Greg Karber's video about "re-branding" Abercrombie and Fitch has been making the rounds of late, and a copy of it wound up in my inbox for my review.
I feel a few conflicting things about this project.
Greg's heart is in the right place and I truly appreciate that this slim kid is doing something to stand up for my people.
Is this corporate CEO a mean and miserable human being? Absolutely. I don't think that Greg understands, however, that the only thing that separates the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch from so many other designers and owners such as those who work for Aeropostale, Hollister, The Gap and Old Navy (just to name a few) is simple honesty. That CEO freely admitted what every one of them thinks and believes, but lack the guts to say out loud.
First of all, ALL clothing companies only hire attractive people to model their clothes, A&F is not unique in that practice.
Second of all, I could walk into any of the above named stores, and if the salespeople approach me at all it will be only with tentative confusion and a belief that I must be shopping for somebody else - because at every one of those and countless other establishments both I and my money are not welcome. This lack of welcome is illustrated with the simple fact that none of them will carry my size, they do not want their clothes on my body, and have no interest in my business and my money - they simply let me know silently and subtly rather than broadcasting it for the world to see.
So although it's very nice that Greg is carrying on a crusade against Abercrombie and Fitch, if he really wants to fight this fight there are countless other clothing titans out there who also desperately need his attention.
Beyond that, the use of homeless people in his plan makes me... uncomfortable. It equates to walking up to them and saying: "Here, you are undesirable, so take this." He doesn't mean it that way, again I understand and appreciate that his heart is in the right place, but it's still what he's doing whether he realizes it or not.
Lastly, it's a deep and unfortunate irony that the kid who made the video is defending "ugly" fat people, by calling the CEO of A&F ugly. Bullying back is not a good way to address a bully, he needs to rise above.
In my heart, I harbor a fantasy. In that fantasy I have achieved my goal weight and am wandering the world as a fit and fabulous size ten. Not big, not tiny, but able to shop wherever I choose. I walk into a high end clothier who carries no size bigger than a twelve, maybe a fourteen tops. When the bright eyed sales person comes my way, I ask them:
"Do you carry a size 2XL?"
When they tell me "no", I smile and head for the door.
In the fantasy the salesperson stops me to point out, "But you don't need that size!"
To which I respond, "No, but now that my money and business is finally good enough for you, I find that strangely - you are no longer good enough for me." And then I sail out the door in a cloud of smugness.
It's a fantasy, I admit a silly one.
It illustrates a point though that I have made before. I can do nothing, absolutely nothing to really change the way these designers discriminate against undesirable clientele by silently in most cases (and loudly in this one) declaring that our money is unwanted because our bodies are not the shape that those designers want wearing their pretty things.
I can do nothing because I have no choice but to not shop at these places. My rejecting them is about as useful as a black person in the segregation era refusing to ride on a bus that's designated for "whites only". You can't buoycott something that won't let you in in the first place.
The only people who have power in this situation are the slim, desirable customers that these stores and designers want. THEY have to choose not to shop at any of the myriad places that discriminate and hand pick their customers based on appearance.
But... why would they do that? It probably feels very good to part of that club.
By writing this I realize I am making a plea to the slender: know where you are shopping, and who you are giving your money to. If this video outrages you, don't go buy up used Abercombie and Fitch clothing and give it away to people YOU have decided are undesirable. Just think very carefully about what kind of people you are supporting before you spend your clothes shopping dollars.