Representation Part II: Sustainability

You may wonder about the rapid increase in cloth diapering content on my Instagram. Out of the first 9 photos on my profile, 6 of them are of cloth diapers. This is partially because I don’t post very often on my feed and the reasons I have had for posting were reasons like a challenge or something. But there is a reason and it can be easily summed up in the following post by One Down Media:

If you scroll to the very last image, it reads “white women have become the face of sustainability…” and I find that this is true. Despite generations of Indigenous, Asian and generally non-white traditions of reducing and reusing, white women have largely taken up the mantle of becoming sustainable ambassadors. Middle-class white folks have become the pioneers of sustainability which has in turn made it into something that other people would deem as unattainable. This is not an attack on them but merely an observation for what I see on social media. However usually, these “pioneers” boast their sustainability in ways that usually involve some type of product.

Instead of telling you to ask your mom for spare tupperware, they’re selling you stainless steel lunch boxes. Instead of teaching you how you can turn a pillowcase or t-shirt into a bag, they have a discount code for #grocerybags. Instead of reminding you that you have silverware in your own damn house, they present you with a bamboo utensil set in which 10% of the proceeds will go to saving the sea turtles somehow.

Fueling consumerism is not sustainability and is completely out of reach for people who are struggling to make ends meet. These same people have real reason to believe that actual sustainable practices are not only feasible but can help them be fiscally responsible.

This is why I have been writing so much about cloth diapers: because every Cloth Diaper Facebook group I am in is comprised of a majority of white middle-class moms. Women who do not look like me. Who do not think like me. Struggle like me. See the world like me. Who are privileged in so many ways that I am not. Women whose ancestors who have not seen the destruction of their own people and culture at the hands of colonization. This does not invalidate their experiences or who they are or their own struggles. But it makes me feel alone, drifting in the sea and it makes cloth diapering look like a luxury that other people cannot afford.

I have an entire island of parents who can relate to me and care about sustainability the way that I do. Because it can be just just as much a means of decolonization as food sovereignty. So right now, I am doing my best to provide my community with the insight of how feasible cloth diapering can be. It’s not as easy to access them in shops (though they do exist) but there are plenty of moms here who can help you if you can’t order diapers online, through our Facebook group Cloth Moms of Guam. I also volunteer to sew diapers for Para Todus Hit, who provide diapers for families in need who have taken a financial hit due to the pandemic.

I am fortunate because I never had to scramble for diapers as long as I had running water. I am fortunate because even though I spent a bit more than I intended to, it’s still nothing compared to what I would have spent on disposables*. I want other families – families who look like mine – to feel just as fortunate.

*I got sucked into some print releases sighhhhh

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