Sunday, 15 April 2007

Ethical Cheek Special

Observer Woman has at last seen the wickedness of its own existence. After a dozen issues persuading us to find personal fulfilment and lifelong happiness in the pursuit of hilariously overpriced tat, wrought from the malnourished, bleeding fingertips of child slaves, borne across the planet on a cloud of genocidal fumes belched from the engines of freight airliners, peddled on malnourished bulimic frames in an orgy of noxious chemical glitter - suddenly everything has changed.

The future is ethical. The future is green. And to prove it, we'll go shopping.

We need to ask how this damascene conversion came to pass. Were the editorial staff suddenly overcome by a wave of self-loathing, realise the vacuous futility of their working life and commit themselves to becoming a force for good? Did they organise a work night out to An Inconvenient Truth? Did the Observer's editor-in-chief call them into a meeting and threaten to kick seven shades of mascara out of them if they ever produced an issue like the last one?

Of course not. Observer Woman have suddenly decided that environmental, social and political consciousness is fashionable because it says so in Vogue.

Really. We're not making this up. It's not online, so you'll have to either pick up a copy or take us on trust but the exact quote is:

It's official - fashion can be ethical. The Vogue girls say so. a photo-caption to the accompanying image of some Vogue valkyries wearing about seven grand's worth of clothes and enough chemicals on their face to make Union Carbide feel good about themselves.

This begs a couple of questions. First, what will happen next month, when Vogue (as is their wont) declare that caring about global warming is just so common, and that nylon neon hipsters with sealskin trim are the must have item for May?

Secondly, why don't the entire OWM staff just send their CVs around the publishing houses and be done with it? All this crawling to Grazia and Vogue is getting rather sickening. We eagerly await next month's feature on why Marie Claire's editors should be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, almost as much as we look forward to the day when we see an ex-OWM hackette popping up in the Reader's Page of Take A Break.

But we digress. What thunderflashes of insight does the OWM Ethical Special offer us? How are we going to save the planet? We're going to buy stuff. Lots of stuff. Lovely, yummy expensive stuff. Whether it's a book (£14.99) telling us how to recycle our clothes, or a 'conflict free' diamond ring for £5,330 it doesn't matter, just buy, buy, buy.

Don't get us wrong, we're not on some ultra-deep green soapbox. If you're going to produce a magazine full of laxatives for the purse then we'd rather you plugged stuff that was fairtrade, green, organic, cruelty free and spun out of fairy dust. We are pleased you are running an ethical issue. But it would be nice if we thought, just for one short second, that you actually meant any of it. That you would actually stick with it.

You are wearing your ethical issues as a fashion statement - and you don't even pretend to disguise the fact. Your contribution to our understanding of climate change and the exploitative vagaries of capitalism is a comedy quiz. If you answered mostly A - Good God you actually believe this ethical stuff don't you? What are you doing reading our magazine? Shouldn't you be off sniffing camels or something? If you answered mostly B - Are you actually doing this quiz? Why? If you answered mostly C - Look, don't worry, we don't actually mean this, we're just doing it for a giggle. We'll be back to our usual tricks next month, and we'll include a Matalan special just for you.

Now there are some people who might be reading this blog and saying 'oh come on, don't be so hard on them, they're doing their best.' If you are, then we refer you to our next exhibit: Ethical Pin-Ups. A 'collectors wall chart' to keep the Guardian readers happy. The list of 15 includes the predictable (Al Gore, Stella McCartney); not one but two members of Britain's most gluttenous, energy-intensive, polluting, holiday-homed household; one of Britain's most fervent climate change deniers; a topless model (dolly said we had to link it) who makes love by candlelight; A couple of politicos including David Milliband. ("with those eyes he could ask us to burn our legs for energy and we'd strike the match." Oh really? ) And after they ran out of space on the back of the envelope in the Groucho, they had to fill in the page with Naomi Campbell and Simon Cowell. Not because that pair have any ethical credentials, only because they came as part of the job lot from the photo agency. At the risk of repeating ourselves, really - we're not making this up.

If there is one sentence that encapsulates all the ways in which OWM have got the wrong end of the ethical stick, it is from a photo caption describing the Anya Hindmarch not-plastic bag, limited numbers of which will go on sale in a supermarket next month for a fiver. And the best news is still to come:

Don't tell, but we hear that when they go on sale overseas they'll come in different colours... get the set and save the planet.

NO NO NO NO NO, you braindead bubbleheaded bints. Buying one affordable fairtrade, sustainably-sourced, re-usable shopping bag is an admirable thing to do. Buying six is FUCKING INSANE. Even for the amount of shopping you simpering stuntwits appear to do.

And people wonder why we hate you.


The politics of ethical consumerism are important. We did momentarily consider discussing the details of OWM's ethical stance. We could have ranted about corporate greenwash. We could have brought your attention to the true ethical credentials of some of the brands and individuals featured. We could have dissected the 'gorgeous face of modern environmentalism' represented by the likes of Global Cool (ahem, cough) and discussed the true worth of carbon off-setting schemes that provide the ethical solution to unsustainable lifestyles. But if we were going to do that, we'd have had to stay sober and find lots of serious scientific reports on really boring websites. Then we would have had an invasion of tinfoil-hatted comments box bandits arguing for 300 posts about whether or not George Monbiot is a cunt. And quite frankly we couldn't be bothered so we had another beer and spouted stuff off the top of our heads as usual. Oh shit, we have turned into Kathryn Flett.

Since we're too lazy and stupid to go into the details, we would genuinely appreciate it if any clever people out there could fill in the science bits. Because we're worth it. We'd love to hear your thoughts.


minxy said...

At least the magazine is recyclable.

Why not just say "DON'T buy the £300 fair trade frock. You don't need it, and certainly can't afford it'?

And if Vogue said 'go and jump off a 30 storey building', would OWM do it? Let's hope so.

Spitting Mad said...

And if Vogue said 'go and jump off a 30 storey building', would OWM do it? Let's hope so.

that's what we're pinning all our hopes on too.

sian and crooked rib said...

hey girls!
don't worry, you don't have to think about issues!
we make it easy!
all you hve to do is buy stuff!
that way you can't complain, boycott, fight, revolt, or have any time to think about anythng other than all the stuff you can buy!
isn't it great!
who needs to have thoughts when you can have a credit card!
stoopit stoopit magazine. i can't believe that at one point i thought they might be worhtwhile. such a squandered opportunity.

Danny said...

Heh. Love it.

For people who do want to check out a more serious (but very readable) critique of the whole "let's buy more crap to save the planet!" thing, the New Internationalist magazine did some great stuff on it recently - have a look at


Anonymous said...

Without conversations!

Buy Cialis said...

I think that the women are so difficult to understand, I think that of them like an orgy of noxious chemical glitter but the want to be more demure and feign other things!!!!