Thursday, 16 May 2013

#FitchTheHomeless? No thanks.


Let me begin with a much extended sigh of exasperation.
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Ok. Hopefully that has firmly set the tone in the region of ‘is this actually happening? Really? I mean, seriously, it’s actually happening and people aren’t stopping this?” The source of my current irritation is, unsurprisingly, Abercrombie & Fitch. Generally there is an undercurrent of anger from this company which bubbles away in my internal ‘Stream-of-Discontent’ but today it has finally reached the surface.
            Back in 2006, the putty-faced Mike Jeffries, CEO of this morally-devoid company stated “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.” I don’t know about you, but I always thought the ‘cool kids’ were narcissistic fools – which is probably why they pay extortionate prices for shit clothes – seriously, look.
          
  To add further insult, Jeffries went onto declare ‘are we exclusionary? Absolutely.’ What he means is, if you are fat, and therefore uncool, we don’t want you. Thanks for propagating stereotypes, and generally further excluding all overweight kids (who have probably already been bullied for their appearance) and firmly placing them outside of the bracket of ‘socially desirable’. In all societies there will be those who are deemed to be ‘lesser’; at a point in history it was all those of different skin colour, now it seems to be those carrying a little extra chubb, along with a hundred other social groups. To deliberately exclude one group, simply because you don’t like the way they look is bigoted and, frankly, pathetic.
            So, I think most people will agree that the ‘principles’ upheld by A&F are deplorable and that something should probably be done to change it. Yes, if you’re a size 6 and A&F jeans fit your booty ‘just right’ you probably aren’t concerned. But when they suddenly turn around and say anyone shorter than 5’9” isn’t welcome in their stores you’ll probably have something to say about it.
            One video that is currently spreading across the internet is Greg Karber’s campaign to #FitchTheHomeless.. Firstly, kudos for putting in the effort to spread the word about A&F’s discriminatory actions – it needs to be done. But I have a very big problem with this movement. Karber’s aim is to search out unwanted A&F clothing in thrift stores and to hand it out to the homeless in an effort to give the company an unwanted rebrand. Now, if he was handing out clothing to Sarah Palin I’d possibly have less of a problem with this. But through using the homeless as a way of giving this company a ‘negative association’ this campaign is simply re-enforcing stereotypes of the homeless being dirty and repellent and uses the association with them as a form of punishment to A&F. The simplest way I can think to paraphrase my understanding of this campaign would be:           
            A&F: “We only want the rich, clean, shiny kids wearing our clothes!”
            Karber: “You want the best people wearing your clothes? Well, Ha! I’ve given them to the   worst! Sucks to be you.”
            This is pure exploitation of the homeless community to make Karber’s, and many other people’s, personal points against A&F. I cannot imagine that many people, freezing and starving on the streets, will turn away from free clothing, but the intentions of those giving the clothes are not philanthropic, they are exploitational. Given the choice, maybe the homeless have similarly strong disagreements with the principles of A&F and yet they are not given the choice to object, they are being used as silent, and unwitting, participants in one man’s campaign.
            If I learned that someone had gifted me clothes simply because they deemed me to be an unwanted association with the company I’d be pretty horrified. Also, if someone gave me A&F clothes without warning me of the terrible ethics of the company I’d be pretty pissed if I found out – but don’t worry, the homeless don’t have computers and we just won’t tell them…right? Is that the deal here? They get clothes and nobody explains to them why or warns them that their destitution is being used in a political campaign.
            This doesn’t wash with me. If people really want to stand and campaign against the terrible ethics of A&F then they should probably start with making everyone aware of their iffy-principles – without exploiting the needy. Or simply hand some hoodies out to the BNP.

Lauren Sourbutts

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