Abercrombie & Fitch got hit by a massive PR cyclone earlier this month after an article about the company's policy to exclude overweight, unattractive and/or uncool people resurfaced.
The 2006 Salon article, which went viral after being referenced by a recent Business Insider piece, was littered with blunt remarks by CEO Mike Jeffries, such as: "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."
And, "A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes] and they can't belong."
And also, "good-looking people attract other good-looking people... We don't market to anyone other than that."
Expectedly, the response has ranged from simmering disgust to raving indignation. On Abercrombie & Fitch's Facebook page, it's a whole lot of both.
"Your policy sickens me," wrote Dana H. "I am plus-sized and I'm hot!"
"Everyone is beautiful no matter what body type they are... shame on you and this company," wrote Jen Q.
Typically, when I defend a person's right to make offensive comments against a particular group, I'm told that, because I am not a member of that group, I'm not entitled to have an opinion on it. Well, this time I am entitled. I am fat. I am uncool. And that means that not only do I get to speak freely about us uncool fat people; I also have license to use affectionate slurs about us. So, to all who are outraged by this controversy, I say, "Pigga please!"
Everyone is not beautiful. Do you actually believe there are no average or ugly people? Perhaps you're talking about inner beauty? Well, that doesn't fly, either, because we all know there are some inner-ugly sumbitches out there. It doesn't matter anyway, because inner beauty isn't what we're talking about. Jeffries is speaking to a specific type of beautiful person—let's call them Abercrombie Gorgeous (AG): slim, toned, tan, waxed, washboard-ab-having, totally smoking, swimsuit-model babes and hunks, and for crissake why can't we just admit that not everyone gets to be AG?
What's the point of even having a word like "beautiful" if it's going to apply to everyone? And if we can admit that there's a class of beautiful people, why can't we admit that it's OK for a company to market to them? I mean, A&F also targets young people, but nobody's griping about age discrimination. Why isn't anybody concerned that you can't buy granny panties at Ralph Lauren? Why is it OK for Cosmopolitan to ignore post-menopausal housewives? Why is there no outrage that there's nothing for poor people to buy at Tiffany's? What about all those Big and Tall stores that discriminate against little people? The only difference between A&F and all the thousands of other exclusionary companies is that A&F admitted to it, out loud.
As expected, Ellen DeGeneres entered the fray. "Beauty is not physical," she said during her anti-Abercrombie monologue, followed by, "If you really want clothing from a cool place, [go to] The Ellen Shop," at which point a poster appeared on the screen featuring nine models wearing various Ellen tops—and guess what? All—yes all—nine of them were young, thin and cool-looking! There were no seniors, no midgets, no gimps, no scars, no nerds and not a single butterball to be found in the frame.
And why is that? Because Ellen knows that fat people are unpleasant to look at. It's a real, true fact. Even fat people don't want to see other fatties on TV. You ever see two blubber-necks making out in a movie? The hell you do. Every director or producer that ever lived—including Kevin Smith and Michael Moore—knows that fat people kissing won't put asses in seats. Not even fat asses.
This is just a true factual truth, my friends. So who do we think we're kidding with this "everybody is beautiful" bullshit? Moreover, who does DeGeneres think she's kidding? Forget the poster—all her past and present girlfriends are petite starlets: Her current girlfriend, Portia de Rossi, could easily be the mold for Barbie—; Anne Heche is so skinny that even stick figures gasp when she walks by; and Alexandra Hedison is as curvy as a fishing line with an indignant barracuda hooked on the other end.
Looking at pictures of all her known girlfriends, it becomes obvious that DeGeneres, like Jeffries, has a "No Bovines" policy. The only difference is that Jeffries is honest about it. And isn't it funny how we bitch to the high heavens about lying—our politicians lie, our salesmen lie, the clergy lies—but when somebody finally tells a truth, we tear them apart.
I'm not saying Jeffries isn't a beauty-obsessed weasel. I'm saying y'all are more obsessed. Because this idea that everybody is beautiful tells me that we covet beauty too much. It tells me that underneath all this altruistic outrage is the mindset that not being beautiful is some sort of tragedy; therefore, best play it safe and say everyone is beautiful.
However, the reality is that only about 15 percent of us are actually AG. So why is it such a big deal not to be one of them? We're the majority. We are the 85-percenters. We've got other attributes to be proud of and need to focus on those rather than worry about which clothing lines are or aren't available to us.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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