Any kind of discrimination is ugly
Believe it or not, the big news story this week, lighting up the online comment boards and spreading around social media faster than bedbugs in a $6/night hostel, had nothing to do with gun control, or our bumbling, dysfunctional Congress, or Syria, Boston or North Korea. That’s all old big news.
The big story this week was about clothes. More specifically, what the CEO of clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch said about his brand.
The interview took place in 2006, but his controversial words are now making headlines because they were printed in a recently released book on the retail business.
Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jefferies, said:
"In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong (in our clothes), and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
He went on to note this is why the label does not sell anything larger than a size 10 in women’s clothing. You’ll never see an XL tag in his stores (for women’s wear, at least. Men are granted this size specifically to allow broad-shouldered athletes to purchase the brand). He flat out said he doesn’t want fat kids wearing his clothes or shopping in his stores, and that’s why only hip, good looking, cool kids work for him (which explains why I worked at TJ Maxx in high school).
A quick trip to Park City’s outlet mall this weekend further proved this marketing tactic. I briefly popped my head into our local Abercrombie & Fitch store, only to see young, chiseled, perfectly tanned demigods selling the clothing.
But while I find Mike Jefferies’ comments desperate and pathetic, I was surprised at the sheer number and absolute intensity of the online hostility.
I mean, this guy looks like a Gary Busey/Andy Rooney love child. And he sounds like the 15-year-old mean girl we all knew in high school. Who cares what he thinks? There are thousands of other clothing retailers. Just shop at one of them.
But the comments were so passion-filled and, frankly, so shocking in number, I wondered what I was missing. So I kept reading them.
Full disclaimer: What I am about to say is a mass generalization. There are certainly exceptions and this is by no means a scientific study. My "research" consists of a small pool of online "friends," and commentators I do not know who happen to keep very public accounts, allowing anyone access to their personal beliefs, photos and status updates.
That said, here is the interesting trend I noticed. The people who were most outraged by Mike Jefferies’ comments those who seemed the most hurt by them and who spent what must have been several hours online shaming him are the same people who just a few short weeks ago, when the Supreme Court was hearing arguments on marriage equality, unapologetically claimed discriminating against gay people was OK because God said it was. Homosexuality is a sin, they said, and therefore it was perfectly acceptable, even their moral responsibility, to deny equality to gays.
Now, I’m no biblical scholar, but I do believe gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. And while there is one Old Testament (meaning Jesus didn’t actually say it) reference to "men lying with men," there’s a whole bunch of more updated Jesus-endorsed scripture about the sins of overindulging in food and drink and your body being a holy temple.
So, by this biblical logic, I can only ask, why is no one hailing Jefferies as martyr?
And the hypocrisy runs much deeper than one issue. I found that in many cases, this new anti-Abercrombie social movement could also be applied to those who insist the Affordable Care Act is a horrifying act of socialism.
Last fall, before the election, many in this group proudly posted things like:
"No one deserves free health care! Why should I have to pay for those who didn’t earn it?"
Well, I’m no constitutional scholar either, but by that argument, I would say, not everyone has "earned" the right to wear a specific brand.
Think about it. Being fit takes a lot of hard work. By the above argument, isn’t expecting a store to carry your size, even though you didn’t work for it, socialism? It’s a lot easier to sit in front of the TV eating a cheeseburger than it is to go for a run, so why should both groups get the same benefit? Why should the lazy reap the same reward as the marathon runners?
Let me be clear: I don’t actually believe any of this. But I do see a glaring hypocrisy. You can’t be for discrimination when it suits your religious, social or financial agenda, and only be offended by it when it pertains to you.
Buying a pair of jeans is far less of a basic human right than being able to get married. And watching someone you love die of cancer because they can’t afford lifesaving treatment might just be a little more important than wearing an XL top with the Abercrombie & Fitch logo. So this recent online uproar about how wrong it is to discriminate against the horizontally challenged, when many of the uproared find their own prejudices perfectly acceptable, really baffles me.
Quite simply, you don’t get to only be outraged by injustice when you happen to be the victim.
I hope that eventually Jefferies’ comments will serve as a catalyst to remind us all that discrimination of any kind is ugly. And acceptance is a beautiful thing.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.
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