Feeling Uncomfortable With The Ethical Blogger Label

January 16, 2017

Blogger Tartan Brunette discusses why shes uncomfortable with the ethical blogger labelOver the last year, I have unintentionally become an ethical fashion blogger. If you look back at my posts from this time last year. It was all about my capsule wardrobe and me sharing advice on how to create one and live with one. I was comfortable with this. I had a capsule wardrobe and knew what I was talking about.

In the summer, a few high-profile organisations named me as a top sustainable fashion blogger. As a result, I starting talking more and more about ethical issues. Because I’d won these awards I felt I needed to live up to the title and talk more about ethical issues. This site had become an ethical fashion blog without me even realising it.

It wasn’t until recently when someone described my blog as an ethical fashion blog that I clicked. Somehow, I’d become an ethical blogger. And to be honest I wasn’t happy with the label. I write a lot about ethical fashion. It even has its own separate category. So, it’s to be expected that people will think of this website as an ethical fashion blog. So why is it that I don’t want to be referred to as an ethical blogger?

I’ve been thinking about this recently whilst planning for the new year ahead. I was brainstorming the type of content I wanted to create and was avoiding the topic of ethical fashion. I had lots of ideas around capsule and minimal wardrobes, slow living, lifestyle and being more sustainable. But I didn’t once write the word ethical in my notes. I was thinking about ethical issues but for some reason avoiding the word itself.

Is ethical now a dirty word?

The word ethical unfortunately now has negative connotations. When someone describes something or themselves as ethical it gives this impression of being perfect and better than everything else. You come across a lot of holier than thou attitudes around ethical issues. People myself included just don’t like this. No one wants to feel they aren’t good enough or that their lifestyle is causing harm. Unfortunately, this is the message people hear when discussing ethical issues.

I understand that the unpleasant stories need to be told to have an impact. It’s important that people know the truth but sometimes the ethical community gets it very wrong. You just have to look on Twitter to see people criticises others because they eat meat or use products which aren’t cruelty-free. I don’t feel comfortable associating myself with these messages. As we all know attacking someone because their lifestyle doesn’t fit your ethics often does more harm than good.

I do worry that I’ve inadvertently become part of this string of negative messages. I’ve read back through some of my posts on ethical fashion and although I stand by what I said. My tone was very negative and sometimes it did come across like I was blaming my readers. Obviously, the issues lie within the fashion industry and not consumers who are all just trying to get the best value for their money. It was never my intention to make anyone feel guilty or uncomfortable with the ethical pieces I wrote. My aim was to share what I’ve learnt and to educate people. I apologise if I made any of you feel uncomfortable or guilty about your choices. After all, we all make ethical choices every day and if you’re happy with your decisions then others shouldn’t attack you for them.

Putting yourself on a pedestal

Another issue I have around the word ethical it is implying you are better than others. By identifying as an ethical blogger, you are unconsciously putting yourself on a pedestal. There’s this idea that ethical bloggers are perfect people who always make the right choice and lead sustainable lives.

I never once implied that I was 100% ethical but because I speak about ethical fashion people jump on all aspects of my life. By speaking about an ethical issue, I opened myself up to a lot more criticism. I’ve had people criticise me because I’m not vegan or all my beauty products aren’t cruelty-free or I bought something from a high-street store.  As I already said the ethical fashion posts came about unintentionally. It was never my intention to put myself on any kind of pedestal as a perfect human. I was beginning to feel like a fraud. Being referred to as an ethical blogger was making me feel uncomfortable and unauthentic. It was a label I didn’t want and don’t feel I deserve. My life isn’t 100% ethical and I don’t think it ever will be. Yes, I’m making steps in the right direction but I have a long way to go. I’m only human like everyone else.

Where next?

My ethical journey started with my capsule wardrobe and buying less and I want to go back to that. I want to focus on choosing quality over quantity and share more of the real me again. This doesn’t mean I no longer care about ethical issues or that I won’t discuss them on here anymore. I just want to do it from a more positive place and if that means discarding the ethical blogger label then so be it.

