[#wiscfi] Kate Live Blogging Women in Secularism »« Monday Miscellany

No, You Shouldn’t Be Jerks to the Homeless Just Because A&F is Awful

Fat-shaming gets me on a gut level. I hate it, I’d like it to go away, and the recent statements of CEO of clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch, which included this little gem:

In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

…get to me. Which is to say, I really don’t like A&F.

And this doesn’t seem to be an unpopular opinion. Obviously I carefully cultivate the people I interact with, but the scandal has been scorching the internet.

General social justice conclusion? Refusing to sell your clothes in plus-sizes because you think it’s bad for business is a jerk move.

Ooookay, abrupt topic shift.

Remember that time some MIT students set up hobojacket.com, this hilllllarious site where you could pay to give homeless people a sweatshirt from a rival college? And then lots of people said “Hey! Maybe using people as props in an argument that doesn’t involve them is a terrible move that we want to discourage!” …and then hobojacket.com stopped existing and the creator apologized? Man, that was a nice day for internet activism.

Keeping that in mind, let’s talk about Abercrombie & Fitch and this video. In it, the narrator hands out A&F clothing to the homeless.

At first, they seemed reluctant to accept the clothing. Perhaps they were concerned about being percieved as narcissistic date rapists?
[...]
Together, we can make Abercrombie & Fitch the world’s number one brand of homeless apparel!

See! Get it! Because homeless people are uncool icky and it’s like, revenge, to give them clothes from a company that wants cool people! /sarcasm

Would someone like to explain how this is better than the MIT students ‘prank? It’s not because you’re fighting against a fat-shaming company. You’re still ignoring the humanity of a whole sector of people who won’t see any benefit from A&F suddenly selling hundred dollar artfully distressed jeans in XXL.Stop pretending like it’s a big win for equality when you’re stepping on people to make a point.

Comments

  1. carlie says

    THANK YOU. I had the same reaction, and it was disheartening how many people are giving thumbs-up statements to this guy.

  2. sylva says

    First off, I haven’t watched it, but it sounds like what he did wasn’t done in a great way. However, it’s also my understanding is that it was in response to A&F destroying unsellable clothes (missed stitch, fray edge, and the like) instead of donating to charities.

    So it wasn’t done as a stupid response to the fat shaming, but as a frat-level response to destruction instead of donation (because people who get donated clothing aren’t “cool” enough for A&F clothing).

  3. CaitieCat says

    I appreciate your POV on this – I’d been supportive of this at first, but I definitely need to rethink this in light of your good argument here.

    Thanks for the knowledge. :)

  4. says

    “No, You Shouldn’t Be Jerks to the Homeless” – duh, no, not for any reason. But can you also say “No, You Shouldn’t Be Nice to the Homeless Just Because A&F is Awful”?? I’m rather unsure about that.

    I mean, this way at least they get some clothes. And not giving them clothes is not going to help unstigmatise them. I suppose it could vary with the detail of how it’s done – mocking homeless people is not cool, but mocking A&F is fine by me.

  5. Brandon says

    I’ll happily agree that using homeless people as props is a dick move. Still, is giving people clothes actually being “awful” to them?

    Refusing to sell your clothes in plus-sizes because you think it’s bad for business is a jerk move.

    Lane Bryant, total jerks for selling only large clothes?

  6. Kate Donovan says

    No, donating clothes to places that distribute them is great! I really want people to do this. However, that’s not actually what we saw happen. We saw a man hand–and sometimes just drop clothes on people without actually asking if they wanted them, needed them, or ever were in a size that would fit. So yes, I don’t think there’s much actual benefit being gained. Also, see the problem of props overlaying this.

    And no, your Lane Bryant argument doesn’t really hold water. Lane Bryant is actually one of a very few stores that carries clothes for plus-sized women. Even with that, it’s notoriously impossible for larger ladies to find clothing that’s not *way* more expensive than straightsizes, unfashionable, or readily available. (Check out http://wtfplus.tumblr.com/ for some great commentary on this).

    Women (and men!) who are above a size XL are really really common in today’s society–a society that still fetishizes a very thin body type. And fat men and women will face problems accessing health care, be less likely to be employed (see also: halo effect), etc. So the problem is not as simple as choosing a market, but what market you choose. Choosing to actively prevent people from wearing your clothing whilst perpetuating a system of preventing a very significant section of the population from finding clothing..AND cheerfully owning up to it, is.

