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Abercrombie & Fitch too sexy for young kids

Published: Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

Sex sells. This principle has been recognized since the advent of motion pictures, when "peep show" nickelodeons were among the first ever moving picture clips available for viewing. But back in the 1940's, a "peep show" entailed a woman lifting her dress to reveal her bare ankles. Over time, the standards for determining what defines appropriate sexual content have greatly deteriorated.

Sexuality in past advertising was based on innuendos. Today, sexual content in advertising has become incredibly blatant. Ad campaigns such as Victoria's Secret's, which depict practically naked models plastered on 30-foot-billboards, or Uncle Ben's commercials featuring a couple lusting for something other than rice, market their products through these techniques unabashedly.

Leading the pack in explicit advertising is clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch. In their latest 2002 "XXX" catalog, it has been reported that 121 of its 280 pages show suggestive photographs which depict sexuality in many different forms, ranging from nudity to near orgies. In addition, the pages that do show clothing advertise clothes that are not for sale. It seems clear that Abercrombie is advertising something, but it certainly is not clothes. Instead, they appear to be advertising a lifestyle. A&F spokesman Hampton Carney said of the catalog, "It's all part of the college experience . . . a commentary on college life." Has this man spent a day on a college campus?

It does not take a college degree to recognize the irony in a clothing company publishing a magazine where very little clothing is actually worn. This is not to say it does not work. Some people, no doubt, come into the store to buy the magazine, and Abercrombie's young, sexy image is probably due in no small part to its association with this type of magazine.

It may be possible to chalk up Abercrombie's raunchy magazine and other distasteful ads as merely a desperate grab for the attention and discretionary spending of society's youths, but several recent incidents suggest that Abercrombie has crossed the line.

For example, A&F has come out with a line of thong underwear that is sold in its Abercrombie Kids' stores, targeting 7 to 14 year-old children. As if selling thongs to children is not bad enough, printed conspicuously on the underwear are provocative phrases such as "wink, wink" and "eye candy." Objectionable advertising is one thing, but pushing adult sexuality on an innocent 7-year-old child is another.

The most recent thong incident followed Abercrombie's previous debacle, the release of a line of racially insensitive T-shirts. These T-shirts feature phrases such as "Pizza Dojo -- Eat in or wok out -- You like long time", "Wong Brothers Laundry Service - Two Wongs can make it white", and "Buddha Bash -- Get your Buddha on the floor." All of these phrases were accompanied by offensive pictures which personify classic racial stereotypes that Asian-Americans have worked hard to overcome.

Abercrombie & Fitch is, to put it simply, pathetic. They have no pride or respect for themselves or their targeted customers. This company does not give thought to the repercussions that would undoubtedly come if adolescents actually adopted the type of lifestyle they are glamorizing.

Whether parading pictures that entice teenagers to embrace a lifestyle involving sexual promiscuity, exhorting little girls to engage in adult activities, or racially stereotyping an entire people group in order to make a joke, it seems as though Abercrombie would do anything and go to any length to grab the attention of today's teenagers and turn a profit. It is not, however, Abercrombie or their kind who will ultimately decide whether such tactics will succeed and be rewarded. Instead the responsibility lies upon consumers to realize and react to Abercrombie & Fitch's harmful and dehumanizing tactics.

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