[Updated] “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” Shirts Made in Exploitative Sweatshops, Says the Daily Mail

Today in terrible news.
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Damn it, first world business owners! This is why we can’t have nice things!

According to an exposé by the Daily Mail, those expensive t-shirts from the Fawcett Society that Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch look so great in? They’re manufactured in a factory in Mauritius (an island nation off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean) that’s owned by Compagnie Mauricienne de Textile, a $200 million company that also sells clothing to Topshop, Next, and Urban Outfitters.

The migrant workers in the factory—a majority of whom are women— allegedly sleep 16 people to a dorm, work 45 hours a week, and only make a dollar an hour, which is just a quarter of the average monthly wage in the country. Each of these shirts costs only $15 to make but sells for over $70, and the proceeds go directly to the Fawcett Society, which is one of the oldest organizations that advocates for gender equality in the UK.

Whistles, the women’s clothing company who worked with Elle UK and the Fawcett Society to create the shirts, has put out a statement in response. They claim that they are “shocked” by the allegations and that they are investigating their factories’ labor practices:

It’s worth pointing out that the Daily Mail is an incredibly sensationalist and conservative publication that has a vested interest in humiliating the various left-leaning British politicians who’ve publicly worn these shirts in Parliament, as well as the feminist movement as a whole. However, that’s no excuse for the hypocrisy inadvertently exhibited here by the Fawcett Society, as well as other pro-woman organizations that conveniently focus their attention on wealthy or white women at the expense of the marginalized and poor.

Labor exploitation is a very complicated problem to unravel that will take more than the effort of one group to solve, that much is for sure. But we can certainly start somewhere by not ignoring the problem because it doesn’t affect us on a direct basis in the same way it does the overwhelming amount of women who work in the garment industry.

[Update: 2:17pm ET] Today the Fawcett Society released their own statement maintaining that the factory that creates their shirts conforms to ethical standards, according to an independent October 2014 audit.

“The evidence we have seen categorically refutes the assertion that the ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ T-shirts produced by Whistles were made in a sweatshop,” the statement reads. “Whilst Fawcett has a UK remit, we are nonetheless acutely concerned with the inequalities women across the globe face. We recognise that investment in developing countries is vital and support this provided decent labour standards are adhered to.”

(via The Guardian)

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