It’s days like today, when it’s 90 degrees out and almost that in my studio, that I get flashes of those B&W photos of rows of immigrant women hunched over sewing machines in factories with big windows. My first thoughts always go to the Triangle Shirt Factory Fire, because it’s through that story that I first became aware of the term Sweatshop and the horrors it brings. Then my mind goes to a French movie I saw years ago (I’ll won’t even try to remember the name of it) I only remember one scene, where the heroine who is working in a sewing factory is forced to have sex with her boss in order to keep her job. The images in my head move quickly to the color photos of the workers killed in the recent factory collapse in Bangladesh. These same images stream through my mind when I’m sewing and my back starts to hurt.
Sweatshop… I am grateful. It could be me in another time, in another country, or in this country born to different parents. Here in my studio, when my back hurts, I take a break, or do something else, or I put on some Krishna Das and do some Yoga, or I stop working all together. And when the open windows and fan and big shade Maples over my studio no longer keep my studio cool enough, I get the air conditioner out of the attic and put it in my window.
I used to be stoic, I used to think there was something noble about suffering, I was against air conditioners like I was against computers. As if my suffering could help someone else. But now, I’m grateful. Grateful to have these comforts available to me. I’m grateful for my air conditioner.