Linda Hall: Bargain buys hide cheap treatment

By Linda Hall -
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Linda Hall
Linda Hall

It feels a bit odd to be in Wednesday's paper. I've been in the same spot on Monday since I began writing my Middle NZ column.

I promise not to live up to the saying "Wednesday's child is full of woe" or even worse, refer to today as hump day.

When I first heard people saying "it's hump day and we will help you get over it", I wondered what the heck they were on about.

Is Wednesday really that bad? I don't mind Wednesdays at all. I don't need help getting through the middle of the week.

Anyway enough of that. I recently finished reading a book called Heloise by Mandy Hager.

It's based on the true story of the 12th-century French philosopher and theologian Peter Abelard, and Heloise d'Argenteuil, the niece and pride and joy of Canon Fulbert.

Their famous love story lives on today through the correspondence of 20 years between the pair.

The story reminded me of just how far women have come.

In the early 12th century a belief promoted by St Augustine was that Eve was responsible for the original sinfulness of all mankind and ultimately for the death of Christ. So women were viewed as evil and, with support from the church, this resulted in them being treated as servants.

They had no say in how to lead their lives and if their family chose to send them to a nunnery that's where they went.

However, some sought sanctuary in nunneries and no doubt took the veil, not because they wanted to be married to God, but because they could not take being abused and beaten a moment longer.

Thank goodness times have changed. At least they have in some countries. In others women are still exploited and treated as second-class citizens.

In fact, women in the Western world inadvertently support this by buying wardrobes and drawers full of cheap clothing.

I'm as guilty as the next person but after reading an article about the fashion industry and seeing a documentary called The True Cost I'll be thinking very carefully about what garments I buy from now on.

There are millions of women out there working in what I would describe as modern-day sweatshops.

There is no way we would put up with conditions like that in New Zealand. There would be strikes and protests, yet we condone it by living in a society that is too busy or can't be bothered to mend clothes or make our own.

I've never been able to sew. I tried but I just wasn't good at it. I can knit and spent hours knitting when my children were young.

These days you can buy a jersey for $10. It will only last a season but that's okay, who cares, throw it out and buy another.

Nothing gets darned or mended any more. Clothes are so cheap, why bother?

After reading the article I've started to really think about where my clothes come from.

I do have a wardrobe full, some items I have thrashed but others I'm ashamed to say have hardly seen the light of day.

Here are a couple of sentences from the article about the "price of cheap fashion" that really hit home with me.

"The price is usually paid in two ­areas: people and the environment. The garment industry is one of the most polluting in the world, from agriculture through to manufacture and final use.

"Environmental impacts range from Indian waterways polluted by chromium, causing widespread liver disease, to the ­other end of the chain, where countries like Haiti are dumping grounds for mountains of discarded clothing from Western nations.

"Then there is the human cost. The global garment industry ­employs 75 million people.
Most - about 80 per cent - are women. And most are not paid enough to cover the basics of life.

"In Bangladesh, four million garment ­workers are paid the minimum wage of $4.30 a day. They're the lowest-paid workers in the world."

I'm sure even if these workers were paid a living wage the cost of cheap brands would still be affordable.

Think about that next time you reach for a $5 top.

* Linda Hall is assistant editor of Hawke's Bay Today.

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