Is American Apparel sexist? Latest “unisex” campaign adds fuel to the fire

American Apparel Unisex Shirt

For years, American Apparel has been plagued by claims that the company purposefully exploits its female workers and models — and its latest campaign will surely add fuel to that fire.

In the online campaign for a unisex shirt, the male models are shown with the flannel shirt buttoned up and with straight-forward gazes. Although there is a singular “product model image” of a female model, the ones that stand out are of women seductively posing with their shirts entirely unbuttoned and their breasts bared.

“It’s terrible to see how they portray women in their advertisement. On the female model it’s not about the shirt anymore, the picture is sexist and degrading to women. You wonder what they want to sell,” Swedish blogger Emilie Erikkson told Aftonbladet.

However, Elizabeth Trotzig, a spokeswoman for the company, said the complaints likely wouldn’t affect the campaign.

Another spokesperson for American Apparel elaborated by saying the photos were not out of sync with the company’s standards.

American Apparel Sexist Ad

“American Apparel is well known for its provocative imagery, artistic photographs and its stance on free expression within the fashion industry… Clearly we’d never seek to upset anyone and we’re sorry to anyone who is upset.”

The photos are definitely not the most revealing or provocative in American Apparel’s history. However, as Erikkson noted in a post on her blog, it’s the contrast of how the male and female models are portrayed that’s concerning.

“Because it seems as though women can ONLY wear this shirt (ONLY) if they tie it to the front. But if I were a man, well I could have worn this shirt whilst hanging out with my friends, chilling, smoking.”

This isn’t the first (or even hundredth) time that American Apparel has been branded as sexist. In 2010, Salon published an op-ed piece by Emma Silvers about why she was boycotting the clothing company.

“From its advertisements to its hiring policies to its CEO, everything about American Apparel is sexist, seedy and seriously offensive.”

She added that the American Apparel founder, Dov Charney, is widely known as perverted — a reputation that stemmed from an incident when he masturbated and received oral sex from a female worker while providing an interview to Jane. The executive also has very questionable hiring practices, particularly when it comes to female workers.

Although the saying goes that no publicity is bad publicity, it seems that American Apparel is really pushing the limits.

Do you think American Apparel’s latest pictures are sexist? Or is it just good marketing?

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