We the writers for Irregular Times sell political shirts for three reasons:
1. To pay for the hosting and logistical costs associated with keeping Irregular Times up and running.
2. To help spread messages that we believe in.
3. To help change the world just a little bit.
#3 may seem odd to you; how does selling a shirt change the world, even just a little bit? Beyond the messages we place on the shirts themselves, we’re trying to help in a couple of ways. We’re trying to support an alternative to third-world sweatshop-based shirt production. How do you think those t-shirts made in Cambodia and sent all the way across the Pacific Ocean to your mall can be sold for just $12.99, when comparable shirts made in the United States cost $18.99? The answer is that the shirt producers in Cambodia are dancing to the tune set by their unethical American investors, paying workers meager wages in unsafe factories that are environmentally unregulated. Apparel production in the United States is regulated, audited, pays better wages and treats its workers better.
In the midst of the suffering, pollution and debt slavery that sweatshop production engenders, it accomplishes one thing: diverting money to impoverished nations. Of course, most of that money goes to enrich corrupt factory owners, but that’s better than nothing, right? What a weak argument that is. There must be a way to reward more humane apparel production while supporting third world development. Irregular Times’ approach to this is to continue to working with sweat-free American producers but to take a dollar out of the profits of every shirt we sell and send it to an overseas development charity that benefits the poor and downtrodden, not exploitative cronies.
As we continue to sell liberal t-shirts, the time’s come around again to make that donation for overseas development. We’re avoiding Kiva, which charges usurious rates in ultimately destructive microloans. Instead, we’ve sent a donation to Village Enterprise, a non-profit organization working in East Africa. Village Enterprise finds people who are severely impoverished, who are struggling to feed themselves and their children, and gives them money outright — not willy-nilly, but to get them on their feet and start a sustainable local business. Along with the grant comes the training needed to run a business well and manage money. Thanks to Village Enterprise’s approach, 75% of the startup businesses are still in operation after 4 years and 93% of those businesses actually have accumulated savings. More importantly, 90% of the new business owners have been able to send their children to school, and 75% of their families have increased food security.
Just as we write to spread political information and ideas, we want the money we bring in from selling t-shirts to make a difference politically — so we have committed to donating another for every shirt we sell to an American political group doing work that we believe in. This past month, when Rush Limbaugh calls a woman a “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying on Capitol Hill regarding contraceptive health care policy, we wanted to do more that offer this set of Sluts Vote t-shirts as a counterpoint. This month’s donation goes to Planned Parenthood, an organization that not only provides low-cost access to contraception, S.T.D. treatment and abortions for women, but also advocates for a vision of America in which it’s not a crime to exercise these options.