January 7, 2014

So you Missed the Photos of Bangladeshi Garment Workers Having a "Gap/Walmart Bar-B-Que?"

Bangladesh backlash buzz 1

So you missed the story (and especially, the photos) of Bangladeshi workers not just setting alight their own factory but burning the Western clothes they’ve been producing? That would be, articles for corporations including American Eagle, Marks and Spencer, Gap, Sears, Walmart, Uniqlo and Zara.

Bangladesh backlash buzz 2

Perhaps the invisibility of this story has to do with Western media’s unspoken criteria for foreign news and, especially, photos. That would skew toward more romanticized or idealized notions of suffering. I would venture to say that these images disappeared into the ether in early December (despite the heartstring pull from this child) because that same Western media market also has an overly qualified relationship to sudden and highly visible eruptions of anger by brown-skinned people, be it in Asia or here at home. If that goes for acts like torching cars and buildings in Gazipur, I would say that it borders on taboo to publish photos of garment workers publicly torching Western trade product. Apparently, such holds true even in the aftermath of the horrific factory collapse in Rana last year, let alone this new desperate action in direct threat to their own livelihood. (Of course, in all those sensational stories last May prominently documenting the disaster, we actually had to hunt-and-peck for images that braved to identify articles in the rubble of major Western brands/advertisers.)

Also failing to get much visibility is the story how U.S. retailers have refused to sign on to the relief fund for victims of last year’s garment tragedy. If El Corte Inglés, Le Bon Marché, Primark, and Loblaw Cos. Ltd have stepped up, the silence (in words and pictures) on this side of the Atlantic has been deafening.

(photos: Andrew Biraj / Reuters)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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