Is ethical now a dirty word? Read why blogger Tartan Brunette feels uncomfortable with the ethical blogger label despite blogging about ethical issues


19 responses to “Feeling Uncomfortable With The Ethical Blogger Label”

  1. Izabel says:

    Good thoughts, especially on the impact of using the term ‘ethical’. I know just from discussions with friends and their friends how easy it is to jump from advocating fair trade/ahem-ethical products to being a total killjoy. One minute you’re saying, “Ooooh, look at my gorgeous peace silk shawl, no poor little silkworms die to make peace silk, you know. And it was embroidered by widows in a women-run cooperative in India that helps fund an orphanage…” and the next they’re all staring guiltily in their coffee feeling wretched about where their clothes came from and you know won’t you get invited back to the next kaffeeklatsch because they’ll want talk about what a prig you are 🙁 *sigh* On the other hand, you have never, ever come across as being preachy and you are a very good resource so I’m glad you’re not going to stop talking about ‘ethical’ products altogether.

    • Jen says:

      Like you’re saying there is a fine line between advocating for ethical fashion and being a killjoy. I worry that ‘ethical’ is becoming one of those terms that makes people switch off because it makes them feel uncomfortable or guilty. And that’s not how you promote a cause.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Don’t be ashamed of the ethical label. It only means you are thoughtful towards other human beings and our planet. Nobody is 100% perfect in this, but I think your blog has been really inspirational this past year. Your posts regularly remind me not to fall into the trap of disposable fashion, and I can honestly say the few purchases I have bought recently are items I really love, even more because they are ethical.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I truly believe in the slow fashion movement and like you love my more ethical purchases. I do still want to share this approach but feel the label implies I’m something I’m not

  3. Leah Wise says:

    Thanks for being honest about this perspective. I totally agree with you that being associated with some sort of ethical movement does open one up for more criticism, and that’s not really fair, considering we’re all just trying to be good humans.

    I do think that, for me, being associate with “ethical” blogging is important for my own sense of accountability. I don’t shy away from things that can be perceived as negative because I think that education is empowering. But I try to be as forthright as possible that I am not perfect, that living according to a values system (no matter what it is) is hard, and that the right answer is not to condemn. I try to hold accountable those who have claimed to be ethical lifestyle experts, but I don’t put pressure on people who are just learning.

    • Jen says:

      I definitely fit into the still learning category and find the criticism difficult especially as I’m trying to make positive steps. As I continue to learn and make changes I may come back around to seeing myself as an ‘ethical’ blogger and being comfortable with the label. As you say it can help with accountability

  4. Eleanor says:

    I really emphasise with this post Jen. As a blogger who is increasingly becoming more ethical (but not fully) I feel it’s wrong to say that I’m an ethical blogger when I’m not totally this or that. However, I think that there is nothing to be ashamed of if you brand yourself as ethical. It’s about educating people without putting pressure on them and making living/buying ethically accessible. That’s what I want to do anyway 🙂 this was a really interesting post!


    • Jen says:

      There are so many great ethical bloggers out there who won the label and do a fantastic job educating people on ethical issues. I just feel that because I’m really only at the start of my ethical journey I’m comfortable in that category. It’s maybe more about the label than the topics if you get what I mean

  5. Jillian says:

    Great post. I am just starting to delve into the world of capsule wardrobes and minimalism. Something just kind of snapped in me over the holidays. I’ve been reading minimal style blogs, such as yours, for the past few weeks and noticed that many of the bloggers are “ethical” shoppers. I am not really put off by this. However, I am also trying to be more of a minimalist with my spending, following the Dave Ramsey plan, and being more cost-conscious. I think there’s a slippery slope with ethical fashion bloggers in becoming a little too sanctimonious about promoting a completely ethical wardrobe. Does anyone really need a $460 sweater or $250 t-shirt? I think mixing in a few high quality “unethical” items while striving to shop ethically is more responsible that amassing credit card debt or buying things one can’t afford. That price point for a single item of clothing doesn’t fit with my value system no matter how ethical it is. I don’t mind if bloggers want to purchase high priced ethical clothing but they shouldn’t make others feel badly because they can’t or won’t. I also know that shopping secondhand is ethical, but it’s not always feasible. That being said, I’ve never felt like your posts were preachy or holier-than-thou.

