A friend of mine recently expressed her disappointment with Baby Gap’s recent styles being too tight and too sexualized for toddlers on their facebook page. Another person commented and rudely mocked her for not caring about workers’ safety in Bangladesh. My friend’s response was perfect. She stated, “I truly appreciate your passion and respect your cause. I am not currently purchasing from Gap for many reasons one of which is the fact that I believe children should not be sexualized which I feel is happening with the current trend in the styles being offered by Gap for toddlers. I choose this forum to express my disappointment in a company I once respected. I ask that you not belittle my concerns and I back you and wish you luck with yours.”
The error that people often fall into is comparing causes and shaming people based on their perceived value of the cause. On the surface it would seem that the activist for the workers in Bangladesh has a point. Human lives are more important than what a toddler wears. Most mothers would gladly put their two year old in a string bikini if it was the choice between the bikini and the death of an eleven year old Bangladeshi textile worker, but that isn’t the choice. The reason that my friend’s response is so appropriate is that she didn’t fall into a false dichotomy of either/or, this or that.
GAP can both make clothing appropriate for toddlers and ensure the safety of workers in Bangladesh. Protesting one does not mean the other will be less heard. In reality, the people at GAP responsible for overseeing the design of the clothes are most likely not the same people responsible for managing the manufacturing of the clothes. It is not an either/or situation.
Furthermore, each person has certain missions or callings that they are passionate about. Each person has different skill sets, personalities, experiences and talents that make them unique and that make the way they see the needs and injustices in this world uniquely. This uniqueness makes them the most effective at doing their work in the world. My roommate Patrick’s innate love of dogs makes him passionate about stopping animal abuse and encouraging pet adoptions. My sister in law, Jany’s experience with couch surfing teens bunking with her has made her a vocal advocate for homeless youth. My brother’s knowledge and talent with agriculture helps him show people how to grow food. Because I work with child abuse victims makes me passionate about speaking out against abuse. A lukewarm advocate of a cause isn’t as effective as someone who is angry about injustice or excited about progress just like my brown thumb would be ineffective, and probably harmful, to teaching people to plant food. Of course I support my brother and as responsible citizens of this world we all should donate, volunteer or support a cause that isn’t necessarily closest to your heart, but you shouldn’t be shamed for speaking up about your pet causes.
Recently I read an blog by a woman who went on a mission trip overseas to help feed orphans and was criticized by multiple people for using her resources to help children abroad when there are hungry and homeless children here. Her response was to justify her mission by stating that the children in third world countries have no resources and their poverty is incomparable to the poverty that U.S. children experience. While I understand her point, the poverty in some countries is much more dire than in the US, what I really think she should have said was, “You seem really passionate about the poverty in this country. I am glad that you are speaking out against it and hope you the best for your cause.”
Shaming or guilting someone to stop working for a cause that they are interested in so they will work for a cause you are passionate about is counterproductive for everyone. There is enough resources and people that if everyone worked energetically toward their missions, this world would be a much better place. That is my encouragement to you. Go forth and find what stirs your heart and then passionately, fearlessly, and tirelessly work toward it. And don’t let anyone shame you for doing good.