TW: Body Image, Eating Disorders, Gender-based Violence
Fast fashion is one of the quickest-growing industries we see in society today. And in the lead-up to consumer-heavy seasonal events like Halloween and Christmas, it shows no signs of slowing. Whilst many are aware of the hugely negative impact it's having on our planet, are you just as aware of how bad it is for our people?
We're not the first to talk about how fast fashion is a feminist issue and we certainly won't be the last. But in today's post, we're sharing just a few of the ways fast fashion disproportionately affects women.
Garment Workers Across The World
In case you weren't aware, most (if not all) of the clothing made for fast fashion brands like SHEIN and Pretty Litle Thing are made overseas as companies can pay cheaper manufacturing costs - but at what price?
Garment workers are often women. and more often than not experience poverty-level wages, poor working conditions, and gender-based violence and discrimination. in 2020, Open society spoke to Anannya Bhattacharjee about her organisation's campaign for change in the global garment industry, "workers are building power to organise to change these conditions but often face aggressive union-busting tactics."
With hundreds of exposes conducted by reputable news outlets, it's no surprise we're seeing more mainstream headlines around poor working conditions. But with the popularity of easy fashion sites like Boohoo and NastyGal, does it really show any signs of slowing?
Struggling With Our Self-Image
The fashion industry has been profiting off of body image worries for decades. Their arsenal of tactics consists of no standard sizing system, non-inclusive sizing, and a huge lack of diversity in their marketing. While we can't say the fast fashion industry is solely responsible for self-image concerns, eating disorders, and other mental health challenges, it would be redundant to say it doesn't play an important part.
The ease at which we can go online and purchase a new outfit for tomorrow's night out, or the last-minute holiday we booked, supports this idea of a throwaway culture. If it doesn't fit or doesn't look right/ Return it. And as we know from a study by Optoro, these returned items often end up in landfill. Each year in the US alone, customers return around 3.5 billion products, of which only 20% are actually defective. In a culture that values profit over self-confidence, what chances do we stand?
Shaking Off The Stigma
Although in recent years we've seen the rise of second-hand shopping and thrift haul challenges on platforms like Tiktok, there's still a stigma around pre-loved clothing. And unfortunately, this is something that goes hand in hand with influencer culture and female customers. Now, we're not saying this solely falls on the shoulders of women, but as the largest market, we have a lot of influence.
For example, according to one study, "One in three young women, the biggest segment of consumers, consider garments worn once or twice to be old". Yikes.
If you want to learn a bit more or understand ways we can change, in her Doing It Right Podcast, Pandora Sykes sat down with fellow podcaster Venetia La Manna to talk about advocating for more mindful consumption. In the episode, they explore how, where, and why the stigma still exists and the ways we can all work to make it feel more inclusive.
Affecting Us All
From underpaid garment workers toeing the poverty line in abusive conditions to your next-door neighbour who just entered her teens and struggling with he mental health. It's an issue that covers all parts of society, across all parts of the world. And crucially, something that needs to change.
If you feel affected by the issues discussed in this article, or by any other issue surrounding PSH and Women's Rights, please check out our Support Directory.
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Courtesy of @sophiekathleenn on Instagram
Lucy Gordon (She/Her)
Hello! I'm Lucy, an intersectional feminist passionate about community activism. Working as a senior writer in the public sector for the last four years. I'm delighted to be part of the Our Streets Now team, joining a collection of passionate and truly inspirational people working to create a fairer society for all.