No sweatshops on my birthday, please. (Not even the one I run). Also: the uselessness (?) of the “no sweatshops” project.

No sweatshops lately! Well, I did buy a can opener made in China. I realized it as I was scanning it in the self-checkout line at the supermarket. But I had to get back to work because WE DESPERATELY NEEDED TO OPEN UP A CAN. So I just ran with it.

And I bought this dress, from ModCloth. It was EIGHTEEN DOLLARS. They had some mega-sale. Maresa said it would look good on me. It’s a piece of shit, and it does look good on me. I saw it and bought it before I even remembered Ye Olde Sweatshoppe Pact.


And this, my friends, is what capitalism does to a woman with high-speed internet access in America today.


On the other hand. I bought little tiny boxes for chocolates made in the USA (which everyone has advised me not to use, as they look exactly like ring boxes),


yellow bins for the shop made in the USA, and a USA-made broom (gonna have to buy a Fuller mop soon too, because the one I just bought is already falling apart.).

I’ve also been buying myself birthday presents.

I turn 35 tomorrow, and my favorite birthday presents are always the ones I buy myself (is that bad to admit? Jacob–



Jacob is on Instagram. This is HUGE. He pretends to hate social networking, but reads my Facebook feed religiously. My rage at this is legion. It seems somehow like a violation I can’t ever put my finger on, but at the same time I like to viciously gossip with him about Facebook goings-on, so we’re in a bit of a muddle.

So, for my birthday (so HE says. Much like that one time a decade ago when he became vegan because everyone in the band he was on tour with was vegan and he wanted to Win At Veganism, even though he’d been with me for 6 years and I was vegan—I think he’s on IG because his best tourmate is a star Instagrammer and he thinks he can, like, be better than him at posting identical photos of venues.) he got all social networky.

The world is newborn every day, is it not?

Needless to say, Jacob on Instagram has made me be on Instagram because if JJMFP is going to be social networky, I am going to be even more social networky. I Will Win At Instagram (I’ve already won at veganism [20 YEARS VEGAN TOMORROW!], so I must find new things to win)! So, marvel at my cat photos, will you? My name is…I bet you can figure it out.

What was I talking about?

Puffed sleeves, ribbon belts, and Heidi hair?


Oh, presents!


So, my main birthday gift to myself is a collection of the new Lush makeup line. This stuff is GOOD. It feels good, it looks good. And it’s 100% vegan! Jesus Christ. I ordered one lipstick online, then braved the shop (Lush shops are so incredibly assaulting I can almost not stand to enter them, though the treats they contain are so wonderful I also can’t keep away. The one I went to today had no customers but me and four vulturey employees who preyed on me incessantly until I managed to dodge them by repeatedly washing my hands with the soap samples while fake-coughing like I was dying of the plague. A friend who used to work at a Lush told me their sales model is based on employee commissions and he hated working there like no where else. Sigh.)



And then, the best gift of all: I’m taking four days off to hang out in NYC. Vacation while the shop is open! Unbelievable! The beginning of an era!


Jacob has shows here, which means I can stay in his hotel, which makes this whole indulgence possible. So here I am, spending my days at The Stand buying out-of-print chocolate books, Kalustyan’s eating the best falafel in town, dinners and drinks with friends and Jacob’s shows. (Outfit photos to come, these are all old.) The glittering city, the whole thing. I’ve got makeup, I’ve got legs that want to walk the entire length of this fine city.


While I walked today, I was thinking about what a political cartoonist I really like had posted on Facebook: a cartoon about the uselessness of “voting with your dollars.”

It was a good cartoon.


And, of course, it also negates pretty much my entire life.

Can I agree with her and agree with the way I currently live, too?

Seemingly not.

Even though I liked the cartoon, I think it posits a bit of a false dichotomy.


Let’s face it, revolution isn’t going to happen tomorrow. I mean, it could, if everyone got up and decided we wanted to revolt that day.

But people are so fucking stupid and complacent that it’s not going to happen, most likely, in our lifetimes, or ever.


I had to wear my Hunter boots (they used to be made in the UK, but are now made, I believe, in Mexico.) for a week straight because it was Valentine’s madness and we had a giant snowstorm and I never shoveled the steps from my house to my car. In fact…they are still snowy.

So if you’re basing your revolution on this giant “pre-revolution” state (i.e., our current society) versus the magical “post-revolutionary” world, you’re going to spend your whole life fighting for a utopia that isn’t going to come about.

When the revolution comes, the good revolution we’re all hoping for, I hope it won’t come with guns and total destruction of our way of life.

