Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why #fitchthehomeless Is Not The Solution

Abercrombie and Fitch hit their stride in the early 2000's, with adolescents clamoring for the brand to be displayed somewhere on their body.  I was teaching fifth grade at the time in an upper income, mostly white area outside Atlanta.  Most of my students were able to afford the brand, so my classroom was a sea of A&F logos, as it was the "cool" status symbol at the time.

I understood the desire, as I had once begged my mother incessantly for any clothes from The Limited or Gap, in order to not have to shop at "The Deb" anymore. (Please someone tell me you know what "The Deb" was...) In any case, back in my day, to own some knee-length plaid shorts was a sign that you had made it.  Clearly, times have changed.

Wearing over-sized glasses before hipsters were even born.  Literally.

Abercrombie has defined its shopping experience by providing half-naked teenager "models" at the door, an excessive use of cologne spray throughout the store, and music being played at decibels that aim to keep away anyone over the age of thirty.

The CEO, Mike Jeffries, has made some pretentious and elitist statements over the years as you can read in this Salon interview from 2006.  One of his comments has garnered much attention in the past few weeks:

"As far as Jeffries is concerned, America’s unattractive, overweight or otherwise undesirable teens can shop elsewhere. “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

You can see why people may be a wee bit up in arms over this. 

In response, a filmmaker in California has made this video calling for Americans to "#fitchthehomeless," which means give all your A&F clothing to a homeless shelter near you.  

Here's where I see the problem in this. 

The CEO of A&F has admitted to propagating an elitist agenda aimed at reaching one subsection of America; rich, white, and good-looking humans between the ages of ten and twenty.  

It's gross.  

#Fitchthehomeless has taken another subset of America, the homeless and the destitute, and dehumanized them.  

Equally gross. 

His tactic isn't to care for the poor because the are in need, but rather, stick it to the "man."  In essense, the homeless are simply a commodity in the video, used to make a point.  

In the short documentary, the young filmmaker hands articles of clothing to the residents of Skid Row, then films them as they hold up the A&F logo.  There is no documentation that he held any conversations with any of those shown in the video or that he has spent any time with the homeless in Skid Row.  It appears that he picked the "lowest" place in society and headed there armed with his weapons, a pile full of clothing.  

I have an issue with this.  

His idea still separates America into a class system, where he views the homeless as inferior and the lowest of the low. 

He isn't advocating for anyone else to wear the clothing, just those that are destitute and homeless. Which to me, sounds a bit elitist and classist as well.  

Throwing used clothes at the homeless does not solve the problem of pretentious elitism or poverty and destitution. 

Instead of #fitchthehomeless. . .

And you are a parent of adolescents, have some conversations with your kids about the CEO's statements and what A&F portrays to the public.  Invite your teens to weigh in with their opinion on the controversy.  It's important that the generation this brand is targeting understand the implications that go along purchasing a shirt or pair of shorts from their company. 

If you aren't buying clothes for anyone in this demographic, lucky you.  I would imagine trying to explain to your 15 year-old daughter that shorty shorts and see-through shirts is not an appropriate clothing choice can be rather stressful. 

Instead of #fitchthehomeless. . .

What if we take the time to evaluate our thoughts on how socioeconomic status and demographics affect the way we interact with others.  Let's take the controversial statements and the video and use them to consider whether we are quietly living out the same narrative in our own everyday interactions. 

Let's continue to fight against the cultural norm that tells our teens they must look a certain way to be known and accepted.  Let's consider our homeless neighbors in our surrounding towns and communities as people who deserve dignity and more than an article of our clothing.  

And finally, let's bring back the long, plaid short. 

And the ponytail with the long side bang.  That looked awesome. 

1 comment:

  1. #Fitchthehomeless is a viral movement to spite A&F and make them the no. 1 brand of the homeless. Many believe that the whole idea is degrading because the homeless people are being used to contrast the idea of cool by positioning them as "unworthy," or lesser human beings. And it’s not clear whether, from the homeless perspective, this stunt is actually helping anything.

    In response, P1124 has started a “Wear One, Share One” campaign to clothe the same homeless people on Skid Row. But unlike the #fitchthehomeless movement, whose goal is to shame Abercrombie without regard to the wellbeing of the homeless, P1124's sole goal is to uplift and bless the homeless. The “Wear One, Share One” Campaign is simple; buy one shirt, get two, one to wear, one to share. Lets #uplifthehomeless, and show them that they are worthy of receiving the same new clothes that we purchase for ourselves. Make P1124 the title of no. 1 brand of the homeless.

    Watch the video:

    Learn more about the movement: