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Douchebag Decree: American Apparel and Target: Hypocrite Corporations Using LGBTQ Pride to Make Money

As you probably know, it's LGBTQ Pride month and celebrations are taking place across the world. But Pride, like so many things that start out as a grassroots movement, is not what it used to be. These days, Pride is not an "of-the-people" celebration, but one sponsored by the richest (and sometimes corrupt) corporations. These mega corporations are using Pride to target a new niche market and gain queer consumers. Pride has become less about the actual LGBTQ issues and more about how corporations can make profits while appearing to be progressive. Whether it's Mormon-founded corporation Marriott Hotels and Resorts targeting queer consumers to "Be You, Stay With Us," Anheuser-Busch departing from its usual bro-ish football ads to have gay-themed Bud Light ads, or the new Chevy Volt "coming out" as electric, Pride is being used to push products to queer consumers.    

A Chevy volt advertisement that has three cars. The car in the middle says 'Mom, dad? I'm electric.' There is a rainbow stripe across the bottom of the ad.

While the corporate takeover of Pride is disappointing in general, there are two corporations that stand out for their douche-baggery in using Pride not only to push sales, but are doing so to cover up their un-inclusive/anti-queer politics of the past. American Apparel and Target earn this week's Douchebag Decree for trying to use Pride as a marketing ploy while engaging in noninclusive and queer-phobic business.  

A thin, white female body modeling American Apparel underwear that reads Legalize Gay

American Apparel 

American Apparel is no stranger to our shit list. While the list of the company's controversies are long, American Apparel has pissed off more than a few feminists:

  • Employees submit a full length photo of themselves before they are hired (based on attractiveness).
  • CEO Dov Charney has been sued over sexual harassment by employees for allegedly hiring based off of his own sexual interest, being crude and making sexual remarks to employees, giving someone a vibrator at work, and interviewing employees in his underwear.
  • The company brags about caring about issues of immigration but yet employed and underpaid immigrants in California.
  • They have repeatedly used problematic images of women in their advertising (and are now using farmers as accessories in their ads).
  • They refused to carry plus-size clothing until last year when they realized they could make a profit from carrying clothes for women of size (check out our coverage of the XL model contest).

Isis King modeling an American Apparel shirt that reads Gay O.K.

But American Apparel is trying to sweep all their controversial publicity under the rug and show how progressive it is when it comes to Pride. In celebration of Pride month, American Apparel released a series of t-shirts with the line "Gay O.K." In addition to these t-shirts, American Apparel is being heralded by many queer organizations for using trans model Isis King in ads for the new "Gay O.K" advertisements. These shirts are being added to the "Legalize Gay" clothing line released after Prop. 8 passed and being sold under the mission to promote equal rights for the queer community. 

While I won't deny that it is great that American Apparel hired Isis King as a model, it is unfortunate that they feature her only for a LGBTQ marketing scheme. Additionally, the whole "Legalize Gay" clothing line and the new "Gay O.K." Pride shirts seem progressive, the truth is that American Apparel is only "progressive" when the public eye is present. The entire marketing chic of American Apparel is that it is known for being exclusive—you have to look a certain way to work there, you have to be a certain size to shop there, and you have to have a certain income to afford their prices. This corporation has never been an ethical company that cared about marginalized groups, it has always marketed to thin, hip, wealthy people. American Apparel has built its entire business on being exclusive, and this exclusivity makes it completely antithetical to the inclusive idea behind Queer Pride. I'm sorry American Apparel, but we're not buying your message or your merchandise. 

 

The Target Pride t-shirt, which is black and says PRIDE with a rainbow wave.

Target 

In 2010, Target donated $150,000 to the conservative Republican goup PAC MN Forward. They got a lot of attention for making this sizable donation particularly as it backed anti-gay canidate Tom Emmer.

So this year, when Target paired up with the Family Equality Council to create a series of Pride t-shirts, it felt like Target was trying to make amends for its endorsement of a homophobic candidate. Target pledges to donate all the proceeds from their Pride shirts up to $120,000.

But there are a few problems with these shirts. First of all, creating a series of Pride shirts does not change the political endorsement and, like American Apparel, this act is just the work of another corporation trying to seem progressive in the public eye while being hypocritical in its actual business practice. The other thing to note is that these shirts can't be found in any Target stores; they are for online sales only. Lastly, matching $120,000 does not cancel out that $150,000 donated to anti-queer cause. For starters, not that Target could take back that donation, but if they were trying to make an apology for their previous donation, they are still $30,000 in deficit of that money. Target, these t-shirts do not cancel out your homophobic political actions of the past and we can see right through this action. Donating money does not fix this much bigger problem. 

