Political Flavors

Archive for September, 2015

The Ethics of Origins Cosmetics – Organic Doesn’t Mean Good Labor Practices

Posted in Editorials on September 2nd, 2015

There’s and article in Pacific Standard about the child abuse perpetuated by a Christian cult called “The Twelve Tribes.” The article asks how far the First Amendment goes – can religious freedom really protect the harming of children? It’s a disturbing but important article and you should read the whole thing.

Something that jumped out at me though was this paragraph about how the children in this cult were often taken out of school and made to work at businesses.

The Jones children were put to work at an early age. For several weeks when she was seven, for example, Shuah boarded a 15-passenger van at dawn with other grade-schoolers and drove to the Tribes’ Common Sense factory in Rutland, an hour away. One of the Tribes’ biggest clients was Estee Lauder, which contracted the group to make its popular Origins salt scrub. Shuah spent 10 hours a day labeling and packaging the scrub and other products. At a certain point, she told me, the elders passed out sleeping bags so the kids could sleep on the factory floor. “We’d take little breaks and run around and play and get spanked for it,” recalled Alicia Gonyaw, who worked at the factory when she was 12. “We weren’t allowed to be kids.”

I was shocked. I’ve heard that there is child labor and sweat shops in the United States, but it’s something I don’t like to think about. It’s something that happens in other places. And I felt guilty! I love Origins products and I have reviewed them glowingly on this blog. But my mistake was in assuming that because a product is organic, it’s produced in accordance with fair labor standards too. And as I have found, that is just not the case.

I buy organic products not just for my own health and for the quality of our water and soil, but because I believe it’s a labor and human rights issue. Farm workers who are exposed to pesticides can have serious health problems including higher rates of cancer, infertility and birth defects.

But makeup isn’t like a blueberry or an apple. It must be processed, and there are ingredients that aren’t plant based. Mineral ingredients must be mined, and there are numerous abuses in the mining of minerals for makeup.

Children toiling illegally in Indian mines are producing a key ingredient used in the products of some of the global cosmetics industry’s most prominent names.

A report by campaign group DanWatch said child labour is being used in the eastern states of Jharkhand and Bihar to extract mica, which is then added to the make-up produced by at least 12 multinational companies.

At least 5,000 children may be producing mica – used to add glitter to natural cosmetics – which is bought by intermediaries and then exported to high-profile international customers such as L’Oreal and Estee Lauder.

Estee Lauder is the parent company of Origins.

I tweeted at Origins hoping for a response yesterday – Shuah’s story happened many years ago and perhaps they have new safeguards in place. But I have received no response except for some conversation with Stacy Malkin from SafeCosmetics.org.

Knowing what I know now, though, a response from Origins stating that they don’t or won’t use that specific factory anymore isn’t enough. We need more transparency about how the ingredients in our makeup are mined, not just how they are farmed. The jewelry industry has the Kimberly Process and the No Dirty Gold campaign. Cosmetics companies need to get on board.

For me, makeup is something fun I like to use on weekends or special occasions. No matter how a person chooses to wear it, it’s production should not involve the endangerment or exploitation of children or adult workers.

Pope Francis’ Holy Year Abortion Forgiveness – You Have To Say Sorry First

Posted in Editorials on September 1st, 2015

The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a grave sin which is punishable by immediate excommunication.

Canon 1398 provides that, “a person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication.” This means that at the very moment that the abortion is successfully accomplished, the woman and all formal conspirators are excommunicated.

This is part of the reason why I am no longer Catholic – once I became a Clinic Escort, which I’m sure counts as being a “formal conspirator,” there was no going back.

Pope Francis’ announcement that women could be forgiven for abortion during the upcoming Holy Year is making headlines, and I think a lot of people are missing an important point. (Emphasis added)

The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.

First, there’s some patronizing stuff about how women who get abortions don’t know what they are doing and only have a “superficial awareness” of it. He acknowledges that the reasons a person may seek an abortion are powerful pressures, but says nothing of what can be done to alleviate those pressures. Yes, Pope Francis has talked a lot about poverty, but he really should have linked the two issues right here if he wants to maintain credibility.

More importantly, the media is brushing off the hoop that women who have had abortions must go through to receive forgiveness. They must sincerely be sorry for it and they have to say they are sorry to a priest during confession. This is a big ask when you consider that 99% of women who have had abortions do not regret it. Pope Francis is asking women to apologize for something they are not sorry for. He is asking them to lie to themselves, their priests and to God. For someone who claims to have such compassion for women who have had abortions, that’s a rather manipulative thing to demand.