In case you haven’t heard because you have no TV, or no newsfeed to your smartphones, or you only ever log in to the interwebs in order to read my blog (thank you for that, BTW), Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, is an asshole.
He’s apparently a really difficult diva-asshole, too, with a rigidly proscribed concept of beauty. He requires his employees to be amongst The Beautiful People, and only ever markets his line or sells to The Beautiful People. He admits his clothing line is exclusionary and he won’t stock women’s clothes in sizes larger than L/10. And people are now in a fine lather about this, going so far as to start a change.org petition that reads:
Mr. Jeffries owes young people an apology, because contrary to what he may believe, whether you can fit into Abercrombie or not, you are beautiful. It’s time Abercrombie & Fitch to embrace that beauty! Please join me in this fight by adding your name to this petition and asking Abercrombie and Fitch to embrace the beauty in all sizes by offering XL and XXL sizes for women and men!
In other words, they’re trying to demand that he not be an asshole.
But he is.
And he’s been one for 67 years.
I don’t think change.org is going to stop that.
As someone who has struggled with body and image issues (because really, who hasn’t?) during the course of my life, I get that what he said is inherently offensive, and not just to the person who might be larger than an L/10. It should be offensive to anyone who loves someone whose body falls into such an excluded zone, someone with empathy who hates to see another person made to senselessly feel negative about him or herself, or someone who hates that dicks like him make $47 million a year while hanging out in the Mean Boys Club.
I get that what he said is hurtful, especially to the insecure, body-conscious teenager/young adult who might not have much of a sense of self-esteem and is just trying to fit in to the predatory world that is high school. And college, that can be tough too.
I get that there’s this really fucked-up value system that he’s promoting. Proudly, happily. Where the label on the back of your jeans helps legitimize your worth as a person. Though to be fair, he’s only capitalizing on this system. He didn’t invent it.
I wish I could feel more shock and horror over this, but I don’t. I feel like I’ve always known this about this store. I mean, the Salon article that he’s originally quoted in is from way back in 2006, so I don’t know what thrust it into the limelight now. But even without the article, their stores emanate waves of exclusion. Just like every other store that’s a self-designated status symbol. Try walking around a Gucci store when you look like a working class kid from New Jersey; my bet is security will follow you around until you walk out the door. (Trust me on this one.) So again, what he’s saying or doing isn’t new.
Do I hate what he said? Yes. But I almost want to thank him for being honest. At least you know who and what you’re dealing with.
Do I think a petition and self-righteous public outrage are going to change anything? No.
The only thing that will change things is if people DON’T FUCKING SHOP THERE.
If you’re one of the anointed and can shop in A&F, but you have a friend or loved one who can’t, then stand in solidarity. Feel free to send that card or email to their corporate offices to let them know why you’ll never shop there again. But the important thing to do is vote with your wallet, not pointlessly froth about your outrage. That’s sound and fury signifying nothing. Do you think he’ll care if people complain on the internet about how he’s mean and hurt their feelings? Not even a little. But if sales drop and there’s evidence that he’s the reason?
That’ll get some attention.
If you decide that the logo on your shirt is more important than your BFF/sister/brother/neighbor/kid, then Mike Jeffries isn’t the problem, it’s you, and you need to figure out why you’re such a pretentious status whore.
Understanding that could do you a world of good, really. And it would be good for the world.
So if you’re serious about putting the hate on A&F, then hit them in their accounting books. Direct your money elsewhere. There are plenty of other places that will happily sell you free-spirited, spending-the-day-on-a-boat-with-my-besties clothing. To someone like Mike Jeffries, the only voices that matter are the ones coming out of your credit cards. Silence those voices, and then let’s see what happens.