    I’ve decided that I’m going to strive to purchase only ethical clothing when I can. Being petite, it’s unlikely I will ever purchase ethically made coats, as I’ve had a hard enough finding regular ones that fit and keep me warm. And, my style isn’t completely encompassed by the ethical brands I can afford. I can only strive to do my best. My goal is to eventually have the majority of my closet be ethically made.

    • Jen says:

      Thank you so much for your comment it really sums up some of the issues I have with ethical fashion. I love blogging about capsule wardrobes and minimalism and truly believe that choosing quality clothes is the way forward. I think that if you buy something and wear it for years to come then it becomes an ethical/sustainable purchase and you shouldn’t be judged for that. I also completely agree on the issue of price like you say even if I could afford it I’m not sure how I would justify spending $400+ on one item. There are so many other things where that money could be put to better use.
      Thanks for introducing me to the Dave Ramsey plan – off to read all about it x

      • Mary says:

        Yes. I have to second these comments from Jillian. We are long time fans of the Dave Ramsey plan and really think it is the way to go. That is one of the reasons I am drawn to a more minimal wardrobe. Excesses in anything were becoming very tiresome. I am one of those who has to gulp and gasp when I see those lovely $450 sweaters. Definitely not in my price range. Keep up the good work Jen. I think your blog is lovely.

  6. Ron McQuade says:

    Really excellent points, I’ve felt the same way for some time. Even uncomfortable being called a fashion blogger sometimes (it’s not fashion, I just wear clothes). I think it’s personal preference, some people like to share their journeys into a new realm but I’d rather not give advice unless I’m some sort of expert. Like I tried to write some capsule wardrobe advice but my wardrobe can’t exactly be described as capsule so I felt like a total fraud.

    I would only disagree on the point of ethical being a dirty word, it’s only as dirty as veganism or feminism. It’s challenging people’s views and that’s always difficult to do without someone getting upset, even if you’re positive about it.

    • Jen says:

      My thoughts around describing ethical as a ‘dirty’ word is that it can easily be seen as a preachy topic and people tend to zone out when they feel uncomfortable or guilty. Unfortunately the same happens with veganism and feminism. As you say these issues need to be discussed but finding the right way to approach them without upsetting everyone is difficult

  7. Michelle says:

    Labels are annoying for all the reasons you mention, especially when they are countercultural. People read your blog because they are interested in the topic, so I hope that you feel assured knowing that the majority of your readers agree with and support what you are doing. We all fall somewhere in the spectrum of ethical shopping. That’s why I still hold on to and wear my fast fashion clothing from years ago in my outfit posts. I think it shows a realistic evolution of my personal style and ethics. And in real life, I think most people don’t care that much about this topic, so I simply avoid talking about it and save my thoughts for blogging so that I don’t alienate my friends and family.

    • Jen says:

      Thank you so much for your comment and kind words. I don’t think the topics I discuss will change that much I’m just going to focus on the areas I feel comfortable talking about like my capsule wardrobe and buying less. I’ll leave the other areas of ethical fashion to the experts.

  8. Jenni says:

    This is really attention-grabbing, You are an excessively skilled blogger.
    I have joined your feed and sit up for in search of more of
    your great post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks

  9. Brooke says:

    I completely get why labels can be frustrating. I for one never expect you to be “perfect” – whatever that means anyway. Please keep writing about ethical clothing though. I’ve been (slowly) changing my shopping habits, though honestly I’m really trying not to shop right now. I’d love to see a post with brands that you know and love that I can buy in a store that fit in your personal ethics. I had the darned time trying to find info online.

  10. Ray Musgo says:

    Labels are just… labels. In a world of “hashtags”, they’ve become an usual but imprecise way to define things… and also people.
    But it’s important to remember that no word can define you. You do a great job Jen, a transcendent one, everytime you post. So be proud of that and let labels be… just that 🙂
    Congratulations for your blog and best regards from Spain. We have to deal with “labels” too (we are an “ecofriendly”-“ethical” footwear brand), so we totally understand your point 😉

  11. You actually make it seem really easy together with your presentation but I find this matter to be really one
    thing that I think I’d never understand. It seems
    too complicated and very wide for me. I’m looking
    forward on your next publish, I will attempt to
    get the cling of it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.