Not Your Typical Slasher Movie: A Double Feature Starring Wal-Mart and H&M


By now, many of you have read with disgust (I hope) the article in The New York Times about the violence inflicted upon unsold articles of clothing, shoes, etc.  The evidence was found by a New Yorker who had the intuition to open suspicious-looking trash bags outside of H&M and Wal-Mart.  While spokespeople for these retail giants have promised that the practice will cease, I hope that the dialogue about the atrocity will continue. This blogger, for one, doesn’t intend to remain button-lipped about it.  As much as I love that Devo song, I don’t say zip it.

“Atrocity,” a strong word?  I think not.  Both Wal-Mart and H&M have been caught with their pants down.  Far from what novelist Erica Jong, in Fear of Flying, coined “the zipless fuck,” but an unexpected fuck nonetheless.  A big “fuck you!” to society, to humanity.  Yes, indeed, this business of slashing unsold clothing is like one, big slasher-fuck movie, the kind that clean-shaven businessmen ducked into grimy theaters to watch in mid-Manhattan’s former red-light district instead of catching the 5:15 to predictable suburban ennui.

So I’ll splatter this blog page with the word atrocity, and though I will not fuck you (sorry), I do hope to penetrate your mind.  It’s an atrocity to slash clothing and shoes when we are living in these ever-downtrodden times.  Any one of us can become homeless in a flash if:  a blaze wipes out your house, your apartment complex or your entire block; if the landlord pulls the rug from beneath you in that cherished rent-stabilized apartment when he announces that the building is going condo; or if the company that graciously allows you to live paycheck to paycheck gives your dignity a boost by firing you immediately after the pretty tree in Rockefeller Center has been lighted.

Further, it’s an atrocity to commit fabricide (yeah, I fabricated that word; get used to it) when humanity shouts from the U.S. to Asia, Latin America and Africa to stop severely underpaying garment workers who produce clothing and footwear that are later sold at shockingly inflated prices in highly industrialized nations.

It’s a hypocritical atrocity to slash clothes and shoes and dump them in trash bags premeditatively and perfunctorily but then cry bloody murder when a distraught and terrified mother leaves her newborn infant bawling in a trash bag instead of abandoning the baby on the doorstep of a firehouse or hospital.  I ponder, as I write this, whether there were any infant-sized garments among the battered clothing found in those bags outside Wal-Mart and H&M in Manhattan.

You’d better believe that, going forward, anyone with a conscience will be watching the behavior of these retail megastores — and other major clothing chains.  Call it active compliance on the part of Citizens X.  Corporations are big on good stewardship and proper governance, right?

What I hope, too, is that all of the New Yorkers who have sewing and tailoring skills, shoe repair experience, etc., and who are reading this blog — or who read the original article in The New York Times this week — will reach out to the city’s poor.  How?  By rescuing all or what remains of those violated and discarded clothes and shoes, not just those discovered last month but any found in a similar manner in the future.  After all, we know that this barbarian practice will happen again.  Call it human nature.

When our humanity has corroded to the extent of slashing the instep portion of a child-sized pair of Mary Jane shoes, while there are individuals and families struggling to survive in crime- and disease-ridden shelters — and streets — that shows we have hit a new low … again.  I already take action in my own life.  For example, I donate well-preserved (not moth-eaten, or slack-threaded) clothing, including winter coats, hats, scarves, gloves, bags of all sizes, shoes and boots.  And I buy used clothing just as often as I buy new.   Although, it’ll be a while before I’ll be able to stomach walking into an H&M or a Wal-Mart.  I’d sooner watch a violent, hard-core porn movie, albeit right at home on DVD or Blue-ray.

Positive change often begins with compassion, anger and the need and desire for human connection.   If you don’t believe me, think of the global response to the Michael Jackson-Lionel Richie anthem “We Are the World” and to MJ’s “Man in the Mirror” as well as the metaphysical brilliance of Prince’s “1999” and “Sign O’ the Times.”

I’ll vent no more on this issue … for now.  However, I really want to hear from you.  Please, don’t be shy on this troubling issue.  Speak your mind.  Unload your acrimonious seeds of thought if you want.  (OK, I admit the preceding sentence was meant to give my male readers an instant erection.  Hey, I never claimed to be a feminist just because I quoted Erica Jong in this blog and from time to time will name-drop Simone de Beauvoir in cafe conversations.)  In addition to taking some kind of action in your own lives, reach into your ethical core and share your comments in this space.  After you have your say here, I hope you will do so in other spaces — whether they are in others’ blogs, your own, or with a friend across a rickety table in your favorite coffeehouse.

Copyright © 2010 By Chantale Reve


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