The Empathy Trap: Progressives and the Perils of Compassion

It’s the first week of winter here in Australia. Time to move the herbs to a sunnier spot; to fetch the heater up from the shed; to throw an extra blanket on the bed … And, of course, to dig out the jackets and jumpers from the walk-in robe, and stow the colourful summer gear: the sarongs, the short-sleeved shirts, the shorts, the beachwear, the Political Lace …

Sorry? You’ve not heard of Political Lace? Oh but it’s the latest thing, and very, very beautiful! It’s what’s known in the fashion world as “a wearable” – part art, part garment, part technology. And it’s lace, you see, but political. Hence the name: “Political Lace”.

But perhaps I’m not explaining this well. I’ll let the cool-hunters at PSFK expand:

A wearable can do more than just catch your eye – it can start an important conversation.

Wearables continue to make their way into conversations about innovative fashion. Just recently, they made appearances at both New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. But beyond their aesthetic appeal, wearables can serve as a way to discuss important issues. Curator, artist and creative technologist Melissa Coleman wanted to find “the most minimal way to represent data” related to women’s rights.

Using data from a UNICEF report, Coleman found that the number of “girls dying in childbirth every year due to preventable circumstances” meant one woman was dying every 7.5 minutes. The result: Political Lace, a fashion piece that lights up every 7.5 minutes to symbolize another death.

Coleman explained more about the thought process behind the piece in an email:

“I thought: if you only have one LED, what can you say? I realized the most powerful thing you could do with it is count lives, which was perfect for representing a political cause. I am passionate about women’s rights, so the piece became about the sad intersection of poverty, youth and education that results in teenagers dying in childbirth all around the world.”

Political Lace starts a discussion through its visual nature – the wearer would stand out in virtually any situation or location with the piece. When strangers ask about the nature of the piece, it creates a way for the wearer to discuss an ethical and political issue in an unexpected way.

So, there you go. Want to look like a million bucks and “start an important conversation” about women and girls who die in childbirth? Then treat yourself to some Political Lace, “a fashion piece that lights up every 7.5 minutes to symbolize another death”. Classy! [More here.]