Friday, March 15, 2013

Oxfam: Our Food and Women's Rights

Oxfam is working hard to raise awareness about how our food is a human rights issue. In particular, they're spreading the word that many of our top food brands are missing the mark on women's rights in their supply chains, some by a positively disturbing margin.

Their Behind the Brands campaign asks us as consumers to take some simple steps to make sure that our purchases are aligned with our principles: Look. Listen. Act. We need companies to look at how they are treating the people (who are often overwhelmingly women) responsible for the supply chain. We need them to listen to the experiences of those people. Finally, we need them to act by creating policy changes to address these inequities.

Candy aisle - sideways

You can use this fantastic interactive guide to see how your favorite brands score in a number of measures. If they're not living up to your standards, then the site makes it easy to let them know.

For instance, I'm a huge fan of Ben and Jerry's ice cream (especially Phish Food. Mmm.) Ben and Jerry's has done a lot of work to make sure that their products are ethical, but they are owned by Unilever, and their policies to ensure that the women in their supply chain are treated fairly through equal pay and rights are not where they need to be.

Unilever is among the highest ranked brands in Oxfam's database (and they've even partnered with Oxfam in the past to address the treatment of farmers). Still, Oxfam's recent research into their supply chain business practices have revealed subpar wages and unfair hours in places like Vietnam. 

These huge, over-arching companies have a tremendous impact on the global economy. They employ millions of people across the world, and their policies and practices can set standards that will be followed all around the globe. As consumers of these products, we are part of this chain, and it is our responsibility to make sure that our links are as strong as they can be. 

See where your favorite brands rank and make sure that you let those companies know when they're enacting policies you approve of and where they need to make changes. The bottom line is their bottom line, and when enough people speak out, these companies will change.   

Photo: Vilseskogen


  1. Another anti-male bigot who sees men as a sub-species touting OXFAM, an organization that treats men as being something below pond-scum. Have you or OXFAM ever asked UniLever about its policy on men.

    Oh that's right, you and OXFAM think that women are the chosen ones and men are some how less than human!

  2. Don't you feel any shame?

    Look at this U-tube video

    and then see if you can look at your face in the mirror

  3. I definitely care how companies treat men. (And have written about it when they do it poorly--such as the Huggies dad campaign). In this case, it's a statistical fact that most of the people doing this type of work are women. I do not see equality and fair treatment as zero-sum games.

  4. I realize that someone who came onto my blog , read one old post and immediately started calling me a "bigot" for supporting fair treatment for food workers is probably not going to listen to any arguments I make, but I like to get my morning started strong, so I'm going to make one anyway.

    Wow. What, exactly, am I supposed to feel shame about? I watched this video, and the (very few) things that I agree with, I don't do. Extrapolating one feminist perspective with all feminist perspectives is ridiculous, for one. Secondly, this woman saying that if she were a man on a battlefield, she would "appreciate being objectified" is the end of it for me. Guess what? You don't get to decide if other people appreciate being objectified. The objectified people get to make that call for themselves.

    I don't in any way see men as "disposable." In fact, I have argued in several places on this very blog that men must be treated more fairly if gender equality in general (and feminism in particular) is going to work. I've talked about equally shared parenting and the rights of men to be seen as capable and able caregivers. I've talked about stay-at-home dads and the need for their choices to be seen as valid as a woman's choice to do the same (and for both choices to be seen as culturally valuable).

    The video discusses a "women and children first" mentality that exists solely to point out how weak women are, not to demean men. Women aren't let on the lifeboats first because they are seen as more valuable to men in society. They are allowed on the lifeboats first because a pervasive culture of masculinity tells men that's what "real men" do. It's not feminism that creates that unfair dynamic (and I agree, it is unfair); it's the patriarchy. It's not feminism who says men must be tough and not show emotion (another unfair cultural norm); it's the patriarchy. It's not feminism that says men are all rapists waiting for their opportunity so women need to make sure they protect themselves from them (a horrible and insulting characterization of men); it's the patriarchy.

    Here's some links (including some from this blog) on why feminism isn't just about helping women, it's about ending patriarchal standards that are unfair to everyone: