Target: American Apparel CFO John Luttrell
Goal: Put an end to American Apparel’s sexist and tasteless objectification of women in its advertising
When it comes to advertising, Los Angeles-based retailer American Apparel is no stranger to controversy. However, its latest misstep, which involves the sexual objectification of an implied minor, has provoked disgust and anger from many people. Sign the petition and urge American Apparel to stop using the blatant and demeaning sexual objectification of women to sell clothing.
The photo that ignited the controversy was posted to American Apparel’s UK Instagram account as part of its back-to-school campaign. The photo shows a woman—presumably a student and therefore a minor—leaning in through a car window. Her face and upper body are obscured, making her legs and buttocks the subject of the photo. The framing of the image brings to mind an up-skirt photo, and the model’s underwear is visible under her skirt.
At first, the image may not seem like a huge deal—sex and sexuality have always been used to sell products. However, the American Apparel ad is a important for a number of reasons. For starters, the company has a long history of paradoxically using nearly naked models to sell its clothing, and it consistently sexualizes its female models to a much greater degree than its male ones. What makes this ad particularly offensive to many people, however, is that this highly sexualized image is of an implied minor; the miniskirt is plaid, like a school uniform, and the photo’s association with a back-to-school campaign suggests that the model herself is heading back to school. KTLA reports that many commenters on social media have accused the image of “fueling Lolita fantasies” and compared it to “soft porn.”
American Apparel has since removed the photo from its Instagram, but that is not enough. The company must issue a thoughtful and sincere public apology for its tasteless and misogynistic campaign, and it must pledge to refrain from such blatantly sexist objectification in future advertising.
Dear Mr. Luttrell,
“Sex sells” is perhaps the oldest advertising adage there is. However, American Apparel’s latest back-to-school campaign takes this concept too far, objectifying and sexualizing a woman who is strongly implied to be underage. The ad is unacceptable and is unfortunately part of the larger pattern of American Apparel’s misogynistic and offensive advertising. Although the image in question has been removed from the company’s Instagram account, it is still necessary to address this issue. I therefore demand a thoughtful and sincere public apology for American Apparel’s continued objectification of (underage) women, and I urge you to revamp your American Apparel’s advertising strategy to reflect a less demeaning image of women.
The back-to-school ad, which featured a woman in a miniskirt leaning into a car, revealing her underwear, constitutes the latest entry in American Apparel’s long history of using its advertising to promote degrading and needlessly sexualized images of women. The photos American Apparel uses to ostensibly advertise women’s clothing are clearly not aimed at potential female customers, but at men looking for something to ogle. The back-to-school photo is especially disturbing because it directs this sexual objectification onto a presumably underage woman.
There is a difference between “sexy” and “sleazy,” just as there is a difference between “provocative” and “needlessly demeaning and offensive.” This is more than an issue of “political correctness”; American Apparel’s current advertisements tell young girls and women that even when they are choosing and buying their own clothes, it matters less how they feel about them and more how the men in their lives react. You have the chance to do something great with your advertising. I urge you to take that opportunity to change course and use your ad campaigns to promote healthier, more empowered images of women and girls.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Raysonho via Wikimedia Commons