American Apparel and Target you have earned our Douchebag Decree for trying to coporatize LGBTQ Pride although you have been anti-inclusive and homophobic. While Pride might only happen every June, it takes more than a recognition one month out of the year to truly be a company that cares about queer issues. 

What do you think of the corporate takeover of Pride? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

 

Previously: The U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union LOLz at Boobs, Mario Batali Thinks "Skinny Actresses" Should Shut Up About His Food 

 

 

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Comments

27 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Never mind that he is bombing

Never mind that he is bombing 6 countries at the moment....Obama is co-opting Gay Pride (just in the nick of time). As if queer people should only worry about gay rights and not the rights of poor people and innocent civilians in other countries. Or the fact that Obama is supported by the same corporate crooks as Bush Junior and Senior and Romney. He is Wall Street. He should be added to the list. As if it wasn't planned for Biden to make some statement right before Pride month and then have the President follow. Uh, no, I don't want an Obama Pride sticker thank you very much. i'll take a Roseanne Barr or Jill Stein one though if you have one of those.

Very much this. How can

Very much this. How can anyone claim to support homosexuals and then bomb the shit out of the houses of Afghan and Pakistani homosexuals? Same goes with women's rights more broadly, really. It kills me every time Hilary says she's a feminist in public, whilst her administration systematically destroys women's lives every day, in a number of different countries. Would be hilarious if it wasn't so depressing.

Anyway, good article.

Reply to comment | Bitch Media

continuously i used to read smaller content that as well clear their motive, and
that is also happening with this piece of writing which
I am reading at this time.

So many things wrong with this article...

But let's just start with the massive problem:

American Apparel garment factory workers are among the highest paid garment workers in the world. It's one of the reasons the company has trouble remaining solvent. Way to do your due diligence as a reporter on this one, Bitch.

bahahahaha

anyone who is a dov charney supporter is clearly a total CREEP! but anyway, seeing as your most MASSIVE issue with this post is AA's labor practices, do you have any thoughts on AA now just promotes their "vertical integration" because they can no longer claim to be "sweat free"?

Go to their website

Go to their website right now. The 5th and 6th words in their title are "sweatshop free". They have pages and pages describing the details about them being sweatshop free.

Well, then! A large company

Well, then! A large company posted an expose on themselves? Sounds legit...

American Apparel

American Apparel was probably the first and strongest corporation to come out in favor of gay marriage and gay rights. They've been a staple of gay pride for years. Yes, they probably make money from the exposure, but WTF? Bitch makes money off the t-shirts in your online store, are you hypocrites?

Yes, their advertising raises discussion (although I absolutely do not buy that risqué photos of models in underwear is somehow inherently misogynist). Yes, Dov Charney has been douchey, but he is not the company, just like you can't codemn the Democratic Party based on Bill Clinton or John Edwards.

But you know what's more regressive and anti-woman than American Apparel? Every single other national clothing chain. Every single one. From funding anti-woman causes (Urban Outfitters, Target, Walmart, probably most others) to photoshopping women to be unrealistic (almost every retailer).

How about you compare the major clothing brands based on their political stances and marketing? I just went to gap.com and saw 10 white, extremely skinny, likely photoshopped women out of 10 photos. I went to jcrew.com and saw 24 photos, every one more skinny than the American Apparel models I've seen (except maybe Isis), and only one woman was non-white (light-skinned brown). If you do an actual comparison, American Apparel will almost certainly be the best.

And please quit the body-shaming for those of us who wear American Apparel - I can't find many clothes that fit at places like Old Navy or Forever 21 (too short) or places like Abercrombie (too tiny, not that I'd shop there). Each store or designer tends to have a certain fit for their customers and sticks with it - that's why many of us shop the same brands when we don't thrift or buy vintage. There are even certain Etsy shops where I have bought multiple times and a few I'd never shop at again based solely on how their designs specifically fit me.

