Last week, I bumped into a former student of mine. She was eager to tell me that she has applied to a local university, and hopes to study History. It was wonderful to see her after all these years, and her excitement for her future plans was really inspiring.
As an ethical blogger and a former teacher, I believe in the power of education. For women in developing countries, education offers opportunities that will positively impact their own lives, as well as those of their potential future children and their larger communities, too. When women receive a secondary education and beyond, they are more likely to prolong marriage and childbirth, to seek prenatal care and a skilled birth attendant, to immunize their children, to have access to better nutrition for themselves and their children, and to send their own daughters to school.
The Asian University for Women, founded in 2008 and located in Chittagong, Bangladesh, is an international university focused on empowering women throughout Asia and the Middle East. Currently, AUW serves women from 15 countries, 35 ethnicities, and 25 languages in their programs, including two pre-university bridge programs. Pathways for Promise, started in 2016, is a program dedicated to providing higher level education specifically to marginalized groups of women, including garment workers and Rohinga women, a minority group that has been systematically oppressed in Burma and Bangladesh. Almost 4 million women work in the Bangladesh garment industry, and Pathways for Promise has partnered with several clothing factory owners who agreed to pay their employees’ wages while the women attend school for five years, eventually earning an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts or Science.
Pathways for Promise marks the first step in the college experience and the year-long program focuses on English language development and communication. The second year, Access Academy, continues with college preparation, followed by three years of university classes. The application process is quite rigorous, yet in the first year of the program, over 1,000 garment workers applied. Currently, 30 former workers and 50 Rohinga women are enrolled in this first step toward earning their college degrees. In addition, students and recent graduates are participating in a new initiative, Education Cells, which gives them the opportunity to teach garment workers during weekly classes that are similar to the Pathways for Promise program. It’s an excellent way for the students to practice their own teaching skills while serving as role models for other women who may wish to pursue their educational dreams, too.
Since 2013, the Asian University for Women has graduated 444 women, and most found employment or applied to graduate school within one year of receiving their degrees. Many of the alumnae attend graduate school in other countries, but 85% of employed AUW graduates return to work in their home countries, which will benefit their local communities. AUW has plans to increase student enrollment by 150% over the next seven years, and many of these women will undoubtedly come from garment factories.
I was incredibly inspired by my former student’s exciting news and I’m equally inspired by the work of the Asian University for Women and its Pathways for Promise program. It’s absolutely true that investing in the education of girls and women positively impacts society as a whole, and AUW’s amazing initiative is solid proof.
Whitney Bauck, Fashionista + Digital Activism, from Conscious Chatter podcast.
My favorite beauty vlogger, Ashley of makeupTIA, made a fun video tag this week featuring her favorite skincare products, along with Sandra of ttsandra. The questions were really fun and informative, so I’m participating because you know how much I love talking about beauty products and skincare. I tried to answer as honestly (and briefly) as possible.
1. What’s your skin type?
My skin is truly combination, with an oily T-zone and rosacea that makes it sensitive at times, too.
2. How do you store your skincare products?
I keep my cleansers and toner by the sink, and my serums and moisturizers in my medicine cabinet in my bathroom.
3. Favorite ingredient?
Hyaluronic acid is wonderful for adding extra moisture, and I’ve been using Now Foods’ Hyaluronic Acid Firming Serum for several months. It’s extremely gentle and is especially great for fall and winter.
4. Most indulgent product?
I recently bought a jar of One Love Organics’ Skin Dew Coconut Water Cream, their newest moisturizer that is very light and extremely moisturizing. It’s fairly expensive, but a little goes a long way and I think it will be great as a nightly moisturizer during the spring and summer, too. I’m also a dedicated user of Mullein & Sparrow’s Immortelle & Myrrh Facial Serum. The bottle is incredibly small and delicate, but I try to stock up when Mullein & Sparrow offers a discount code on their site. I would drink this serum if I could and it is very calming and balancing for my skin.
5. Best budget buy?
Simple’s Micellar Cleanser Water is extremely gentle and effective at removing eye makeup, and I’ve found that it works better than Bioderma. The larger size bottle of 13.5 ounces is less than ten dollars at the drugstore. I use it nightly with washable cotton pads.
6. Do you use any tools?
I have never tried the Clarisonic because my dermatologist does not recommend it. Occasionally, I will use my Shiseido Cleansing Massage Brush if my skin needs a bit of exfoliation while I’m washing it. I also use a cotton washcloth to wash my face at night, and will gently massage the cloth against my skin if it’s looking dry.
7. Best mask?
My skin reacts easily and masks usually cause itching and redness, so I mostly avoid them. Very rarely, I will apply a layer of natural honey and leave it on for about 10 minutes. I’ve tried many different masks and never had good experiences, so I tend to avoid them.
8. Best multi-use product?
I really love Rosemira Skincare’s Unscented Rich Moisturizing Cleanser & Night Cream, which is a cleansing and moisturizing balm. It’s an excellent moisturizer for colder months, and you can also apply it to your arms and chest, as well.
9. If you had to stick to only one skincare brand, what would it be?
This would be really hard for me, because I’ve spent several years searching for the best products for my skin, and they are from many different places. But to answer the question completely honestly, I would be happy to use Cetaphil’s RestoraDerm Eczema Calming Body Wash and Moisturizer, since they are incredibly gentle on my face and skin. When I’m suffering from allergies and my face reacts, the wash and moisturizer calm it immediately. I’ve yet to find any more natural substitutes. I also really love many of Avène’s products, which are formulated for sensitive skin.
