Made in Bangladesh

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I have always maintained that the best answer against conservatives is to showcase the power of liberation. A burqa wearing bus driver who believes that women can fly planes is perhaps the most subtle (also effective, practical) of denunciations of patriarchy. However if you take this too far…..well we are talking of risk to life and limb (and also alienation of people who are kinda sorta fence-sitters). OTOH as we know progress does not happen by being reasonable and shock therapy (in small doses) may be what is required to encourage youngsters to throw off the metaphoric burqa. So all-in-all more power to the young lady.

This is a Bangladeshi perspective on the photo campaign:

A
controversy has been sparked by American Apparel by releasing a new ad
starring a former-Muslim model from Bangladesh. The model is seen
topless with the words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ printed across her chest.
The
image appeared in Vice Magazine’s US and Canada editions. The
former-Muslim Model, Maks is 22 year old merchandiser for American
Apparel who was born in Dhaka but has lived in California since she was
four years old.
The ad tries to send a message by printing ‘Made
in Bangladesh’ over the model’s chest about their fair labor practices.
The words depict, not her jeans, but about American Apparel’s fair
labour practices as all its clothing is made in downtown LA.
A
detailed description of Maks and how she was raised in a strict Muslim
culture before she distanced herself from her Islamic faith in search of
her own identity as she grew up.
The words overlapping Maks chest
portray the message that there is no need for her to identify herself
as an American or a Bengali in order to fit her life into anyone else’s
conventional narrative.
The ad is already causing upset around the
country with Islam being the dominant religion. Nudity is frowned upon
among the traditional Muslims and this link of a half naked model with
the country is set to cause upset.
American Apparel was established in 1989 in Canada and has sparked controversies earlier with similar daring campaigns.
Last
year too, the UK Advertising Standards Authority has banned a series of
its ads for using overtly sexual images of women showed wearing no
underwear.
Earlier, they had run a campaign featuring a
60-year-old model in lingerie. Again in New York, they showed their
window-front mannequins with fake pubic hair in a Valentine’s stunt.
The new ad is also expected to spark outrage, however we can be quite sure that it won’t be the last one from American Apparel.
– See more at:
http://www.theindianrepublic.com/lifestyle/controversial-ad-starring-topless-former-muslim-model-american-apparel-made-bangladesh-100028709.html#sthash.rfIgmcwB.dpuf
A
controversy has been sparked by American Apparel by releasing a new ad
starring a former-Muslim model from Bangladesh. The model is seen
topless with the words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ printed across her chest.
The
image appeared in Vice Magazine’s US and Canada editions. The
former-Muslim Model, Maks is 22 year old merchandiser for American
Apparel who was born in Dhaka but has lived in California since she was
four years old.
– See more at:
http://www.theindianrepublic.com/lifestyle/controversial-ad-starring-topless-former-muslim-model-american-apparel-made-bangladesh-100028709.html#sthash.rfIgmcwB.dpuf

I’m not a prude, or a hater. My problem is not with this half-dressed
beautiful young woman. (Honestly, I probably wouldn’t mind having my
youth emblazoned in an iconic ad campaign if given the opportunity.)
…Unless, of course, the words “Made in Bangladesh” were branded on my breasts.

Born in Dhaka, Maks left at the age of four and was brought up in
California in a religious Muslim household. She shed her religious
upbringing, to find her own path.
This sentence—“She doesn’t feel
the need to identify herself as an American or a Bengali and is not
content to fit her life into anyone else’s conventional narrative”—is total BS.


American Apparel is playing on the sexuality of a young Bangladeshi
woman’s body, but that’s just a pretext.
To me, this is a jab on
Bangladesh’s garment sector. Composed of young Bangladeshi female
workers, around the same age as Maks, disasters like the 2013 Rana Plaza
factory collapse and the 2012 Tazreen factory fire have made death and
exploitation synonymous with the industry. Fast fashion is big business,
and many U.S. and European retailers, like Walmart, Gap, Joe Fresh, and
Mango have huge stakes in the low-cost labor. Yet cutting corners has
been fatal.


In Bangladesh, 3.6
million workers make up the garment workforce, and their work makes up
$18 billion in annual readymade garment exports. These young women are
the backbone of Bangladesh’s growing economy. Workers who attempt to
unionize face intimidation and sexual harassment. There have been other
effects too. Young women are delaying marriage and childbirth to work.
While they are earning meager pay, they’re earning steady paychecks,
which they use to help support their family or their own education.

Maks is as Made in America as American Apparel. Her unabashed nudity
is a tacit reminder—this is what American Apparel looks like. This is
what our fantasy of what Made in Bangladesh looks like.
Not a poor, underpaid, overworked young woman making you a $5 shirt
for 30 cents an hour. This ad has little to do with the woman in front
of us, and everything to do with the Bangladeshi female garment worker
who remains invisible.

American Apparel explains the logic behind the campaign

The stunt is meant to draw attention to the company’s fair labor practices. American Apparel says its
pays its employees “50 times more” than other companies who outsource
production to countries like Bangladesh. The “23 skilled American
workers” who made Maks’ jeans are “paid a fair wage and have access to
basic benefits such as health care,” according to the ad.

CEO Dov Charney has denounced his competitors for making clothes in
sweatshops where employees are paid low wages to work in unsafe
conditions. “In Bangladesh, the problem with these factories is that they’re only
given contracts on a seasonal or order-by-order basis,” Charney told the L.A. Times. “There’s
so much pressure to perform, some of the working conditions are
outrageous, almost unbelievable. It has completely stripped the human
element from the brands … It’s such a blind, desensitized way of making
clothing.”


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