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Chocolate & Feminism

February 8, 2010

Fair trade symbol

Hesitant to support the stereotype of women’s fanatical, insatiable obsession with chocolate, I am nonetheless posting this because we have incredible power as consumers to promote sustainable economic growth for women (men and children) who need it. As V-Day nears, many of us might be contemplating showing our love through chocolate. Even if you don’t buy into the holiday or Eve’s movement, chocolate is a pretty surefire way to show someone you care.

The next time you pick up some chocolate, PLEASE look for the fair trade symbol above. (I’m begging, people.) What does it mean if something is certified Fair Trade? According to TransFair USA (the United States’ Fair Trade division), it

“guarantees consumers that strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of an agricultural product”

That sounds kind of vague. The most concrete benefits of Fair Trade products are:

1) A living wage– Those who farm the cocoa and other ingredients in the chocolate make enough money to live sustainably instead of drowning in a system that perpetuates poverty for generations by underpaying laborers.

2) Fair labor practices– No child or slave labor is used in the production of fair trade chocolate. Workers are free to organize and make demands of employers such as sick leave, breaks in the work day, appropriate clothing and tools for the work, etc. Workers also play a role in the development of their trade by deciding democratically how to invest revenue. (They claim “the most stringent labor standards available internationally” and I haven’t found any evidence to refute that claim.)

3) Environmental sustainability– Fair Trade products promote economic sustainability over the use of agrochemicals and GMOs both in the interest of the planet and workers’ health.

What does this have to do with feminism? I think we can all agree that economic empowerment is a crucial part of feminism. I have written before about the connection between feminism and food choices. We should stand in solidarity with others who are disfranchised, in this case underpaid laborers. Finally, environmental sustainability is good for everyone!

So what are you waiting for?? You can find fair trade products online here, and most websites have links to find stores in your area where the products are sold. In the US, Fair Trade Certified coffee, tea and herbs, fresh fruit, flowers, sugar, rice, and vanilla are also available.

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