Is this even worth saying?

The Vancouver Sun employs a handful of "legacy" columnists (old people) who have license to write whatever they want and no one will edit or fact check it--and many of the paper's readers will accept it as the ultimate authority. That's why the front section comes chock-loaded with nuggets of xenophobia, homophobia, and sexism, fully unchecked. Yesterday's front page headlines included: "Are you buying your clothes at a store that sells porn?"

The article was written by Daphne Bramham, the staff writer who has devoted years to covering the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C. It's been a long time since I've seen her write about anything else and maybe she hasn't. The article reads as if she's never stepped into an American Apparel store in her life and some how has avoided the ubiquity of their ever more scandalous ads. And when a reader brings it to her attention, she is fully outraged and vows to never shop there again. This can't be a huge loss to AA, since the 50-65 set isn't their biggest market.

Braham writes about the company's ads, which are undoubtedly provocative. In the past few years, the ads have actually employed porn stars, and not AA employees. Something about the ads bothers me, which I'm not going to put my finger on yet because I know I'll get it wrong. Newsweek offers some thoughts and this troubling photograph of a billboard from NYC's Lower East Side (if you can't see the graffiti, click the image to enlarge).

More locally, brilliant Michelle [Have you read Michelle's blog? Go now!] has offered an opinion on Braham's article and condemns the writer's unfounded moral outrage at AA's merchandising:
"I hate that this woman basically says American Apparel should be condemned for promoting “soft-core ponography” even though it’s sweatshop-free labour, thus reinforcing a horribly skewed North American value system that finds nipples and cocks more offensive than sweatshop labour. I just don’t really get why sex is so offensive. Any kid shopping at American Apparel has probably already cruised porn on het internet; clearly it’s a good marketing strategy; clearly pornography will never be defeated by moral outrage because EVERYONE LIKES LOOKING AT ATTRACTIVE NAKED PEOPLE."
Still, Braham does one thing right which is to bring attention to the way Charney runs his company and interacts with his female employees:
"Charney masturbated several times and even had oral sex in front of journalist Claudine Ko, who wrote about it in July 2004 for now defunct Jane magazine*

Charney makes no apologies for calling female employees the C-word or sluts. The employee handbook warns that employees working in creative areas "will come into contact with sexually charged language and visual images. This is part of the job."

Charney, who frequently wears only underwear in the workplace, has had five sexual harassment suits against him in the past three years. Four have been settled. In the one filed in June 2008, the employee says Charney ordered her to simulate masturbation in front of him. When the woman refused, Charney got her supervisor to do it.
There's a total lack of transparency in the way that AA runs their business and I cannot believe that it has not been fully verified of any of these charges are legitimate.

To be on the safe (and cheap side), I think I may be staying away from AA; it's "sweatshop free" label is not enough to make me want to buy a $26 t-shirt, or interact with intolerably smug employees. I'll also have to buy my copy of BUTT somewhere else.

*I found a copy of the Jane article here.

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