Via Sociological Images comes news of Ecko and their latest ad campaign – Hot Girls Make Great Clothes. The website is filled with images (photo and video) of barely dressed women “manufacturing” Ecko brand clothing. Yes, this campaign objectifies women and uses sex to sell clothes. What else is new?
More sickening than that is the ‘wink wink nudge nudge’ reference to places where really hot women and children work – sweatshops. Real women and real girls labor for meager, unsustainable wages in terrible conditions so that we can purchase and wear the latest…. hot styles.
A few facts about sweatshops:
Women make up to 90 percent of sweatshop labor. The poor working conditions they experience include being subject to sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.
Sweatshops violate the most basic labor laws including child labor, minimum wage, overtime and fire safety laws.
Working conditions also include no benefits, non-payment of wages, forced overtime, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, corporal punishment, and illegal firings.
However, sweatshops are not only found in “other” countries; they are right here in the U.S. – often the workers are recent and/or undocumented workers – again, people who are very vulnerable.
Workers who don’t know their rights or who have no good choices are at the mercy of the managers of these shops and the corporations who own them. For instance, pregnant women are fired instead of being given any type of leave. Women who are of childbearing age may be forced to take birth control or abort their pregnancies.
The free market allows corporations to seek out areas where they can pay miserably poor wages, wages too poor to allow workers to support their families comfortably, and poor enough to ensure profits for the companies at the expense of these families.
Corporations also seek out countries with unstable governments in order to lessen the possibility of being monitored and charged with human rights violations.
Workers can be fired or blacklisted if they try to defend their rights.
Some defend sweatshops and their practices by pointing out that the payment workers may receive is higher than the average national wage for workers in a particular country. Yes, people do have a right to make a living and if the opportunity presents itself to make a higher wage, certainly they should be free to seek the opportunity. However, human rights violations do not need to be part and parcel of such an opportunity. People should not be exploited and brutalized because they happen to live in a poor country (or live in a rich country where the poor are marginalized and/or treated as if they are not human).
Nor should such dire situations be mocked.