Friday, September 16, 2011

9-16-11 American Apparel and the "Plus"

It was a few months ago that Sam came to me with a birthday present idea for her friend, Emily. There was  t-shirt of some of their favorite You Tube guys that we could buy online and she sent me the link. 

Unfortunately, the design was printed on an American Apparel shirt. I had to explain to Sam why I refused to buy their merchandise by pulling up some of the advertising that I'd used in my English composition classes in a discussion of visual literacy. American Apparel has long used extremely thin, very young models in what can only be described as pornographic poses to hawk their line of wares. One could argue they only take it one step further than most companies do, but it's a big, offensive step in my opinion. Let's not even discuss Dov Charney. There are some things Sammi can be spared, for now.

So I had to laugh at the conundrum they find themselves in this past month, as they try to launch a new "plus" sized line. "Plus" means size 12 here. Yes, facing bankruptcy, they've decided to widen their audience by including women who they've spent the past 20 years trying to ignore: the women who wear a 12-14 "XL." 

Their contest title? "The Next BIG Thing"  . . .but, you know, there's no objectification intended here. 

So one curvy girl, Nancy Upton,  who saw the campaign for what it was decided to enter the "contest" (with enough CYA verbiage in the fine print to never have to actually honor a contract with the winner of the popular votes). She had shots taken of herself in what are clearly spoof photos: all provocative poses with food, a bathtub full of ranch dressing, a cherry pie held across her crotch, and . . .   she won. 

I was recently asked, “Why are you making a statement about American Apparel? Why not Dove, or another company that has made a famous plus-sized campaign push?”
Here’s why.
The blatant, sloppy attempt to lazily win over the hearts of women who, because of their size, already face daily struggles to defend their looks and physical behavior.
The insinuation that the only way a fat girl could win a “beauty contest” was if a company with American Apparel’s street cred deemed it hip or fashionable.
The idea that someone must be a “fan of full-sized fannies” to even recognize a redeeming quality in women size 12 or above.
The unstated yet apparent belief that fat women can’t be noticed on their own merits.
And the message that a subservient, nearly naked woman has always earned a place in American Apparel’s advertising with no trouble, but that larger women need to vote each other down and compete against one another to even deserve a chance.
THAT is why American Apparel. 

After reading the recent study out of Arizona State University about the incredible role of the media in women's perception of themselves, with almost half saying they would trade years of their lives or go completely blind instead of being fat, I have to say Nancy Upton's tongue in cheek victory over American Apparel is worth a few kudos. 


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