Yesterday, I pulled on my favorite gray sweatshirt. The one with the slightly frayed hood. The one that falls just right below my bum hiding the junk in my trunk oh so cleverly. The one with the kangaroo pouch that camouflages my “mama pooch” and holds everything from my iPhone to the Beyblade pieces I find while cleaning house.
I pulled my hair into a high ponytail, threw on some simple silver earrings, and my comfy house-booties.
I was Housekeeping Chic! Ready to tackle the kitchen and laundry while looking cute.
Until I glanced down and saw this logo in the bottom left:
Then I verified my suspicion by yanking it off and finding this tag:
(Shocked and appalled gasp here)
And so I was stuck in a conundrum!
There’s been quite a firestorm against Abercrombie and Fitch’s CEO for his outrageous business strategy of not carrying sizes over large (10) in his stores and making this statement:
Which explains my reaction.
How did this end up in my wardrobe? I wondered.
Then I remembered a tag sale at the now closed consignment shop down the street from my house where I snagged this for five dollars.
“Social Justice ‘Sheta” said:
Burn it! Toss it! Get rid of the evidence that you’re one of the “cool kids”! Down with the oppressive, sizest, “exclusionary” Man.
But “Subversive ‘Sheta” said:
Well…you did get this from a local business AND you’re totally not the A&F demographic so… rock that sweatshirt with pride Sistah!
Then, I checked Facebook (part of my revving up to do chores routine) found my friends sharing #Fitchthehomeless video and both Social Justice ‘Sheta and Subversive ‘Sheta said:
#Fitchthehomeless campaign is a response to Abercrombie and Fitch made by Greg Karber in which he purchases A&F clothing from a local Goodwil (at one point, Greg asks one of the employees where they keep the “d**chbag” clothes when he couldn’t find A&F in the racks) and then hands them to the homeless on Skid Row.
I posted to Facebook:
This campaign just doesn’t sit well with me.
Sure, he’s giving the homeless clothes and making a statement against A&F— “re-branding” is what he calls it, but he’s also using people to make his point. And if you watch the video, not once does he stop to actually talk to the homeless he encounters. He doesn’t explain what he’s doing, he doesn’t even ask them if they need a new shirt, and he surely doesn’t invite them to partner with him in “re-branding” A&F. He just hands them shirts as if the simple act of giving them his ideological cast-offs is enough buy-in for him. It’s borderline objectification. Which is why I was so happy to read this post by Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan. I completely agree with all six reasons.
What we give to those in need and the manner in which we give to them matters. We who have an abundance hold the power to bestow dignity to the less-fortunate— let’s not mishandle it.
I remember when we lost everything, our home included, to Hurricane Katrina. We were given so much stuff. I was incredibly thankful, but as I sorted through the bags of baby clothes, I found clothes with stains, holes, and completely impractical items (what infant wears a size 14 boys polo?!?). I slowly realized that thoughtfulness when donating really does matter. When you give something to Goodwill or to a person in need, it should be something that you would wear or put on your own child. Anything less demeans the recipient. If I wouldn’t put A&F on my child or wear it myself, then I have no business giving their clothes to someone in need.
This campaign did exactly that. It demeaned the homeless by giving them “d**chbag” worthy clothes. Those people, those image bearers are not d**chbags, so let’s not celebrate their reception of A&F clothes through this campaign.
But, I totally get this guy’s point. A&F’s CEO is completely out of line and he needs to be challenged. But we don’t fight fire with fire, Kingdom People. We are better than that. There are better ways to be subversive.
So here are my three ways I’m going to respond to A&F’s crazy, that upholds both the mission to challenge A&F and the dignity of the people involved:
1: I’m going to rock my A&F sweatshirt that I bought locally. But, I’m modifying it. I’m ironing on this really cute applique I bought at Micheal’s on sale. I like my sweatshirt and since I’m not shopping for anything retail for a long a time I don’t have shirts to spare.
2: I’m going to go to my Goodwill tomorrow and buy every A&F t-shirt I can find and mail them to The Open Arms Shop. This is a fantastic company that recycles t-shirts into stylish scarves, skirts, and accessories. The thing I love most about The Open Arms Shop is that they attempt to break the cycle of poverty for refugee women in America by employing them and paying them a living wage. They’re offering community and purpose to these precious women. I can get down with that. Check out this amazing video:
3: I’ve started a petition asking A&F to stop burning and throwing out their damaged goods and donate them to local charities like The Open Arms Shop. Will you sign it and pass it on?
Another way you can do something is if you have A&F clothing that you don’t want to wear that’s job interview appropriate (khakis, button downs, etc) you can donate them to your local homeless shelter. They usually have a social worker on staff that helps the residents with finding employment and getting back on their feet. Donate your clothes and know that they are helping the homeless re-enter the workforce. Here in Cambridge our local program is called, Solutions At Work.
We can be agents for change in this world but we must be discerning, compassionate, and strategic.
We must practice a better, more Christ-like subversion.