Thursday, June 30, 2005

I was very excited when American Apparel first hit the marketplace. I loved the idea of a sweatshop-free, worker-friendly garment factory. I loved the fact that workers were given free massages, and access to affordable health care. I loved the fact that all fabric scraps are recycled and that some products are made with organic cotton. I still love these things. But after reading about the CEO of the company, my love for American Apparel has been somewhat tainted.

Even before reading this article, a couple of things had made me uneasy about AA. I like how the ads feature a diverse range of models (many of whom are not professional models, but AA workers), but the ads seemed vaguely exploitative to me. They seemed to fully embrace the beauty myth, the objectification of women's bodies,which seemed in opposition to the company's progressive mission. Also, most the clothes are sized small. I usually wear small/medium shirts, but the AA large shirts are sometimes tight on me. The company purportedly wants to make the world a better place, but their clothes seem to be designed for just a narrow (literally and figuratively) slice of the population.

Now that I know more about the sleazeball founder of the company, Dov Charney, these issues make more sense. According to the article (which I think is not nearly as tough on Charney as it could have been):

He is a self-professed "hustler." Women either love him and date him or complain bitterly of the flagrantly sexist workplace and blatant favoritism and general pervy creepiness on the part of Dov, and there was, apparently, a very strange article about Charney in adorably snarky Jane magazine a while back, wherein Charney performed oral sex with a female employee and masturbated in front of the interviewer multiple times, with full awareness and consent all around.

Charney is now faced with several sexual harrassment suits, and I hope that his actions will catch up with him legally. I am torn about whether or not to buy American Apparel products from now on--I want to support the workers, but I don't want to support this slime bucket. I am glad there are other sweatshop free manufacturers, such as No Sweat and Justice Clothing, neither of which seem to have creepy CEOs at the helm. Getting rid of worker exploitation is so important, but so is getting rid of sexual exploitation.


carla said...

Welcome to the Progressive Women Bloggers webring. :)

gayle said...

Thanks so much, Carla! I'm happy to be part of it!