Various scholars have analyzed celebreties’ involvement in ‘fair trade’ (Goodman or Richey & Ponte). Has anyone looked at how celebreties contribute to “unfair trade”? Let’s do it. Recently, Penelope Cruz (PC) pops up all over Zurich again on ads for the Swiss company Charles Voegele (CV).
Charles Voegele (626 Million CHF turnover & 62 Mill losses in the first half year 2011) sells rather cheap, low quality clothing for relatively low prices (but the PC campaign is for higher segment clothes). The Swiss NGO Declaration of Berne and the Asian Floor Wage Campaign recently criticized CV for not committing to pay living wages (to my information CV also only employs less than one person to improve working conditions, which is too little to really change things):
In this situation, does Penelope Cruz contribute to poor working conditions (i.e. unfair trade)?
According to the dead American political philosopher, Iris Young, poor working conditions are the mediated result of complex structures, into which different actors are embedded and to which they all contribute. She claims that no one is singularly responsible for poor working conditions (no company, no supplier, no consumer and also not PC), but all share a forward-looking responsibility to better working conditions. She suggests that power, privilege, interest and collective ability define what responsibility single actors share to make the things better and argues that we should discharge our responsibility through collective action.
In the Cruz case, the actor does not need to collectively engage, it simply seems sufficient, if she does not support a company that seems to support unfair practices: She certainly does not need the few millions she earns with the ads; she has the power and privilege to say no to advertise for a company that does not support high wages (she could select a fair trade company). She might not have the collective abillity to change the situation, but she can choose not to contribute (last year her whole family travelled to Switzerland and was the star at a CV event and not she is an ‘ambassardor’ and certainly leads women to buying at CV). I would thus argue that Cruz has the shared responsibility not to advertise for a company that is criticized for doing little to prevent poor working conditions. Simply: PC is not PC.
Please not that this is nothing personal against PC – on the contrary, I Almodovar’s movies in which she plays belong to my favourite ones.