, puts my laundry completely off the grid, so I didn’t feel so bad about it. But I do need clothespins. And so the search began. For 2 weeks I’ve been looking for clothespins not made in China, and today I finally looked “clothespins” up on wikipedia – the search is over. The search is fruitless. I had a feeling that a category title of “The Rise and Fall of the American Clothespin” wasn’t the best sign:
“…In December 2002, Richard Penley turned off the machines at the Penley Corp. clothespin plant in West Paris, laying off 39 of the company’s 54 employees. Penley now imports and distributes clothespins – the very ones the company used to compete against – as well as wooden matches, toothpicks, plastic straws and cutlery…
In 2007, National Clothes Pin Company Inc. of Montpelier, VT, closes its doors, as well. This is the last American manufacturer of wooden clothespins in existence.
China now has a corner on the clothespin market.”
Since I refuse to learn how to whittle, I’m off to the hardware store to buy Chinese clothespins.
If you Google “clothespin” you will get a craft pattern for little making dolls of Chinese girls out of clothespins that just might have been made by Chinese girls.
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