American Apparel Fail, yet again

1 08 2009

I am not a fan of American Apparel, never have been and never will be.  Many people are quick to defend it because the products are made in “non-exploitative settings”.  Okay, so it’s great that the clothes are sweatshop free and made in an air conditioned LA factory where the workers are paid full wages and receive health benefits.

But “exploitative” has other meanings too.  Like sexually harassing workers on a normal basis.  Calling your female employees sluts at work because it’s “endearing”.  Firing people because they aren’t deemed attractive enough.  Constantly objectifying women.  Dov Charney and American Apparel engage in very misogynist practices that disgust me.

American Apparel operates to create and perpetuate an unrealistic, exclusive standard of beauty.  Charney has recently requested that all “ugly” employees be fired because they are “detrimental to the AA ‘aesthetic'” and hindering the company’s ability to profit.  Gawker has an email from an AA store manager:

Summer is supposed to be a great sales season for AA. Needless to say, with the state of the economy, sales haven’t been going so well. Dov usually gets on the conference calls and talks to people, but one week, he went on a huge tirade and made stores that weren’t doing well send in group photos. Why, you ask? He made store managers across the country take group photos of their employees so that he could personally judge people based on looks. He is tightening the AA ‘aesthetic,’ and anyone that he deems not good-looking enough to work there, is encouraged to be fired. This is blatant discrimination based on looks.

Dov personally judged each person in group photos that were sent in, and if you weren’t to his liking, then boy… watch out. The comments that he made were raging from childish ones to insulting ones. Managers that don’t comply with these new standards are afraid of losing their jobs. Employees who aren’t up to Dov’s “look” and whose work ethic is “just ok” are being targeted and scrutinized and the minute they make small mistakes, they are being fired. But it’s only because Dov wants to weed out the “ugly people.” It’s ironic that he would rather have gorgeous slackers who don’t move the product [or lift a finger] working there than normal looking people who are really aren’t that bad looking, but are A+ sellers and great at customer service. The real irony here is that he is no [looker], himself. He’s asking for a class-action lawsuit and i hope that when it rains, it rains hard. Worst place to work, ever. This is happening at many stores across the country.

This is seriously fucked up.  So yeah, in addition to the sexual harassment lawsuits against him, I won’t be surprised if sketchball Charney has another round of lawsuits to deal with.

Still shying away from the F word

1 08 2009

Feminism is still very much the F word that people do not want to associate or identify with, which I’ve written about before.  It’s always interesting to see how celebrity or high profile women respond whenever the F word comes up in an interview.

On July 23rd, in an interview with the Guardian, former model Elle Macpherson shed some light on her ideas about feminism.  When asked, “Are you a feminist?” she responded:

I’m somebody who truly honours femininity. And I believe in individuality, and uniqueness, and that’s all I’m going to say on that.

Wow, can you be any more vague?  Macpherson’s answer shows how women want to dissociate from feminism because of all the pervasive negative stereotypes attached to it, like the classic stereotype that feminists are ugly and un-feminine.  Femininity is a social construction and it is based on a narrow and constricting gender binary that does not allow much room for variation.

The follow-up question was “But you shy away from the word ‘feminism’?”  Macpherson responded:

It’s one of those coined phrases that has a lot of innuendo and not much meaning these days. There’s a stereotypical perception that a feminist is somebody who believes in equal rights for men and women. Well, I believe men and women are different and they have different needs, therefore the concept of equal rights doesn’t really sit with me in many ways.

Gee, thanks for your profound insights!  Feminism does not have much meaning these days?  Actually, I beg to differ.  I can go on and on about why feminism is still relevant, but in a soundbite: 1. The Equal Rights Amendment has yet to be ratified, 2. There is still a wage gap and women only make 77 cents to the male dollar, and 3. Rape is a primary weapon of war in many conflict zones, which places women in greater harm than men.

And yes, men and women are different.  But they should still have equal access to opportunities and institutions in society.  There’s a quote that comes to mind now (June Jordan said it) that goes like, “There is difference and there is power.  And who holds the power decides the meaning of difference.”

“…the concept of equal rights doesn’t really sit with me in many ways”?!  Oh dear.  Here comes my head against the desk.