Sweat-free isn’t good enough

American Apparel

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Four more women have sued Dov Charney, CEO of clothing retailer American Apparel, for sexual harassment. This now brings the total number of women who have accused Charney of sexual harassment or rape since 2004 to twelve. TWELVE. Because American Apparel employees sign arbitration and confidentiality agreements when they’re hired, none of these charges seem to stick. But really, enough is enough. It’s obvious that Dov Charney is a sexual predator who uses his influence to prey on young, female employees. So why aren’t we boycotting American Apparel?

Even though the company is sortof on the edge of bankruptcy, a lot of people like shopping at American Apparel. For two reasons, as far as I can see.  The first is that they make plain, colorful and trendy hoodies – a staple wardrobe item for fashionable young people.  These are very popular. The second reason is that the clothes are all made in the U.S.A. and sweat-free.  They are the only sweat-free clothes available to customize through Cafe Press, so socially conscious organizations often choose to print on American Apparel t-shirts rather than a t-shirt made in a sweatshop somewhere.  But by buying American Apparel, you are supporting the company’s history of misogynistic advertising and employment policies, not to mention a sexual predator with no respect for women who fires employees for being fat.  Yes, it’s important to buy sweat-free, but we have to look at a company’s full ethical profile.

It isn’t enough for a company be moral on one issue and it isn’t enough to base consumer choices on one issue.

With all that’s been going on in Wisconsin, occurring conveniently amidst the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, Americans are thinking a lot about labor. And clearly, labor is an important issue and worthy cause. But labor activism should not outweigh or preclude other sorts of activism. For example, it was frustrating that MoveOn.org organized a huge rally to support Wisconsin for the same date and time as the rally to support Planned Parenthood, which had been planned weeks in advance. Progressive activists had to choose between labor or Choice. For one glorious moment in Boston, MA, the rallies came together and chanted something like, “Same Struggle, Same Fight” (I can’t remember exactly).  But the point is that these aren’t separate issues; they are layers that overlap and intersect. Fighting for one while ignoring the other is simplistic and ineffective.

It frustrates me to no end that socially conscious shoppers choose to shop at American Apparel because of their labor practices, disregarding the company’s outrageous anti-feminist policies and the criminal, predatory behavior of its CEO.

Twelve women in five years have come forward about being sexually harassed or raped by Dov Charney. How many more were silenced by the company’s arbitration and confidentiality agreements?

Enough is enough. It’s time to boycott American Apparel.  There are plenty of other places to buy a hoodie.

2 thoughts on “Sweat-free isn’t good enough

  1. There are plenty of other places to buy a hoodie.

    I know you’ll accuse me of being lazy, but I think if you’re going to say people should boycott American Apparel you’ll get a lot more traction with your readers if you actually make some suggestions by name of clothing retailers who are both sweatshop-free and sexual harassment–free.

    I think it’s appalling how sexist American Apparel is in its advertising and corporate culture, but I don’t really see a lot of other retailers who are in a position to cast the first stone.

    • You make a good point. I will try to do some research on this – and if anyone else has ideas for places to buy clothes that are sweat-free and otherwise ethical, please share them here!

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