10. Best spot treatment?
Retin-A. It’s worth it to get a prescription.
11. Favorite step of your skincare routine?
Washing away my makeup at the end of the day feels very nice, but massaging the serum and moisturizer is truly relaxing.
12. What’s on your skincare wishlist?
After years of trying hundreds of products, I’ve finally found the things that really work well for my skin. Once in a while I will try something new, but I’m much more cautious these days. I am curious about Glossier’s Super Pack Serums, but haven’t tried them yet.
A recent conversation about a shirt, printed with these words: “The Future is Female,” made me think about the way I dress and how it’s perceived.
I don’t consider this shirt truly political; at least, I didn’t before that discussion. As it turns out, the shirt has very political origins, which you can read more about in this New York Times article. Originally designed in the 1970s for Labyris Books, the first women’s bookstore in New York City, the shirt became well-known after Alix Dobkin wore it in a photograph taken by her girlfriend, Liza Cowan. The current version was recreated by Rachel Berks, owner of Otherwild, and a portion of the proceeds are donated to Planned Parenthood.
So yeah, it’s political. But why, I wondered, did I not see that?
That question has bugged me over the last few weeks and I’ve been thinking a lot about the political aspect of fashion. Hoda Katebi, one of my favorite fashion-slash-political activist bloggers wrote a wonderful post, On the Political Value of Fashion, and I’ve read it several times. She was also recently profiled in a Mother Jones article that should be required reading. Hoda asserts that “You cannot choose to be apolitical about your fashion choices,” and I agree.
And this Vogue article explores the ways in which Black female activists used fashion as an extension of their work. Fashion is important because what you choose to wear sends a statement to the outside world, and we need to be clear about what statement we are sending.
As a supporter of ethical fashion, I’m used to thinking differently about the clothing I purchase and wear. That, I’m realizing, is a political statement. Everything that I choose to cover my body, from my underwear to my shoes, is carefully researched before it’s purchased. It sounds boring and tedious, but it’s become a routine habit. Once I thought nothing of killing an hour by shopping at a local retail store and often bought things impulsively, but eventually my eyes were opened. As I began to understand the implications of fast fashion on the rest of the world, I worked to change my habits. It’s taken years to adapt to a new routine, and it’s a difficult conversation to have with friends and family who might not understand. But now, it’s become who I am, and I’m able to look at clothing and fashion through different eyes.
When I think back on my fashion choices throughout my teenage and early adult years, there’s an emerging pattern of quiet rebellion. Attending a public high school, I never had to wear a uniform, but I also couldn’t afford a lot of the name brand styles that were popular in the late 1990s. I began to secretly loathe the idea of prominently displayed logos on shoes, purses, and sweatshirts, and that awareness of clothing as advertising has stuck with me as my style has changed. In college and into my early years of teaching, I adopted a dress code that looked a lot like Pam Beesly from The Office, wearing affordable separates that could be mixed and matched with knee-length skirts and black loafers. I wore hose to be modest, and as a very young teacher in a public high school, I did not want to draw any extra attention to myself.
After I moved to Austin, my style relaxed a lot, due to the overall political climate here. Two separate jobs later required me to wear a uniform, and I balked at the suggestion. I have a very distinct memory of almost getting fired for not wearing a college sports shirt to work one day, simply because I did not support college sports, and did not own a college sports shirt. I had to borrow a friend’s shirt to continue working. Later, during my very brief stint as a Mary Kay consultant, we were required to wear a skirt and blouse to all of our meetings. That was no problem, but I somehow failed to notice that the blouse should be white and the skirt should be black, and I stood in a room filled with dozens of women, all wearing the same outfit, while I wore a bright pink sweater and a grey skirt. Oops. After that experience, I realized that I don’t like being told what to wear.
Now, I’m a mom in my late 30s, and I’m free from the dress codes of school and office settings. But I still find that there’s an unspoken dress code or dominant style in my city, and again, I seem to quietly push against it. I stopped dyeing my hair several years ago because I was tired of the maintenance, but also because I decided I’m fine with looking my age. It’s normal and beautiful to have grey hair in your 30s (or in your 20s, or 40s, etc.), and I have learned to love mine. I’ve adopted a basic uniform of jeans, a blouse or shirt that I find interesting, and a comfortable pair of shoes. In the winter, I add a cardigan for warmth, and in the hot months, I switch things up with skirts and simple dresses.
When I read The New Garconne recently, I was struck by the simple style of the women profiled, and so many mentioned two things I identify with: always wearing a uniform and maintaining a sense of individual style. When I made the leap into ethical fashion, I left behind a lot of my favorite trends from previous years, and I’ve embraced simple cuts and colors. Shopping ethically means giving up a lot of unnecessary details and embellishments, and I’ve truly learned to see the beauty in a simple stitch or quiet pleat. I know that my clothing is handmade by someone who cares about their work because they are safe and fairly paid, and I can honor their skill and talent by wearing these pieces for as long as possible. Their creations cover my body in the most personal way, and it is only right that I value their contributions for what they truly are.
That doesn’t seem political when you think about it, but I guess it is.