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How Effective Is A Girlcott Anyway?

Abercrombie & Fitch and American Apparel have done it again. In the past, Abercrombie & Fitch has come under criticism for T-shirts with racist and sexist sayings, thongs for girls as young as ten, and semi-nude advertisements in their catalogs. In 2005, the Women and Girls association of Pennsylvania led a “girlcott” against sexist T-shirts, which read “Who needs brains when you’ve got these?” and “I had a nightmare I was a brunette.” Abercrombie & Fitch eventually pulled the shirts. Now, Abercrombie & Fitch has decided to sell push-up bikini tops for girls as young as seven (clearly a great idea, since the thongs for ten-year-olds went over so well).

The bikini tops which were originally advertised as “push-up” on the Abercrombie & Fitch website are now just described as “striped bikini,” but the padding is still there. The sad thing is, I can imagine seven-year-old girls getting excited about padded bikinis (since our society teaches us from a very young age that certain body types are enviable, and “pushed up breasts” tend to fall into that category). Abercrombie & Fitch certainly isn’t helping this problem with their padded bikini nightmare.

American Apparel is coming under criticism for its leadership (which has not exactly been leading by example). Dov Charney, the founder, chief executive, and some would say uber-creep of American Apparel, was just sued for supposedly having a sex slave. Yep, that’s right. A sex-slave. In recent years, American Apparel has been condemned for soft-core porn-like advertising (am I sensing a theme here?) and Charney himself has already been sued several times for sexual harassment.

The woman suing, Irene Morales, accused Charney of sexual harassment, a hostile workplace environment, and gender discrimination. She also called Charney a “sexual predator.” According to Morales, she was imprisoned in Charney’s home shortly after beginning to work for him at age seventeen, and was forced to engage in sex acts.

So, now that we’ve established that Abercrombie & Fitch and American Apparel may be sleazy in their marketing and products, and could be damaging to girls and women, what do we do? Do we shrug and figure that most stores we buy from are probably engaged in some sort of behavior we’d rather not hear about and just avoid the padded bikinis and racist T-shirts? Or, do we decide to forgo the overpriced, too-tight, stretchy, American Apparel mini-skirt because the guy who’s selling it may have enslaved a girl our age.

Believe it or not (non-teenage girls reading this), it isn’t the easiest decision to try to girlcott popular stores, especially when all our friends are shopping there. Some of my favorite clothes are from American Apparel, and I still remember how excited I was when I got an Abercrombie & Fitch sweater for my birthday in sixth grade.

I can’t help but wonder what my small action of girlcotting would actually accomplish. I know groups, such as the Women and Girls association of Pennsylvania have used girlcotting to get sexist products pulled from the market, but does the girlcott even have a long term impact? I mean, sure, the Abercrombie & Fitch girlcott of 2005 caused the store to discontinue its line of T-shirts, but here they are again with padded bikinis for seven-year-olds!

I can live without clothes from either of these places and I would do so in a heartbeat, if I thought it would make a real difference. Whether or not a girlcott would be effective, I might feel kind of creeped out wearing the clothes anyway. But, with all the possibility for failure and repeat offenses on the part of the company, is it worth standing alone as all my friends shop at American Apparel, because I’m hoping to change the attitude of one of the many companies out there that doesn’t respect women?

When I first heard about Abercrombie & Fitch and American Apparel, I opened up a word document and titled this blog, “A&F and AA Have Done it Again! Do I hear a Girlcott?”, but as I started to write, I realized that the writer of that blog, while I sometimes wish it was me, just isn’t. The world we live in forces socially conscious girls to make tough decisions and sometimes hollering girlcott is easier said than done.

Originally posted on the website Rachel Simmons: Leadership for Life



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