lipstick for slaves

I was introduced to Radiant Cosmetics’ “Kiss Slavery Goodbye” campaign through a fashion blogger I’ve been following for some time. As I mindlessly scanned the blurb (because no one actually reads fashion blogs), I was suddenly forced to engage when I read the following:

For every lipstick purchased, we’ll donate a lipstick on your behalf to a survivor or current victim of trafficking. 

lipstick

Wait. What? You will donate some lipstick to a prostitute or child slave?

I can imagine how that conversation will go:

“Hey! Are you a slave?”

“Yes. I suffer daily at the hands of tyrants. I am violated, stripped of human rights, treated like a dog.”

“Great! Leah in Charlottesville donated this lipstick to you. It’s definitely your color.”

I’d like to give Radiant Cosmetics the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was a typo? Maybe they’re giving lipstick to Texas preteens in the hopes that they’ll recruit them for the virtuous cause of ending human trafficking?

Except they don’t say that. They say they’re going to hand sexually violated and demeaned and desperate people some lipstick, then maybe smoosh their glossy lips together and blow them a kiss before bidding them adieu.

I hope they realize that something as serious as human trafficking doesn’t really pair well with the American beauty industry, that it’s inappropriate – and frankly, bizarre – to put a cutesy spin on slavery. (To their credit, they do donate 20% of all proceeds to charities that work to end human trafficking.)

(On only a slightly different note, I recommend watching the documentary, Whores’ Glory)

Revision 1/5: My husband discovered this excerpt from a British soldier’s journal that has a very different firsthand take on giving lipstick to slaves. I don’t know if this particular incident directly correlates to the one above, but it’s still worth a read for reflection’s sake.

on living honestly

gandhi quoteI’ve been burdened by the sentiment above for the past several months. On my old blog, I started a goal called The Secondhand Year whose guidelines demanded I buy as many material goods as possible on the secondhand market instead of buying into an unethical, international fast fashion market. I struggled with it. I excused myself by it. I succeeded and failed in equal measure. But I can’t give it up.

I not only believe but know that it is immoral to participate in our consumerist culture in full knowledge that I contribute to darkness and suffering. When I purchase a garment from Kohl’s or Sears or Forever 21, I implicitly shout that I am ok with treating people who work at their garment factories like crap, that I am ok with the fact that they don’t make enough to give their children better futures, that they consider suicide a viable option, that they could very easily die for the cause of producing cheap garments at less than a liveable wage for gluttonous Americans. We must look like devils to them, absorbed in our coveting and spending and hoarding. We freaking shoot people on Black Friday to buy the products they slaved over at low, low prices without a second thought about their well being.

I’m being dishonest if I toss and turn over this reality and promote its demise but continue to buy into it. Shopping is the thorn in my flesh. I may fight against its flirting gaze for the rest of my life. But I have to keep fighting.