Who Wears The Pants?

“We’re looking to kill a deer in the name of manliness”.

That’s what the host and subject of the documentary film “An Emasculating Truth” (presented by Dockers) says in the trailer. The trailer consists of very “manly” killing-things-drinking-womanizing-weight-lifting-bull-riding-gun-shooting-circumcising stuff that all lead to a Dockers-wearing dude trying to find out why men are becoming such sissies? Gosh, can’t we get back to being rugged, chiseled, animal-killing, stoic cowboys? Or can’t we at least embrace being lazy, apathetic, sloppy, couch-potato assholes who ignore our kids and expect the woman to cook and clean? I mean, if we’re gonna’ embrace gender stereotypes, why not all of them? When did becoming a man have to have so much… hair product in it?

“Women will succeed. They will eliminate men probably in a thousand years. There’ll be like a few men and like a lotta’ lesbians”.

Masculinity is in danger! Testosterone is down, 17% in the last 14 years! Men are becoming superficial, vain, feminized, gay, metrosexual, and ruled by the ladies they should otherwise be smacking around! Let’s blame it on Tofu! Or how about your female boss. That bitch. We’ve gotta organize and take this society and turn it into a patriarchy! oh, wait…

While Dockers doesn’t actually advocate violence toward women in this film, (just animals – who really aren’t deserving of consideration anyway, you sissy) they are capitalizing on a very trendy idea. A percieved loss of male identity within a culture that is already male-dominated seems to be satirical. But what if there is some truth behind this joke? Being the one who “wears the pants” basically means not letting a woman influence your decisions. Jamie Doak over at BUST Magazine does an excellent job of summarizing the sexism-as-satire vs actual sexism that can be found in this new Dockers Campaign. I guess it might be humorous if the Levi-Strauss company didn’t have such a recent and horrible history of abusing female workers:

Late in 1991 a Levi’s contractor in the US Pacific territory of Saipan was accused of keeping imported Chinese women in virtual slavery, confiscating their passports and forcing them to work 84-hour weeks at sub-minimum wages. A contractor in Indonesia who had been given a clean bill of health by a Levi’s inspector was found to be strip-searching female workers to determine whether they were menstruating as they claimed and thus were entitled to a day off with pay in accordance with Muslim law. Employees of a former Levi’s contractor in Mexico said that at least ten children aged under 14 worked at the plant; workers were laid off for a few days if they went to the toilet ‘too often’, and rain-water poured through the roof, collecting in puddles and causing electric shocks. source

May favorite part about Dockers’ Facebook page is the poll:

“Right or wrong taking a stand”? Total bullshit. Wearing toxic conventional cotton pants made by underpaid, mostly female workers is not taking a stand. It’s falling in line. Did you know that between 1981 and 1998 the Levi Strauss company, who owns Dockers, closed 69 plants and put 17,795 people out of work in the United States, including 1,000 white-collar jobs? They moved all their labor overseas and into Mexico where they can pay people less and factories continue to expectantly violate human rights. Even more factories have been moved overseas and into Mexico since then.

While Levi’s now claims to enforce strict labor standards at its factories, its recent history of mostly-female worker exploitation and its even more recent business (late 2007) with Maquiladoras that continue to violate workers’ rights in Mexico tells a different story. As recently as August of 2009, a factory in Lesotho making Levi’s was caught dumping needles, razors and harmful chemicals at two municipal dumps that attract young children who search for pieces of clothing to sell. It’s not a desirable thing have leaked into the mainstream media, but the point is that when you have factories all over the developing world, its difficult and costly to maintain strict environmental and labor standards. Levi’s has made huge improvements – including beginning to purchase organic cotton and offer recycled denim, but WRAP certification might be a smart next step.

So what does it really mean to be a man who wears Dockers?  Is this campaign a joke? You tell us.

Written by joshuakatcher

Joshua Katcher is an adjunct professor of fashion at Parsons The New School. His research focuses on sustainability and ethics in fashion production. He started The Discerning Brute in 2008 as a resource for men who want to make intelligent decisions concerning their lifestyles. With a focus on “fashion, food & etiquette for the ethically handsome man”, The Discerning Brute produces expert, essential content and boldly takes a stand. Brave GentleMan, the integrated, eCommerce brother-site of The Discerning Brute was launched in 2011 and features “principled attire” and “smart supplies” handpicked for informed indulgence.
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  • http://www.saipanfactorygirl.com Walt F.J. Goodridge

    Just to provide some real world grounding for the sweatshop aspect of your post, I’d like to share a review of a book entitled Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan which appears on Amazon.com:

    [begin]
    “What an eye-opener to the garment industry! The author willingly endured so many things that we snobby Americans workers would NEVER tolerate (but we’ll wear the clothes created in that environment). A fascinating peek into the industry. The author shows the garment industry from a very different perspective– from the eyes of a woman seeking to leave her homeland to make her fortune. A view from the very bottom of the world’s economic food chain. It is a sad but real story told in a simple but beautiful manner. I read it in one afternoon/evening because I couldn’t put it down. Everyone who wears clothes, or has ever heard of Saipan should read this book.”–Amazon
    [end]

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am the “as told to” co-author of this book which is now gaining interest from labor organizations and even Public Radio International’s “The World” program. I’m proud to have been a channel for helping this young lady get her story told, and invite any who want further reason and justification for following your ethical living tips to live a more conscience-driven life to check it out. (PRI interview and others at http://www.saipanfactorygirl.com; Garment factory era info at http://www.saipanfactoryfacts.org)

  • http://chinarose.wordpress.com china

    pcbs & GMOs and other dangerous pollutants reduce testosterone. A more cruel and fascistic world based on aggression and cruelty is NOT the answer.