Don’t buy American Apparel

Here is an interview with Jennifer Berger, executive director of About-Face, an organization which equips women and girls with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect their self-esteem and body image.

About Face have an ongoing campaign against American Apparel, check out the interview with  Jennifer here.

We love the demands that About-Face have made of American Apparel:

1. That sexually exploitative advertising ends altogether in all points of purchase on the website and in stores

2. Dov Charney – CEO of American Apparel – hires a marketing consultant for one year to relaunch the brand in a way that is more friendly to women

It is important that we are aware of American Apparel as this brand is now being sold in Australia. Recently as I perused the clothing in Trade Secret, I grabbed a few items that I thought looked good. I checked out the tag and when I saw that it was American Apparel, I put the items back. In this case, the items themselves were fine – in fact I was keen to purchase if they were suitable. However I will not purchase American Apparel because of the way they objectify and degrade women in their advertising.

American Apparel uses images inspired by pornography in their advertising. Women – often their young staff members – are posed and photographed in ways that draw attention to their body parts or imply sexual activity.

Checking out their Australian website, I find they are also selling pornographic magazines alongside their clothing. Not sure why I’m surprised.

In the US, residents in Manhatten made repeated complaints about this American Apparel Billboard. Finally someone plastered it with graffiti, writing “Gee, I wonder why women get raped.”

Of course, women are never responsible for rape. However the constant portrayal of women as objects of sexual recreation,  contributes to a culture where rape is more likely to happen. In her award winning films on the portrayal of women in advertising – Killing Us Softly – Jean Kilbourne makes the point that objectifying someone is almost always the first step in justifying and committing violence against them.

The Bottom Line here is – don’t buy American Apparel and ask your friends to join you in boycotting them. Help create awareness by sharing this article, or joining the facebook group That’s Enough American Apparel. Women and girls deserve a lot better than the constant representation of them as objects of sexual recreation. You might choose to let American Apparel know what you think of their marketing by contacting them here.

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  1. Team CS
    Posted 1 Jul ’10 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Update – 14 year old boy just commented “they’re selling clothes right, shouldn’t they be wearing clothes?” Made us chuckle.

    So often young people make the most sense when it comes to these issues.

  2. Peter Borges
    Posted 4 Jul ’10 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    I know So many people around the world who are boycotting their stores because of this inhumanity. I will do my best to make that number grow.

  3. Tessa
    Posted 4 Jul ’10 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I wrote to them… everyone I’ve shown (male & female) has been disgusted!

    I’ll let you know you if get a reply!

  4. Posted 10 Jul ’10 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your the shout-out, fellow American Apparel haters! (We’re not usually haters, but these guys deserve it.) -Jennifer Berger, About-Face

  5. normalguy
    Posted 30 Oct ’10 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    why do feminists hate other women so much? isnt it their choice to be in the adverts?

  6. Team CS
    Posted 30 Oct ’10 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    You’ve missed the point ‘normalguy.’

  7. anti censoreship
    Posted 8 Dec ’11 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think normalguy missed the point. Who are you to decide whether another person’s sexuality is right or wrong? Are you against fine art nude photography, too? If not, why not? Isn’t this also the objectification of the female form? When is it okay for a woman to be sexual?

    “Of course, women are never responsible for rape. However the constant portrayal of women as objects of sexual recreation, contributes to a culture where rape is more likely to happen.”

    Woman should be free to use sex and sexuality recreationally. Even though you start this statement with “women are never responsible for rape”, the implication is still “if you dress more conservatively or act in a non promiscuous manner you are less likely to get raped, therefore you should do it”.

    Sure is fascist in here.

    • Anna
      Posted 8 Dec ’11 at 6:40 pm | Permalink


      Funny how women’s sexuality as conveyed by American Apparel is based on a limited, pornified stereotype of sex, one that attracts attention and sells products. So advertisers and marketers and going to dictate women’s sexuality? No problems there.

      Women are not responsible for being raped. However, we live in a culture where women are depicted as objects in advertising and media. The message is always the same- the women are hot and sexually available, they never say no. If women are considered objects, or ‘bitches’ or less than equal, then they will never be free from violence.