    (I didn’t spell this out in the post because 1) it’s a short rant, and 2) it’s readily obvious just by interacting with people or watching tv that there’s a general assumption that thin = good)

  7. Brandon says

    That’s for the fast and thorough reply. I think we basically agree regarding donations, so no need to go down that road. Donating? Great! Making a Youtube video to show how lolzy those homeless people are? Awful. I think I probably didn’t think far enough on that one. The end outcome is probably positive, but being a dick to people isn’t really a great approach to life.

    I’m not sure what the generally crummy nature of being fat has to do with Lane Bryant’s marketing choices. They actively choose to degrade thin people (example: http://www.teenagerie.com/2010/09/thin-women-not-real-women-says-lane.html ). I don’t recall a massive backlash against them that’s similar to what’s been around the blogoverse regarding A&F.

    Personally, I’m not keen on the way advertising demographics work. I don’t see why it’s necessary to crap on anyone to sell clothes. If a company is targeting certain sizes, that makes sense just from a stock standpoint, but I don’t really understand why it needs to extend into “fat people aren’t cool” or “thin people aren’t real women”. How about “hey, our clothes are nice!”.

  8. DBP says

    Well one reason Lane Bryant may not have gotten such a backlash is that skinny people aren’t really a discriminated against group. I mean, I’m not completely sure as to why there wasn’t a backlash, but my guess is people don’t empathize with the “beautiful people” as much since they aren’t perceived as being treated like garbage by society all that much.

  9. Kate Donovan says

    I said this more elaborately in a comment below, but basically I’m all about giving people clothes that they want and that will fit. And I’m really not actually seeing that the narrator did that. He didn’t ask about sizes, he didn’t even ask if people wanted them. He just handed–or even dropped–them on people.

    Giving people things that improve their lives is great! Refusing to ask what people want and using them in a video for the lolz isn’t something I like.

  10. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    Yeah Brandon, and it is soooo racist not to have a White History Month, amirite?

  11. Brandon says

    I don’t know that I’d “condemn” them, exactly, but they’re certainly engaged in marketing that’s the mirror image of A&F’s, wherein they support the notion that thin women aren’t “real women”. Either marketing that craps on people for being the “wrong” size is a bad way to act or its not. I’d say that it is.

  12. Simon says

    Yes, they named their loyalty program “Real Women Dollars”. This is not a term they made up. It’s a cultural reference after a movie (though it might go further back). They don’t say “Only real women shop at Lane Bryant” for instance so being upset about this is a tad much IMO.

    Especially when the whole concept of calling something a “plus size” when in fact these are the sizes the vast majority of the population wears *ought* to raise many more alarm bells.

    Why you are shitting on topic about homeless people with your righteous anger about a a thin-shaming conspiracy is beyond me however…

  13. Simon says

    “Won’t somebody please think of those poor skinny women who are catered to by the overwhelming majority of retailers and celebrated to no end in fashion magazines”

  14. Jeff Zemla says

    The video specifically says “They were reluctant at first, but pretty soon, they embraced it wholeheartedly.” You saw two second snippets without audio and drew a different conclusion. I realize the clips are misleading, but please, give the author the benefit of the doubt here!

    Also, the video also advocates you “Give to your local homeless shelter”, and does not suggest handing out clothes to homeless on the street indiscriminately.

  15. says

    This is a wonderful example of moral ambiguity where there is no right or wrong answer
    now // On the one hand giving clothes to the homeless sounds like a no brainer though
    If there is an element of exploitation surely it is better not to give // But why should they
    be denied just because some have a twinge of conscience // Best thing to do here is to
    go ask the homeless themselves // That way it resolves anyone of responsibility and no
    one therefore needs to feel guilty // The homeless may not really have much choice but
    at least it is their decision and no one elses // That would be my solution to the problem

  16. says

    Extraordinarily educative thank you, I believe your trusty readers may possibly want even more information similar to this carry on the wonderful effort.

  17. Bella says

    yeah, i think at least part of the point of the video was not necessarily stepping on a disadvantaged group, but pointing out that it’s completely shitty of a&f to burn clothes rather than give them to those people in the first place.

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