My Twitter feed lit up last night with “news” that the CEO of Aberfrombie and Crotch* stated in an interview that he doesn’t carry clothing over a certain size in his store and because he only wants the cool kids to shop there, and as we all know, the cool kids do not exceed size 10.**
There’s been lots of outrage voiced over his words. In a society where eating disorders are rampant and girls are already made to feel less if they don’t fit the model portrayed on TV and in magazines, having a grown man echo what many girls already feel about themselves was not exactly a warm and fuzzy moment.
At the same time, this really isn’t news, is it? Clothing designers have done this for ages. Even successful actresses who are larger than the average actress (you know, all three of them) have voiced how difficult it is to get a designer gown in their size since many designers just don’t make them.
It’s just not news.
The original article that surfaced did give me pause – but not for the obvious reason. Yes, the CEO said something incredibly stupid and insensitive, albeit unsurprising. The author of this article closed out his thoughts by sharing that looking at this CEO, he obviously wasn’t one of the pretty people he markets to.
I get it. CEO says something stupid and mean and potentially harmful to an entire group of people so let’s lash out.
Being outraged at this man for making a value judgement based on looks is wholly valid. But turning around and doing the exact same thing waters down your argument and even perpetuates the behavior, doesn’t it?
And therein lies the problem. Too often in this society, people who are hurt by someone else’s insensitivity (that’s being a bit too generous in this case – let’s call it stupidity) fight back with the same tactics.
Whether it be fighting with words, or returning actual violence for violence, where does it get you?
The other thing that stood out was this CEO’s view of what the “all-American cool kid” is. If tuning into teen dramas on TV was my market research, I’d probably agree with him. When you look at shows like Gossip Girl (random choice, they are definitely not the only guilty one) – where every cast member is thin, gorgeous, wealthy, and impeccably dressed – the cool kids are, in fact, modelesque. And shows like this are what a lot of young people love.
Cool kids have money. Perfect skin. Tiny waists.
So, while I certainly agree with everyone’s disdain for what came out of this dude’s facehole, the issue goes beyond what some guy refrained from saying with his inside voice. It’s an entire culture. It’s what a lot of young (and sadly, not-so-young) people believe, particularly in this country, and it’s a belief that continues to be upheld by TV, movies, and even some books.
A lot of responses to this article include, “I’ll never shop there!” I don’t shop at A&F already – even when I could fit my butt in their pre-torn and over-wrinkled jeans. Their stores didn’t lure me in with their heavily perfumed scent and walls covered in half-naked models. I’m not the “all-american cool kid” they’re looking for. ***
But I think a more important response to this article than whether or not you’ll be purchasing their overpriced t-shirts, is looking at how we participate in the culture that created a market where a CEO can feel justified in making these statements.
What are we personally choosing to teach our children (and ourselves) about hurtful statements and what’s beautiful?
*not the actual store name
**not a direct quote – you can google the article if you wish to get the full scoop
***i’m more of a comfy jeans and geeky t-shirt kid