The only time I can ever imagine myself attending an AA meeting is when I’m close to bankrupt. I’m going to have to crawl out of my broken chair, make my way to the front of the vacant garage, stand in front of a podium that smells suspicious, and confess:
Hi. My name is Sunmbul Ahmed and I am a shopaholic.
Up until recently, I kept my sin of gluttony at the back of the closet -hiding behind all the nice clothes and shoes. I’m not going to deny the truth: I am in no way oblivious to the hardships that garment workers face in third world countries. Hell, I even sign up for newsletters and petitions advocating for better working conditions in Bangladesh and China, the two leading countries for garment production. I thought the conditions under which many garment workers worked was bad, but I have come to the conclusion that they’re not just bad… they’re really, really REALLY bad.
Recently my sociology professor made my class watch a documentary titled “The True Cost” which is about a trend in the clothing industry: fast fashion. Fast fashion is a term for the push that brands feel to create “new fashion” every week or so; they must always be creating new options in order to attract customers. Instead of keeping good clothes for years we are being accustomed to purchasing new items every month – sometimes every week. Often times these clothes are marketed at very low prices because the quality will not last – thus perpetuating the fast fashion cycle.
Think about the constant sales we pass by at malls. How many stores don’t have a “50% off!” or “Sale!” sign? Close to none. It’s a business tactic, and a successful one because though we might be buying a top for $5 it’s the people in Bangladesh and China baring the true cost.
Back in 2013 there was a massive building collapse in Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza collapse resulted in a body count of more than a thousand people. The workers had warned owners that the building was cracking but their concerns were neglected. To add insult to injury, these workers were making terribly low wages.
I understand that we cannot control the actions of far away clothing vendors. That said, these vendors are part of an industry that we benefit from, which hurts workers. I think it’s important to recognize that we cannot treat this dilemma as “out of sight, out of mind.” We must begin to realize that even the smallest actions have large consequences.
I hope you join this shopaholic (me) on the journey to reform. I am striving to become an activist before a consumer.