Even with the ouster of its CEO/sleaze-master Dov Charney last June, American Apparel still can’t seem to get with the non-subjugating women program. Just this week, AA’s back-to-school campaign in the U.K. ignited a firestorm of controversy, i.e. once again, everyone is really pissed at how this company treats women. Why this time? Well, not just because the promotional Instagram photo in question, posted to the company’s U.K. account, showcases the world’s tiniest, plaid, back-to-school miniskirt. It’s because its focus is on a model in that miniskirt who is fully bent over a car to show a glimpse of her butt, crotch and underwear.
The skirt is sold, by the way, under the site’s “School Days” section, which offers an array of suggested outfits for going back to school. And in case that wasn’t tone-deaf enough, the company also sells a crop top called “Lolita,” a reference to the Vladimir Nabokov book about a pedophilic relationship between a tween girl and an old man. Not great.
The reaction online was immediate outrage, thanks to a post by Twitter user Emilie Lawrence highlighting the campaign. “Their ‘back to school’ skirts fuelling Lolita fantasies and rampant sexism aplenty,” she wrote.
Back-to-school “crotch gate” is only the latest in a history of sexism controversies that have plagued American Apparel and its founder Charney. As anyone who reads the Internet every day knows, American Apparel campaigns have long focused on sexual imagery that has been less about the clothes and more about the body parts wearing them. Charney was repeatedly accused of harassment in multiple lawsuits that claimed he created a hostile, misogynist, sexually-charged work environment. According to former employees, he liberally used the word “slut” in the workplace and used his position to try to induce sexual favors from his employees. Not OK.
And not OK to American Apparel’s board of directors apparently either, who ousted Charney in June (though this was probably more of a financial decision, than a moral one. In June, the company was reportedly $200 million in debt). You’d think that Charney’s firing would be an opportunity for AA to change its crap-to-women image, with Sexual-Harassey McGee gone, someone on the inside would say, “Hey, how about for Back-to-School we do something cool like not show a young girl’s bent-over butt?”
But, you know, you’d think wrong. In the case of American Apparel, at least for now, it’s: Same exploitative crotch shot, different day.
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