on why I can’t buy American Apparel anymore

ironically, I sit writing this in one of the 5 american apparel items that I own.

originally, I was introduced to American Apparel when I was asked if I would be willing to pay more for a dorm t-shirt from a  company that didn’t use sweatshop workers to make the shirts. Sure, I said, I’d be willing to pay for that.

little did I know that a) the company was American Apparel and b) they make unisex shirts, which means that they are made for a man’s shape and end up being weirdly large up top and too tight around the waist and c) have pretty much the worst advertising I’ve ever seen.

if a company is represented by the ads they run, American Apparel is not a company with which I’d like to associate. initially, I was willing to chalk up their awful ads to my slightly conservative, I-grew-up-on-a-farm perception of modesty, but then I started reading about the working conditions at their LA factory and retail – and it seems that the ads are just an extension of the culture of the company. (I can’t find a link that I read a few months ago about the working conditions at the factory, but suffice it to say that I would never, ever work there. There are currently 5 sexual harassment suits against the founder/ceo of the company.)

This recent article highlighting the link between sexualized advertisements and objectification of women in real life reconfirmed my decision to stop purchasing from AA until they chose to quit hiring women based on what they look like and quit the current ad campaigns. the difference between men’s and women’s lines, not even in ads, is enlightening.

The glass ceiling for women will continue to exist if this type of advertising continues. Even worse, the way women and men interact and build relationships will continue to degrade (watch Dreamworlds 3!) and young women will seek to model themselves after the look and behavior in these ads – it is a company selling itself as the ‘coolest, most popular thing’ since sliced bread.

And this is why I’m conscious about the message I send with the clothing I make and the pictures I take of myself and my clothing. I never want to contribute to the current objectification of women, but I desire to encourage women that one can dress creatively, uniquely, femininely (yes, that’s a word) without objectification. And that it’s okay, fantastic even, to be a well-dressed female scientist/engineer – you can, but are not required to wear ill-fitted, worn out clothing to be in technology/research fields 🙂 (granted, if the culture continues to embrace what is embodied in AA ads, it is my belief that women will never be taken as seriously as men in science or business or academia or basically anywhere…)

I can’t force AA to change the way they advertise or the way they hire employees or the way they treat their factory workers, but I can change my relationship with the company. I will hold on to the 5 AA garments I do own, mainly because 4/5 are tied to fantastic groups of people from college, and the last one is a pair of socks, but I will not purchase anything new from American Apparel. This issue is not new – google American Apparel ads or working conditions and you’ll see that this company has a long history with these items, however, nothing yet has changed, the same items are still an issue – and to me, that is a problem.

And yes, this post purposefully has no image.


2 thoughts on “on why I can’t buy American Apparel anymore

  1. Olivia, this is so well written and well said. I have a 14-year old daughter and these types of messages are confusing and infuriating for her. She has been brought up by two very strong feminists so she understands that the message is wrong but sees it everywhere. Her dad works in a large research organization as Director of Engineering. He advocates strongly for women in science and engineering and finds that this type of message stops young girls from both excelling in math and science at the middle and high school levels and prevents them from tackling the disciplines at the college level. Very frustrating when it comes to hiring.

    We are in the third wave of the feminist movement. We have to stay strong and support the message for the sake of the young women everywhere. (Don’t get me started on what happened today with the equal pay legislation.)

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