Tag Archives: Indigenous

Spend & Save: The Narrative of Fair Trade and White Saviorism

Pick up the latest issue of Bitch Magazine (or just check it out online) to read my feature essay on Gendered Orientalism, Imperial Feminism, White Feminism – whateveryouwannacallit, and the artisan fair trade industry. (Sounds so sexy, right?) Here’s the thesis:

The overwhelming majority of founders, CEOs, and employees in these organizations—all of which claim to provide an equitable transaction between the globally wealthy and the globally poor, to the tune of more than $200 million a year—are white women. And the workers who produce the colorful wares that line the online shelves are poor women of color from developing countries. How “fair” is this trade? And what does its proliferation say about relationships of power between women, who account for the majority of both producers and consumers in this industry?

I drop some history on the origins of the fair trade movement (I went all the way back to scripture, but that got cut out! A different story for another day…) and how its present-day practices rely on the Savior narrative – as well as global inequity – to rake in dough. Another bite:

The connotations of poverty seen through this white gaze are apolitical, a sad fluke of modern society. White supremacy and western hegemony are just as oppressive to underprivileged women of color in poor nations as poverty is, but to mention them would be a tough sell, a real downer for customers to ponder while they’re shopping for a new pair of sandals.

Finally, I go into Cause-Related Marketing – the business of commodifying social ’causes’ for profit – (also known as Consumption Philanthropy), using it as a critique of White Feminist Entrepreneurship.

With names like Buy the Change, Global Girlfriend, and Indigenous Designs, these companies employ practices that are naive and self-serving at best, and that reek of imperialist exploitation at worst. In the middle lies a controlled form of cultural appropriation, where white women get the green light to wear “authentic” “ethnic” garb, to consume the oft-endangered cultures of the Other.

Thoughts? Praises? Rants? Resources? Feel free to engage with this piece in the comments below, on the Twitter, FB or IG. Click here to read the article in full.

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Solidarity with el Pueblo Ecuatorianx

People – yesterday, May 16th marked one month since a catastrophic, devastating, merciless earthquake shook the tierra we call Ecuador. My heart has been broken in ways I’m not ready to recount right now, but I will use this platform to ask you to support my people in our time of need. Just hours after the quake hit, while I was still waiting to hear back from family (they are all alive and well) an ad-hoc team of activist and artist Ecuadorian immigrants and Ecuadorians-in-diaspora organized to form the initiative Chicha Radical, to draw attention to the sociopolitical consequences of this disaster and to fund social justice-minded aid to the communities we know would be further marginalized by such a disaster – the Afro-Ecuadorian, Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, trans, intersex, femme and sex worker communities living in the affected zones.

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artwork by Shellyne Rodriguez

I personally coordinate with our activist organizers on the ground in Ecuador to ensure that every cent from our GoFundMe campaign makes it directly into their pockets. We are also funding rebuilding efforts for the Echeverria Guerrero and Menendez Ortiz families who lost everything and are homeless right now, making sure that these individuals, who are workers living in rural areas with kids, elders, babies, etc. aren’t overlooked by the mainstream channels of aid that never quite make it to the people who need it the most. We are still about 11k away from our goal and trust me when I say that the situation is still dire and the need is still urgent. Please donate any amount of money and share our campaign link with your networks. If you have ever traveled to my country as a tourist, it’s now your job to give back. You can read about our sister organizations and collectives in-depth on our GoFundMe page as well as find us on Facebook as Chicha Radical and on Twitter @Chicha_Radical. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch; my e-mail is on my About page.

And let me just say one last thing: if you see anyone insisting that tourism will somehow benefit the people of Ecuador right now, they are dead motherfucking wrong. This is not the time to capitalize off of our suffering.