Clothes of A Nation — Blue Tin

Words by Andrew Benson

Islamophobia has been sparked by events such as September 11th and the Iraq war. The assumption that all Muslim people are terrorists was prepetuated by events such as these. This assumption has led to targeting and harassment by those of Muslim faith. The American system is abusing Muslim people in factories of large clothing bands. Hoda Katebi and her team work on exposing these companies with a boycott list. This list calls out companies that abuse Muslim workers. Although Hoda Katebi’s efforts to change the racist system are gallant, the fight to rid islamophobia is far from over.

The stereotypical dress for Muslim women can consist of hibjas, burkas, and chadors. These clothing pieces can drape from women’s shoulders to their feet. The hijab, burka, and chador are ways for people to reinforce islamophobic attitudes. On WGN, Katebi details a story about getting bullied for wearing her headscarf. Islamophobes target women for their clothing, so Hoda Katebi targets mainstream clothing brands. This brilliant approach takes the bullying Kotebi received for wearing Muslim dress and points the finger at big clothing corporations for abusing workers.

In Katebi’s blog; Joojoo Azad, Katebi has a boycott list of clothing brands that violate international human rights and labor laws. Abercrombie & Fitch, Disney, H&M, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger are amongst some of the companies that abuse their workers. Katebi says that “anti-muslim racism in this country is beyond the individual bias against each other. We live in a system that actually profits from violence against Muslims,” in the WGN interview. These companies have been revealed to exude gender based violence. Physical violence such as hitting breasts, threats of sexual violence, and working without bathroom breaks are common. As well as mental violence such as verbal abuse and ignoring workplace injustices.

Hoda Katebi’s work on exposing these is brilliant. It forces companies to recognize the discirimination and abuse that happens in sweatshops. However, it worries me how much these large companies will do to fix these issues. Katebi agrees that these companies claim to be instilling ideas of ethical production and fast fashion, but the reports disagree.

This is why I think Katebi’s smaller efforts are mesmerizing. Hoda Katebi runs Blue Tin, a co-op based in Chicago, giving immigrant and refugee women the chance to have a safe working environment. It is efforts like these that help individual women immediately. Although the mistreatment of women, Muslims, and other immigrants is still very prevalent, it is small steps like these that create change.

Calling out big corporations is still important. My fear is that these corporations have too much power and won’t listen to the news reporters and bloggers that are discussing these issues. It is about starting a conversation. But the act of protesting the industry and creating co-ops like Blue Tin are what make a change in the world.