I'm a 19-year old in the middle of the end of your book, "Manifesta", and feeling fabulously empowered again, after a long slump of apathy/fatalism. Yay! Thanks! :D And yet, I'm running up against the same wall I hit before: Who CAN I support? Everyone and her mother is ready to give me suggestions on who to boycott or write nasty letters to, and if I ever had money to spare, there are a million worthy organizations out there I could give it to.
Since I don't have money to spare, though, and do still need to buy things like groceries, who can I trust? The only places I currently know of that sell clothing guaranteed to have been made in fair conditions are fair trade import shops- Very Expensive, to a college student's meager budget.
Finding reliable information on major corporations is like trying to find the Acme Realistic Replica in the pile of dog poop. Can you help? Are there major corporations who are doing a good job, or at least trying? Grocery store chains, clothing stores...? Have any of our love-to-hates (Nike, for instance) cleaned up their acts as a result of all the furor? Or am I doomed to selling my soul every time I buy jeans?
Thanks a lot :)
Dear Merry Anne,
The reality is that we don't really know how to determine what is a good company -- being women-owned certainly hasn't proved to be an indicator and being even majority women hasn't proved to guarantee a good workplace for women. I actually have been trying to create a screen for investment advisors about what makes a company a pro-woman company -- but no luck -- because there are so many variables and what you end up with is endorsing the less of two evils. That's fine as far as I'm concerned -- there is no such thing as perfect, but I know that others see this as a compromise. These are often the same people who won't vote in a president election because they view it the same.
I think you have to decide for yourself what you are comfortable with. For instance, personally, I do buy Nikes, which actually does more for women and people of color than any of the other sneaker manufacturers, plus they have attempted to make good on cleaning up sweatshop labor situations -- but other people can't go there. I joke that to be true to your politics you have to buy the most expensive brands, because they are one of a kind and thus aren't made in sweatshops.
There is something called Social Venture Network, which produces the "green pages" these are good companies. Feminist.com has a women-owned business section -- both might be places for you to start. It won't be easy, so I think what you have to do is figure out your own battle and see what works for you.