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Aug 8, 2009
So often, I feel that the discussion of clothing amongst teenage feminists revolves around how we morally feel about what we wear. Is wearing a short skirt empowering or a form of submission to patriarchy? Are low-cut shirts going to make me feel better about myself? But what we rarely ask about are the ethics of what we wear – and apparently there are few clothing options for a fashion-savvy teen that are both ethical purchases and not something my grandma would squeal over.
Just a little research will reveal that some of my favorite places to shop have shady backgrounds that directly contradict my feminist beliefs.
Urban Outfitters apparently has a history of stealing small clothing companies’ designs. There’s a blog devoted to it called Urban Counterfeiters. Clever. But still, they have some legitimate examples, which makes me pretty sad. I like Urban Outfitters. They fulfill my abundant skinny pant/V-neck needs. But I know I don’t want to support big corporations taking advantage of true individuals.
How about Anthropologie? They’re Urban Outfitter’s sister company…not as cutting edge, but still funky. BUT OH WAIT NOT SO FAST. Anthropolgie has some disgustingly racist tendencies, as relayed by a former employee. Employees are instructed to follow "blac–er, African American" shoppers, as everyone (who is racist) knows they have a higher tendency to shoplift. Also, people of color and suspected lesbians are thrown in the back where the shoppers can’t see them. All to support the image Anthro is selling to all the 20-30 year old white women who fancy themselves bohemian chic.
Just. So. Wrong.
Then we’ve all heard about Abercrombie’s discrimination lawsuit: hiring less women, Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans than white men, targeting fraternities and sororities for hiring – overall just hiring based on skin color and gender, not qualifications, which is disgustingness I can’t support by buying their clothes. And Abercrombie also encompasses Hollister, so that’s out. Oh yeah, and I sort of feel like I’m either being squeezed to death when I’m wearing their stuff.
Then there is the feminist’s nightmare that is American Apparel. Made in America, that’s great, right? Well, yes, we are eliminating the element of slave labor, that’s always a plus. But then there are their ads.
I’ve heard "artsy" and "unique" as adjectives applied to AA’s ads, which certainly are different. But I think this quote from an NYU reporter put it best: “Photographs of young women in compromising positions, some as young as 15, are juxtaposed alongside text giving accounts of meeting the models on the street and inviting them to be photographed, conveying the feeling of some sort of perverted conquest.”
Then there are the two separate sexual harassment cases against Dov Charney, founder and senior partner of American Apparel. When asked about these cases, Charney said the women were suffering from a "victim culture." Yeah, because women who are sexually harassed are just asking for it. But then he continued, saying, "Out of a thousand sexual harassment claims, how many do you think are exploitative? Women initiate most domestic violence."
Oh. No. He. Didn’t.
Okay, so just to make this clear: Urban Outfitters – plagiarize designs. Anthropologie – racist, possibly homophobic, over all close-minded. Abercrombie – discriminators and sexist. American Apparel – a pandora’s box of misogynistic ugly.
SO WHERE AM I SUPPOSED TO SHOP???
Well, there’s modcloth.com which is always a good option. If you want to get really hardcore, there’s AuH20 or Etsy.com. Point is — there are always other options. It might be easy to walk into a store that is run by a misogynist, but it’s also pretty easy to get online and find something unique, not corporate, and KIND TO EVERYONE!
It’s time to not only start thinking about the way our clothes make us feel, but the implications of wearing them. Because, as feminists, it’s our job to see the bigger picture.