You May Be Fitch to be Tied But Don’t Use Homeless People As Props

By now, you’ve read about the assinine comments from Abercrombie & Fitch about their desire to remain “pure” by not selling clothes to plus-sized people (like me!) or donate excess. God forbid poor or fat people wear their brand?

It is not an appropriate response to take large amounts of “gently used” A&F clothing and distribute them to homeless people to make some sort of “point”  – homeless people are not props in a public relations war.

Think about this – the seemingly well-intentioned videographer is sending a message to A&F “Oh yeah, how about if I give your clothes to <insert worst possible association>?” He’s saying homeless people are the worst possible association one can imagine and that’s awful. It is not helpful or uplifting or ultimately empowering to shove unwanted clothes on unsuspecting people and videotape their responses. If the message is “homeless people” wear these clothes in an attempt to drive down the value of the A&F brand, what does that say about our value for homeless people?

You want to redistribute clothes to help people? Don’t go to Goodwill then wander the streets looking for homeless people. Go to Goodwill’s corporate office and ask how you can work *with* them or another homeless agency. To help, not to make a point at the expense of their clients.

#FitchTheHomeless isn’t about empowering homeless people or drawing attention to their lack of designer duds. It is, in my opinion, about the rest of us feeling excluded from the cool kids group and lashing out. It reminds me of the great after school special “The Great Love Experiment” in which a group of cool kids decided to befriend an uncool kid as an experiment. Guess what? She didn’t like it when she learned she was an experiment. And they almost lost a great friend because they saw her as a project, not a person –  until suddenly they realized how much they really did like her.

People are not experiments or props. There are terrific ways people could use video experiences to  make these points with informed consent of the participants.

This stunt doesn’t help homeless people. It causes real harm by perpetuating a stereotype and a cultural mentality that makes it worse when the laugh is over and the camera is off.

The A&F situation is very sad. I read more than one status update or blog post from my female friends who are deeply hurt by someone giving voice to their inner fears about being fat and ugly and uncool. They recommitted to lose weight and pretend it doesn’t matter, but clearly … it does. And that’s sad, too.

 

 

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