The Imperfect Advocate

The Imperfect Advocate

Hope for Justice is a 501(c)(3) organization that conducts anti-trafficking projects on a global level, working closely with victims and survivors. Earlier this month, I saw that its CEO Tim Nelson had an interview with Kourtney Kardashian Barker about exploitation and waste in the fashion industry. The interview is part of a documentary series slated to run on Hulu.

Now when I saw the post about it on Instagram, for a quick second I thought, Hmm is that like the right person to be talking about exploitation and waste in the fashion industry (side-eye emoji)? And then I caught myself because I realized that she is the exact right person to have this discussion with.

For a fleeting moment, I got caught in the trap of placing impossibly high standards on someone taking action and decided that their shortcomings deemed them unfit for joining the cause. In today’s cancel culture, the assumption is that being an imperfect advocate is hypocritical. The truth is that waiting for a perfect human to come and be the untouchable leader for an issue leads to inaction. Absolutely no one is a perfect person.

Just because someone has imperfections doesn’t mean that they can’t have genuine interest in an issue. Yes, the Kardashians are global influencers, they drive conspicuous consumer demand, and have businesses that have been flagged for exploitation but does that mean that they have no place in being part of a discussion to learn more about exploitation and waste in fashion? Kourtney K. Barker has 199 million followers on Instagram and she’s hearing facts about modern-day slavery, information that she could pass along to her fan base. That matters.

Sometimes I feel like well-meaning critics get caught up in fixating on every detail about a potential advocate and instead of spreading the actual message, they sound the alarm and detract from the core issue. And no matter how perfect they may think they are, there will always be another critic around the corner telling them they’re not good enough to care about something. Criticism over the individual instead of the atrocity deters others from wanting to speak up, leaving silence as the only response. But change requires more people to get involved, not less. 

And what is the perfect human trafficking advocate anyhow? They only buy ethically sourced, fair trade goods. They don’t own any fast fashion items. They don’t watch porn. They don’t consume anything unless they’ve done the research on it. Im probably missing some points but if you are 100% in all of these areas, no exceptions, you’re the perfect advocate. But many of us fall short of this standard.

For anyone looking to be an advocate, don’t complicate the matter. You can participate at any level, whether it’s just passing along information to hands-on volunteer work, the point is just getting involved in something you care about. Be honest about yourself, not perfect. Be open to receiving criticism, make small adjustments that are meaningful to you, and keep learning. Remember that criticism can come from someone who has their own insecurities and internal issues and you can’t allow that scrutiny to silence your voice.

I’m aware that I’m not a perfect advocate but I have every right to speak out against modern-day slavery and I will not allow my imperfections to hold me back from caring and being vocal about something that I believe should not exist.

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