I wish American Apparel would improve its image, but I blame us for hammering them down every single time they try to improve (add more XL sizing, support gay rights, support immigrant rights, transgender model). If you have a problem with a corporation, and it does something good - PRAISE THEM. Something that usually goes unmentioned that I'd like to praise American Apparel for is that probably half their shop is unisex when it makes sense (t-shirts, hoodies, jackets, even many pants). As far as I know, they were the pioneer and still the only major company to dismantle arbitrary clothing gendering.

Also, if you truly disagree and believe American Apparel is the absolute worst, I'd love to hear what progressive clothing brands (besides t-shirt companies) you'd recommend instead.

Sizing

By the way, regarding American Apparel's supposed exclusive sizing and pricing:

BitchMart Unisex Tee $24.95, XS-3XL (7 sizes)
American Apparel Unisex Tee $18.00, 2XS-3XL (8 sizes)

BitchMart Fitted Tee $24.95, M-3XL (5 sizes)
American Apparel Fitted Tee $18.00, 2XS-2XL (7 sizes)

By that logic, maybe Bitchmart should get the next Douchebag Decree for its even more exclusive sizing and pricing?

I'm just making a rhetorical point; I love Bitch but am so frustrated when an imperfect company like American Apparel or even an organization like PETA is attacked nonstop even when they do good. Organizations won't get better if you attack them when they try.

organizations will absolutely

organizations will absolutely do better if we attack them when they try. that's why we attack them, because we hope that it will help them to wise up.

this was a great post, morgan.

Did you know that Bitch is a

Did you know that Bitch is a small nonprofit and whatever money they make off their merch goes straight to supporting their operations? American Apparel is a publicly traded company, for crying out loud. Comparing the two is just silly.

A lot of AA's stuff is unisex because that fits into their aesthetic, not because they are truly concerned with destroying the gender binary.

AA may have more ethnic diversity in their models, but they are all photographed in an off-putting, creepily sexual way. Their ads are designed to look like amateur porn. I am not anti-porn, but I really hate their creepy ads plastered everywhere I go.

To a large degree, Dov Charney IS the company, so again your comparison (to the Democratic party) is inaccurate. He's a huge creep and he created the culture of that company.

Can't you just admit that you like shopping there and you realize there are problems but you're going to buy their stuff anyway? Even the most staunch feminist has some guilty pleasures in life. Just be honest about it.

Set the ball rolling. . .

I once had a 14 y/o student who used the word "retard" about 10 times per hour. I explained to him why he shouldn't use the word and encouraged him to try and excise it from his vocabulary. I explained that I thought it was time for him to start taking responsibility for his actions, and this small change would be a good place to start. Like most 14 y/o kids, there was some eye rolling but. . .
Within a few weeks he actually became aware of his use of the word.
Within a few months he had actually cut down on the word.
Within a few more months he was apologizing when he did use the word.
And by the end of the year, he was repeating my original speech to other kids who used the word.

Sometimes people make changes because other people ask them to. It might not feel genuine at first, but it encourages an intentional behavior that will hopefully evolve into a natural behavior. Let's hope these companies become accustomed to these behaviors.

Target

Though I'm not happy about the shirts, I would like to give a shout out to my local target which employs several trans people. I give them props for that.

I can't believe all the

I can't believe all the corporation love going on in these comments. seriously, y'all need to dig a little deeper than what american apparel is posting on their website.

Coporations Can Change Too

I think the corporations have nothing to do with us socially. They are there to make money and provide everyone with something to protest with at a cheap price. We view douche-baggery as hypocrisy when we try to place the idea that Target supports one group over the other. Just because they supposedly supported one group first, doesn't mean they support ANY group. They are just money builders, and making investments based on peoples' beliefs. We all do the same thing with our money, depending on our own beliefs. This is how economists work. The religious viewpoint would also probably see this as a slap in the face just as much as the gay rights activists. However, all BIG corporations are GOING to support the majority because that is what makes the most money. Who knows what the people who work there truly believe in? In retrospect, as the majority of people change, so will the corporations to meet our needs. So we call this flip-flopping? Well, Obama calls it 'evolving'. Make up your f****cking minds people.

TOM EMMER

Just to be nit-picky the name of the horrible person that Target supported for Governor (who fortunately lost), is Tom Emmer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Emmer).

Just wanted to get that right, in case someone Googles "tom emmer horrible person".

*****************************************************************
"Oh don't the days seem lank and long
When all goes right and nothing goes wrong
And isn't your life extremely flat
When you've nothing whatever to grumble at?"

--W.S. Gilber

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Gay people don't matter in

Gay people don't matter in this context