Factory Girl Essay Example
Factory Girl Essay Example

Factory Girl Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1531 words)
  • Published: October 14, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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Let's discuss the individuals responsible for creating our everyday items, such as homes, wallets, computers, and cell phones. This conversation often evokes a sense of guilt. Consider the young girl who earns less than a dollar per hour while sewing your running shoes on a farm. We must recognize the low production costs, skilled workforce, and flexible manufacturing system that enable rapid responses to market demands. However, by solely focusing on ourselves and our possessions, we have rendered those on the other side invisible. We treat them as insignificant and replaceable, much like the components of a mobile phone. It is crucial to remember that Chinese workers do not work in factories due to our insatiable desire for iPods; they choose to leave their homes in pursuit of job opportunities, personal growth, and exploration of the world. Unfortunately, thes


e workers' voices are often disregarded in ongoing discussions about globalization. Allow me to provide some examples: Bao Yongxiu faces the dilemma of following her mother's advice to marry or pursuing personal development before settling down with an ordinary worker; Chen Ying explains how her hard work and dedication have brought significant changes into her life that others struggle to comprehend; Wu Chunming acknowledges that even immense wealth would not bring him true satisfaction.
Xiao Jin, a young woman in China, emphasizes the importance of not just earning money but also dedicating time to studying English. She believes that proficiency in additional languages is necessary as their clients may not only be Chinese in the future. During my two-year stay in Dongguan, a city in southern China, I acquainted myself with assembly line workers like Xiao Jin. Our

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discussions covered various subjects such as earnings and their preferences for potential spouses. They also debated whether switching factories was a viable option or if they should remain where they were employed.

Living conditions were another topic that frequently arose during our conversations. These conditions resembled prison-like environments, with ten or fifteen workers sharing one room and fifty individuals sharing a single bathroom. Their lives revolved around the factory's schedule, and everyone they knew faced similar circumstances, albeit slightly better than those experienced in rural areas. Interestingly, the workers rarely mentioned the products they manufactured and struggled when trying to explain their tasks.

When I asked Lu Qingmin about her role on the factory floor - someone I had grown close to - she responded with what sounded like "qiu xi" in Chinese language. It wasn't until later that I realized she was referring to "QC," an abbreviation for quality control.She was unable to fully explain her responsibilities, only mimicking a perplexing acronym in an unfamiliar language. Karl Marx saw this as a tragic outcome of capitalism - workers being disconnected from the results of their labor. In an industrial factory, workers lack control, enjoyment, and genuine satisfaction or understanding in their own work, unlike traditional office settings. However, Marx's theory was flawed and developed while he sat in the reading room of the British Museum. Simply spending time producing something does not make one become that thing. What truly matters is how individuals utilize the money they earn, what they learn in that place, and how it transforms them. The focus should never be solely on the products made by factories since workers care little about

who purchases their merchandise. On the contrary, news coverage of Chinese factories emphasizes the relationship between workers and the products they create. Many articles question how long a worker would need to work to afford what they are making. For instance, an entry-level assembly line worker at an iPhone factory in China would have to work for two and a half months before earning enough money to buy an iPhone. But is this calculation truly significant? In my recent article for The New Yorker magazine on this topic, I discuss it but cannot afford to advertise within its pages. However, does it really matter?I have no interest in seeing an advertisement in The New Yorker, and neither do most of the workers I meet. Our priorities and concerns differ greatly from each other. I am questioning how much longer I should continue working in this factory and how much money I can save from this experience. Additionally, I am considering the amount of savings needed for purchasing a flat or a car, getting married, or providing for my child's education.

During my time here, I have noticed that the workers have a peculiarly distant relationship with the products they create through their labor. Around one year after meeting Lu Qingmin (also known as Min), she invited me to visit her family village for the Chinese New Year. On our train journey back home, Min gave me a gift - an alteration bag from Coach with brown leather trim. Even though most items for sale in Dongguan are counterfeit, I thanked her assuming it was also fake. However, when we arrived at her home, Min presented her

mother with another gift - a pink pocketbook from Dooney & Bourke. A few nights later, Min's sister proudly showed off a maroon shoulder bag from LeSportsac. It slowly became clear to me that these pocketbooks were actually made in their factory and all of them were genuine products.
Min's sister excitedly informed their parents about the exorbitant prices of Coach bags in America. She mentioned that one bag sells for $320 and there is a new line priced at $6,000. Unsure if it is 6,000 kwai or US dollars, she emphasized that it was still a hefty amount. Min's sister's boyfriend joined in skeptically stating that it doesn't seem worth that much. When Min's sister discussed this with him, she remarked about his lack of understanding compared to others. In Min's world, Coach bags held a peculiar value as they were not completely worthless but were far from their actual worth due to the ignorance of those around them. There have been instances where friends brought Coach purses as gifts or when Min's younger sister gifted two Coach Signature purses herself. While examining one purse, an English card revealed the history and appeal behind Coach purses - inspired by an all-American baseball glove and becoming popular among women as a new American classic. This complex relationship between Min and her sisters with the products they create leaves me pondering what Karl Marx would think of it all.Despite our enduring tendency to view workers as faceless masses and assume we understand their thoughts, the perspective of Min on the world still resonates. The first time I crossed paths with Min, her story captivated me. At just

18 years old, she abandoned her position at an electronics mill assembly line. Over the course of two years, I witnessed her transition through five different jobs before ultimately settling into a well-paying role within the purchasing department of a hardware mill.

Later on, Min married another migrant worker and accompanied him to his village. Together, they had two daughters and managed to accumulate enough funds for Min to purchase a used Buick for herself and an apartment for her parents. However, Min eventually made the decision to temporarily return alone to Dongguan in order to work in a construction crane mill, leaving behind her husband and children.

In a recent exchange via email with me, she emphasized the significance of having aspirations while young so that one can reflect upon their life later in old age and perceive it as meaningful. In China alone, there are roughly 150 million workers like Min who have departed from their villages in search of employment within factories, hotels, restaurants, and construction sites located in major cities. Among this massive migration are also millions of women who make substantial contributions.

This mass exodus is hailed as the largest in history and is propelled by globalization's impact stretching from Chinese farming villages all the way into our daily lives through products such as iPhones, Nike shoes, and Coach handbags.The transformative process has not only impacted millions of people's work, but also their marriages, lifestyles, and perspectives on the future. It is clear that very few would choose to go back to how things were before this significant shift occurred. Initially, I had concerns about spending extended periods of time with workers like

Min when I traveled to Dongguan. I worried that they wouldn't have anything interesting to share or experience anything remarkable. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that these young women were intelligent, enjoyable, considerate, and generous individuals. They selflessly shared their lives with me and taught me valuable lessons about factories, China, and navigating the world. The Coach bag given to me by Min serves as a constant reminder of the connections I formed with these young women whom I wrote about - connections that go beyond financial factors and are deeply personal in nature. These connections are not measured by money but by cherished memories. Additionally, this bag symbolizes that one's preconceived ideas or notions while confined to an office or library may not necessarily align with reality when one embarks on firsthand exploration of the world.

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