This Show About Sweatshops Kinda Misses The Point

By now, it's quite possible that a friend of yours has shared the trailer for Deadly Fashion . This online reality series that sends famous Norwegian fashion bloggers to work in a sweatshop in Cambodia is certainly emotional and dramatic. The trailer shows at least one cast member crying and saying that she simply cannot understand how the factory workers survive this type of lifestyle. In another clip, a factory manager tries to urge one of the seemingly exhausted and crying bloggers resting outside to go back to work. Who What Wear reports that one of the bloggers was "especially disturbed by a trip to a Mangostore, where he learns that a $35 blouse there costs more than a month’s worth of rent." And undoubtedly, the experience obviously functioned as a harsh reality check for the three bloggers who were sent to live and work in such types of sweatshops — the kinds that produce the fast fashion items that they feature in their OOTDs on the regular.

From the looks of things, the bloggers have genuinely been impacted by their experiences — something that is completely understandable, but still disappointing in its own right. In general, our public conversations about sweatshop labor seem to have become quieted since the Dhaka factory collapse. And I think that it's safe to say, at this point, that we generally have an idea of what goes on and what kinds of deplorable conditions workers are forced to endure in sweatshops. None of this should be a surprise to any of us, yet apparently we need this series featuring the fashion bloggers to give us a real reality check.

I am all for people undergoing their own journeys toward understanding complex issues and concepts that are too devastating to fully comprehend. Things take time to process, especially when you may inadvertently participate in them — causing you to feel guilt or shame. However, this type of "poverty tourism" is really difficult to get behind. I don't think that we needed to send three fashion bloggers to Cambodia to really grasp the disparity between the lifestyle of a sweatshop worker and someone who is not. I don't think we needed to have these very privileged people live such an experience for a limited time, only to then speak for those who aren't going back to a cushy life — for those who don't have the "privilege" they do to simply leave. So why do we require cultural ambassadors like this?

In the screencap above, one of the bloggers is being quoted as saying, "When you interview a person, she is just as much worth as yourself." How is this an understanding that the bloggers didn't already have coming into this experience? How can we not believe and feel the gravity of the experiences of the many, many sweatshop workers who have already spoken out? I'm so disappointed and truly upset that we require someone with whom we can relate to say something before we actually take it seriously.

While this series tells the story of what it's like to work in a sweatshop, the reality is that it's been deemed a worthy story because of who it's centered around. Would we be as inclined to watch a reality show about workers who aren't just there for a few weeks, but who actually just live the life, day in and day out?

I hope the series does illuminate these issues for those who choose to watch them educationally, and I certainly hope that we become increasingly conscious consumers of clothing and other goods. I simply wish it didn't take sending a bunch of Western fashion bloggers to Cambodia to inspire such an urge within us.

Image: Youtube, Giphy