You may have seen the clever consumer rebranding campaign "Fitch The Homeless" (#fitchthehomeless) the past few days. It's a grassroots reactionary movement to the body-shaming scruples of Abercrombie & Fitch as spouted by CEO Mike Jeffries in a series of nasty comments. Among his words, now infamous, "In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. 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, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
My usual stance on corporations is they don't owe us anything besides truth and freedom from harm. Let Disney paint and sparkle Merida like a Jezebel all day long. Don't care! But this Abercrombie business of blatantly saying they only want the "cool" kids in an era when "not-cool" kids are killing themselves by the droves crosses the line for me. It's harmful. I, as much as anyone, would like to see a few slings and arrows tarnish the Abercrombie brand. Which is funny, because I came up in the era of grunge when the "cool kids" were hanging out at NIN concerts and writing band names on their shoes. Abercrombie & Fitch was for dorks. I was as thin and whatever-cool-means as anyone and I wouldn't have been caught dead in an A&F shirt in high school. But back to present day.
People are angry. Even the cool kids. A You Tube video igniting the Fitch The Homeless campaign went viral. The idea is encourage everyone to scour their closets and thrift stores for Abercrombie & Fitch merchandise, then donate it to the homeless. On the surface we have some great stuff: donating to the homeless, taking a stance against a socially harmful brand, standing united with peers of all body types. It takes a warm heart and mad viral marketing skills to launch such a campaign. Kudos to the kids who did it and I'm sure their future is bright. Like all kids, though, sometimes they get it wrong.
Exploiting the homeless to harm Abercrombie & Fitch further marginalizes that group of people. If you don't agree, try answering the question, "why do you think it's an embarrassment to A&F that the homeless are wearing their clothes?" It's like trying to shame a rude jock by forcing him to take the "ugliest" girl to prom. Think about what that says about the girl. How would she feel? I guess I'm such a low human being I'm being used as punishment. Now apply that to an entire group of people struggling to find shelter for the night.
Chicago comedian Kristin Clifford agreed on Twitter, "what group is so subhuman that it's offensive?! I know, the homeless! This is really gonna make our point!"
Guys, I don't like what Mike Jeffries said either, but there's got to be a better way to hurt this brand than putting down another group. I know. Let's vote with our money and not buy those boring clothes. High five!
Jenna Karvunidis has a Facebook page!
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