There are things we should keep about our way of life: art museums and Don Draper’s chin, for example. But obviously there are huge systemic changes we need to make too, in order to address wealth inequalities and, you know, everything else shitty. Clearly the powers that be aren’t just going to give up power, it must be wrenched from them.

But what if we could wrench power from them through simpler, more sneaky, and much much more fun means than Che Guevara-poster-style revolution? No bandannas, no Kalashnikovs. Maybe CSAs and, oh, I dunno, fair-trade chocolate shops instead.


Maybe one day we will wake up and realize that the revolution already happened. No one goes to the supermarket anymore, because we’ve created alternative food systems that are healthier, more fair, more delicious. There aren’t any sweatshops, because people realized that it’s possible to buy gorgeous coats without them.

I fully recognize that not everyone (almost no one, really) has the economic power to “revolt” in this way. I fully recognize how I sound like a laughable privileged person right now. Those Lush lipsticks are fucking $19 each! Leanne’s coats are hundreds of dollars, each one of them deserved, but it’s just not a reality for everyone.


My sneaky revolutionary model certainly isn’t perfect. But I don’t think the model of endlessly leafletting outside Wal*Mart about sweatshops and hoping the proletariat comes to their senses sometime soon to join the struggle does much good either.

People don’t want to join the struggle.

The struggle is FUCKING AWFUL.

There is delightful TV to watch endlessly. Facebook feeds refresh every minute. No one I know is getting their rightful share of the pie, but it’s exhausting even thinking about it. Good luck getting the working classes to rise up, my revolutionary friends. Our feet hurt, and we would like to watch Dexter now, please.*

Planning Board outfit!

Planning Board outfit!

What works for me is, whenever I can, living as if the revolution had already happened.

And doing so while recognizing that my intensely privileged, white skinny American woman life comes with it the burden to work harder than I am to ensure that others who don’t have the advantages I have can live that way, too.

Valentine's outfit.

Valentine’s outfit.

There are two layers of changes that need to be made: structural changes to our society (i.e., laws passed to ensure CEOs don’t make, say, one zillion times more than the people who mop the floors in their industries make), and changes in our our bruised, consumer-blinded hearts. That’s where I live. It’s not the most effective activism, perhaps. But can we stop pretending it’s nothing at all?

I’ll work on side of the revolution, maybe you work on the other, OK? But let’s remember that we have the same goals in mind.


My skirt looks like it has a stain on it because it does. (Remember how I wear an apron all day?)
I might look like I’m wearing too much makeup because I am.

Your consumerist revolutionary pal, whose chocolate shop just had her busiest day of all time,



*Until I went to culinary school, I’d say I could call myself working class. I grew up poor and hungry, was poor throughout college, then finally clawed myself up to a middle class existence after culinary school. I know it’s inaccurate, but working 12-15 hours a day as I typically do means I deeply define myself as a worker. I like workers. I like working. It’s the class I feel most at home identifying with, even though these days I’m solidly middle class and should shut up.

PS: As I wrote this blog post I was listening to Caitlin Moran’s “How To Be A Woman”—ROLLICKING! Read (or listen to) it. Then let’s talk!

PPS: Yes, this post was published on my actual birthday, not the day before.

4 Responses to “No sweatshops on my birthday, please. (Not even the one I run). Also: the uselessness (?) of the “no sweatshops” project.”

  1. Joshua May

    sweatshops are a big gripe of mine. in the overall jigsaw, I’m a microscopic speck of a piece. but it’s phenomenally difficult (relatively) to find basics (jocks, socks, etc) from anywhere that isn’t China, let alone somewhere where labour is friendly. I recently found ‘Pants to Poverty’ underwear in Australia on my last trip (I bought a pair, but at $25/pair it’s really not for the masses) and I found socks ($18/3 pairs) a couple of months back. I can’t find handkerchiefs at anything close to a sensible price. and shorts? SHORTS? that aren’t safari pants? ugh. I bought thread today to hem some pants into shorts that I got from an op shop – originally made in China and Indonesia respectively. and THEN trying to find fairly traded/produced everythingfuckingelse? guh. even the thread I bought today was made in China (!!!). I want to do better, but holy shit it’s difficult. and then I fake myself out, figuring I could probably be doing (hundreds of) more productive things than researching socks!

  2. lagusta

    What’s more productive than researching socks? ;)
    Yeah, I know that feeling too. But I feel like I’m chasing this purity I know I will never attain—but which obsesses me. Cleanliness. Freedom from the aspects of modern society that horrify me. In the scheme of things, it’s not productive. But I’m a pretty productive person overall, so ah well.

    Here’s men’s underwear you might want to give a whirl if you’re on this side of the world anytime soon:


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