In Selvedge, Issue 74, Bias
What do these photos have in common?
The founder of Selvedge, Polly Leonard, does not see sentient beings, but rather “performance fibres”: Alpaca, Vicuna, Cashmere, and Goose Down.
She goes on to classify:
“[Alpaca, Vicuna, Cashmere, and Goose Down] are associated with luxury and indulgence. I would, however, argue that they are not luxury but a practical necessity“.
As Stibbe points out in his thought-provoking book Ecolinguistics, this narrative is perpetuating a story we live by, namely one where we do not see the animal as more than a resource for humans. The centrality of human need and dominance over non-human animals is creating a reality in which animals have no social agency and are exploited for their coats, meat, skin, milk, honey and habitat.
The semantics of the sourcing is also problematic, for example:
Denis Colomb cashmere from Nepal – The animal is erased, the produce is premodified by a person’s name and the source is not the animal, but a country, which is also secondary featuring as a circumstance.
The writer’s idea of what is natural:
“Predominantly enjoyed in their [the ‘fabrics’] natural state…” – their natural state is on the animal!
In the 1880s silk and cotton was milled by children and slaves. Would we say that it was an absolute necessity to exploit those groups?
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