Friday, May 10, 2013

Summer Girls

LFO has a song called "Summer Girls". There's a line that says, "I like girls that wear Abercrombie & Fitch, I'd take her if I had one wish".

I was like 9 or 10 when that song came out and I remember thinking, I can't wait to be one of those girls. 

When I was 11, I began to discover I would never be one of those girls.
When I was 12, that idea started to manifest.
When I was 14, I combatted that idea.
When I was 15, I learned that the boys of LFO would never like me.
And when I was 17, I officially understood what the detrimental effects of not being one of those girls were and acknowledged I would never be one.

There has been media circulating around Mike Jeffries, CEO of A&F, and his blatant exclusionary rule with his stores. You can read just a few of the stories herehere, here, and here. This picture of Mike Jeffries and his direct quote sums it up:

I've seen responses of people attacking Jeffries himself, saying he isn't attractive.
I've seen responses of, is this real? (Yes, this is real.)
I've seen responses of, just ignore it.
I've seen responses of those outside of the target audience being mad and hurt.
I've seen responses of tearful letters being written to Jeffries.
I've seen responses of mothers not allowing their kids to shop at A&F.

What I haven't seen though are responses from his actual target audience. I don't really know how to read stock, but I'm pretty sure green means good. Check it:

In the past five days, since this statement came out, A&F stock has steadily increased. Basically, in financial terms, it doesn't really matter whether people disagree with this policy or hate Jeffries or are upset.

I argue two things:
1. His target audience matters.
2. In every other way, except financially, A&F policies and statements do actually matter.

His Target Audience Matters

The "cool" kids need to stand up and say this isn't right. Instead of the moms saying their kids can't shop there, the kids need to say, I won't shop there. Same result, different means. And that matters. Instead of people saying Jeffries is unattractive (and okay, I don't think he's the sexiest man alive..or even on the top 1000 list), we need to better define "attractive". Instead of those outside of his target audience writing letters (or perhaps, in addition to), those within his target audience need to write letters. Instead of those outside of his target audience refusing to shop there (although, the point is is that you couldn't, even if you wanted to), those within his target audience need to refuse to shop there. 

Here's the thing, A&F has never sold clothes in the double digit size (although I think it does go up to 10). So really, people who are all up in arms about that fact are seriously behind the times, and this company has been around since 1892. For anything to happen, for any kind of movement or of change to happen, the people who have to do it are the cool kids. 

The people who Jeffries calls cool. Whether you think cool people are only thin, attractive, and have large social circles or not doesn't matter. The point is, that's who Jeffries thinks is cool and that's who has to fight this battle with him. It can't be those who he already doesn't care about, those people never shopped at his store before. The cool people, his target audience, need to respond. People outside of the target audience can show ways to respond in hopes that cool people mirror such actions. But if there is as big of a discrepancy between the cool and not cool kids as Jeffries thinks, then not even that will work. If those two groups are merged together, then that will work. 

In every other way, except financially, A&F policies and statements do actually matter

They don't matter financially because his target audience doesn't seem to give a flying rip about his statements, so they're still selling clothes. But in every other way, they do matter, and that's why ignoring it is a terrible choice. Ignoring something never makes it go away. All you're doing is pretending it doesn't exist. And his statements are very real and their are very real effects to his statements. He may not care and his target audience may not care, but other people do. 

I'm not technically part of his target audience, but I have always been in the normal weight range when BMI is calculated. I'm "bigger" now than I've ever been and my jean size is still in the single digits. Throughout HS, I was always a size 2 and I thought the world was going to end when I moved up to a size 4 in college. I didn't accept or believe that the average American women is a size 14. I literally felt like my life had been ruined. I started defining myself by the number on my jeans, particularly when it came to interacting with the opposite sex. 

People like Jeffries invaded my thoughts, actions, and beliefs. Statements like his began to ruin my life. When people are told they aren't good looking by one person, that sucks. When people are told they aren't good looking by all of society, that is detrimental. These policies are harmful and do serious damage. It's not healthy for a college girl to think she's fat because she's a size 4. It's not healthy for a high school boy to think he's not man enough because he can't lift 100 pounds. It's not healthy for a high school girl to believe she's ugly because she's not tall enough or thin enough. 

Body image and self esteem impact individuals, obviously. But more than that, it affects society, nationally and internationally. It's a private trouble that has rightfully turned into a public issue. People should get up in arms about what Jeffries says and about A&F policies. It's the duty of people outside his target audience to combat these thoughts, to uplift those who are weighed down by the need to fit the mold of being attractive, to become healthy, rather than unhealthy. 

The missions are different. His target audience needs to fight the battle with Jeffries. Those outside his target audience need to fight the battle with society. Maybe that's how the populations can merge and we can win. 

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