    • Anastasia
      Posted 7 Apr ’12 at 1:57 am | Permalink

      Anti- The reason this brand of portraying sexualized women is heinous is because it is done in a way that dis-empowers and dehumanizes women. You’ll notice most of the women in the photographs above are not portrayed in sexually powerful positions where they are the owners of their sexuality (an image that comes to my mind would be a woman standing with her back arched in a way that sticks out her breasts and butt- a sexual position, but one the woman owns). In these photos, the women are being displayed as sexually vulnerable or submissive, as seen by their positions on their backs (a visually vulnerable position) and the two women (the two black-and white images) offering up their genitals like submissive animals. Also, the woman in socks and “Melissa” both seem to be try to cover up their sexual body parts, but aren’t able to (aren’t allowed to), making them sexually vulnerable. In some of the photos, we see as well a dehumanizing element stemming from a de-emphasizing of the face, making these women merely bodies without personality. This is clear in the billboard photo, but also progression downward of the smaller photos in the “Melissa” ad (as they keep cutting more and more of her face off) and in the other black-and-white photo (where the face is placed in the background and is a bit fuzzy and the body is in the foreground and sharper). This kind of portrayal- of women as sexually meek and submissive- is what aids the rape culture (and yes, it is a culture). It casts the female in the role of a weak object begging for male dominance (see- the animal positions). I know women as sexual beings, and it’s only natural for that to be portrayed in society, but it’s not being done accurately. We should be portraying women as strong sexual humans with their own volition, not vulnerable, submissive objects.

  8. Adrian
    Posted 20 Mar ’13 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I don’t like these advertisements they have, it is to much. But I want to start a clothing brand, and American Appeal make the best, Is there really any other option out there?

    • Team CS
      Posted 20 Mar ’13 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Great question Adrian, I’ll see what I can find out.

  9. Gemma
    Posted 19 Dec ’13 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    At the end of the day Anti, they’re supposed to be settling clothes, not sex. And I’m sure they sell men’s clothes too, not that you’d ever guess from the pictures. I am chock sick to the brim of having sex, sexuality and sexual exploitation shoved in my face all day long, day in and day out everywhere I look for the selling of everything from a can opener to clothes to a car. I find it ironically amusing that the supposed creative geniuses coming up with these advertising campaigns do nothing remotely creative or original to represent their products, they just jump on the sex bandwagon; but ‘hey ho creative thought alert’ – why don’t we drag it a step downwards each time so we stand out from the millions of other sex themed ad campaigns. If I so much as walk the 5 minutes to the local shop in my quiet suburban neighbourhood I am bombarded against my will with stacks of sexualised images on anything and everything I pass, from a free bit of wall space, to the side of the bus or tram driving by, to the actual bus stop, to the advertising in the window of my local pharmacy, to the books and magazines and products being sold in the shops, to the sexualised images of women on the t-shirts of some of the guys I walk by. I would quite like to keep my sexuality between myself and my boyfriend, and wish the advertising world would follow suit and stop taking away, degrading and exploiting the intimacy of intimacy. I would also like to be able to leave the house one day without being utterly bombarded by sexualised images and objects, but I suspect those last wishes have become futile in this world.

    • Gemma
      Posted 19 Dec ’13 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Oh I will add a win though. I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who fully supports how I feel about this; and recently when we walled past the local pharmacy’s front window display of a highly exploitative image of a women marketing suncream in her barely there white string bikini, he asked the shop owner to take it down for those reasons and he did immediately. They have tried hard to avoid advertised anything containing images of this nature since then and I applaud them for it. A small win, but a win nonetheless that proves the fight against this huge problem is worthwhile after all and that gains can be made. It’s reassuring!

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Don't buy American Apparel | Collective Shout [...]

  2. [...] We’ve written about American Apparel’s sexual objectification of women in their advertising campaigns before. Another more recent article highlighted American Apparel’s presence in Australia and their continued objectification of women. Aside from the porn themed depictions of women on billboards, in print and online advertising, even American Apparel’s store mannequins are posed bent over and legs spread. Join us in boycotting American Apparel. When you’re out shopping, if you see the American Apparel label, put the item back. [...]

  3. [...] American Apparel uses porn-inspired sexually exploitative advertising. Read more here. [...]

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For a world free from sexploitation