Feminism | Posted by Nellie B on 07/25/2009

Vandalize Gay


American Apparels Legalize Gay T-shirt

American Apparel's "Legalize Gay" T-shirt

In my nominally liberal suburb of Washington, D.C., the sight of two mommies or daddies and their adorable offspring is not uncommon.  In fact, the suburb adjacent to mine, renowned as a bastion of hippies, boasts one of the highest numbers of lesbian households in the nation.  While pride parades don’t exactly march down the street, HRC Equality bumper stickers are plastered on every other car.  So, my community was fairly shocked when the local American Apparel’s “Legalize Gay” window display was destroyed on Wednesday.

The unknown vandal smashed a window, though nothing was stolen, according to the Washington City Paper.  The Georgetown location of American Apparel also received a threatening phone call.

Now, I have my issues with American Apparel.  Their sexist ad campaigns with half-clothed barely-legal women are blatantly offensive and have come under siege before.  Owner Dov Charney was taken to court on charges of sexual harassment.  And though the $30 t-shirts are nominally made without sweatshops, I wonder how much of that money goes to the women who sew them in downtown LA.

If anything in the local American Apparel is worthy of destruction, it’s the mannequins with chopped-off torsos, which bend over and thrust out their legging-clad rears toward the street in a come-hither position. Don’t even get me started on the naked butt poster in the store window.  Even the store’s supposedly progressive “Legalize Gay” t-shirts have the unfortunate effect of turning a civil rights issue into little more than a fashion statement.

For several months, the outside of American Apparel sported unobtrusive, spot-on (and radical, if it wasn’t added by the store to look more ‘edgy’) graffiti that stated “Welcome to the Gender Box.”  Indeed.

Misguided protesters have smashed local shop windows before, ostensibly to make an anti-consumerist statement.  This incident, however, was good, old-fashioned American homophobia rearing its head.  It goes to show that in this era, at least in Silver Spring, that hating gays is enough to inspire destructive protest against a corporation.  Good old sexist advertising is not.

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  • danya @ at 12:46 pm, July 25th, 2009

    nellie b., marry me

  • Joanie @ at 2:17 pm, July 25th, 2009

    Here in Capitol Hill, the queer district of Seattle, I can’t imagine such a vandalism happening to the ‘hip, trendy, edgy’ American Apparel shop on Broadway. But, then, that’s why it would be so shocking if it happened

    That we continue to live in a society where random acts of violence and destruction motivated by hatred is a sadness to me. But it reminds me how important it is for us to continue to work toward a culture of equality – of acceptance and universal respect

    It is not always easy work

  • Ryan @ at 8:09 pm, July 25th, 2009

    The sewers at American Apparel make on average between $12-18 dollars an hour and have access to low-cost health care, subsidized transportation and free massages.

    American Apparel

  • Nikki Darling @ at 2:03 pm, July 27th, 2009

    American Apparel frustrates me. Why is it that they can be socially conscious of all these different types of inequality and yet still be one of the biggest pushers of misogyny and objectification of women to youth culture? How do they not see the violence in that?

  • Amy L @ at 8:20 pm, July 27th, 2009

    Great job!
    your Mom

  • Julie Z @ at 9:13 pm, July 27th, 2009

    I just wanted to share this – a rep from American Apparel emailed with some information about their company:

    “Garment workers at the factory (of which are not all women, we have a large amount of male sewers/cutters/etc. also) make well above minimum wage, between $12-18 per hour. They have access to health benefits for their families, and other benefits, such as free massages, English lessons, and subsidized transportation.

    Despite bad publicity around the company’s CEO, we actually have women in a lot of the prominent positions in the company. The head of Retail Operations (my supervisor) is a woman, as are the majority of our photographers, the two creative directors, the legal counsel, nearly the entire allocation team, the majority of the design team, the head of fabric planning, and important employees of the finance department.”

    I know I’ve stated my opinions about AA before, but it really is important to hear both sides.

  • Nellie @ at 9:38 pm, July 27th, 2009

    Thank you for clarifying, Julie.
    My issue is not so much with employee treatment but with marketing tactics.

  • Emma @ at 11:08 pm, July 27th, 2009

    As Nellie pointed out in her later post, employee treatment sounds fine, but really. What impression does the store give off when trying to sell something? Women manikins leaning over to show off their rear’s, is this really what we want? How we want women to be noticed, just something to look at?

  • Tabitha @ at 10:17 pm, July 31st, 2009

    I agree completely with Emma– While supporting equality in pay/benefits/etc. is all well and good, it takes an unfortunate “one step forward, two steps back” turn when the only ad campaigns widely published feature practically nude, and seemingly underaged girls. It’s a vicious cycle, of course, because those ads sell more than almost any others, but the buck has to stop somewhere…also, to the author of this blog, congratulations on being a very informed and intelligent young woman; it’s people like you who are going to be able to make the biggest impact on other girls your age and younger! It gives me some pride knowing that there are people like you to carry on in the search for equality!

  • Kerry Tarpey @ at 4:43 am, March 7th, 2010

    Great posting

  • clothing rack @ at 9:43 am, April 21st, 2010

    That is several inspirational stuff. For no reason knew that opinions could be this varied. Thanks for all the enthusiasm to offer you such helpful information here.

  • Cruz Hieber @ at 3:45 am, April 25th, 2010

    Now THAT IS what I deem an insightful take on this subject. What I would advise perhaps is talking to other people actively involved in the scene and bring to day any conflicting points of view and then update your site or create a new post for us to stew over. Hopefully you’ll take my advice, I’m looking forward to it! Try to cover off on some graffiti characters as well if possible, they’re very popular at the moment.

  • sin_lgbt @ at 2:53 pm, July 19th, 2010

    […] as Dov Charney himself, even the seemingly politically correct Legalize Gay campaign cannot escape criticism. I’m feeling guilty now cos the T-shirts look so nice I’d love to own them. Too bad […]

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