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There Is No Feminism For Fast Fashion’s Female Garment Workers

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 9 months ago | Features

Image: Women in the sewing division of a Cambodian factory. Image Source.

Over the past couple of decades, fast fashion has made clothing more affordable. As a result, it is sometimes talked about as being ‘democratic’. But there is no feminism for fast fashion’s female garment workers. So, this argument actually ignores those women less privileged than us – AKA the women that are making our clothes.

“While the cost of living has gone up in the past few decades, the cost of clothing has gone down,” writes Hiptipico. “How is this possible, you ask? Cheap female labour.” Women still make up the vast majority of the Ready Made Garment sector and even today physical, sexual and verbal abuse remains rampant for these women.

Earlier this year, for example, a US-based organisation called Workers Rights Consortium published a report, which alleged that “gender-based violence and harassment” is still taking place across three factories in Lesotho, Southern Africa. 

Meanwhile, even those female garment workers that aren’t forced into situations of physical or verbal abuse, are still living below the poverty line. As Business of Fashion reports, for example, “a 2018 study by the Fair Labour Association found the average garment worker in Bangladesh would need an 80 percent pay raise to begin earning wages even close to the most conservative living wage benchmark.”

So yes, fast fashion’s female garment workers may have access to employment, but as the International Growth Centre points out, “empowerment often stops when it comes to the equality of opportunities within RMG factories in Bangladesh. From data collected within factories, 4 out of every 5 production line workers are female, whilst just over 1 in 20 supervisors is a woman.”

And the conditions that these women must endure is often sub-par. Peter McAllister, the executive director of the Ethical Trading Initiative, explains that price is often one of the best indicators of working conditions. “If something is very cheap,” he says, “you have to ask yourself: is it really possible to make it in a factory that is run properly, with a living wage?”


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