Little Kiwi and Bauhaus

Little Kiwi and Bauhaus
A Boy and His Dog

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

Oh, Abercrombie & Fitch. How you never change. They say "if it aint broke don't fix it" but the problem is that something is indeed pretty darn broke but A&F and a great many other clothing companies and advertisers have no interest in fixing it. Mainly because it doesn't affect them directly, nor their profits.

Abercrombie & Fitch, as everyone well knows, is a clothing line targeted and marketed to young'uns with SEX on the brain. SEX SEX SEX. Their catalogues are softcore porn, their clothing models are often barely clothed, they staff shirtless "greeters" in their stores which happen to be as brightly lit as your average bathhouse. None of that irks me, however. Not remotely. I'm no Puritan. What bothers me is the overwhelming Whiteness of it all. White White White. White folks all around.

The Whiteness of Abercrombie & Fitch is well known enough that even Family Guy calls it out:

Get More: Family Guy - Abercrombie Diversity Joke

It's a joke. Only it's not a joke as it seems the company itself doesn't give a fuck. "Aberzombies" has even officially become a well-known and oft-used parody name.

Who wears Abercrombie & Fitch? Well, millions of people clearly and it remains very popular with the younger gays and the not-so-young gays who still desperately want to look like Young Gays. It's pseudo-wannabe "jock" wear. Shirts that proclaim "VARSITY!" in big old letters across the chest. Yeah. Varsity........riiiiiiight. Wearing that shirt that reads ABERCROMBIE across the front, in letters as big as your face, and VARSITY across the back is totally gonna make people think that you're a rough-and-tumble sports lover.

*le sigh*

Their marketing is very specific - it's not just buying a shirt, it's buying into a very specific image - Privileged And White. Their clothes are not cheap. To wear them means you're a White With Money. For the gays it's clothing for those who are still under the delusion that wearing A&F makes one not only look like a Straight White Jock (note: it doesn't) but that it also makes one appealing to said Straight White a decidedly non-straight way. Clothing for gay people who want to look "straight" who don't realize that nothing looks gayer than what they just bought at A&F - ensembles that embody what a clueless gay person thinks about straight people.

You all know how I feel about this bullshit culture of "no fats femmes asians or blacks."

Well, here are the latest promotional photos from Abercrombie & Fitch's Black Friday sales.

Uh......right. Is "no fats femmes asians or blacks" their casting call motto? And before someone says "NO! There are totally some black and asian guys in there!" can we please be fucking honest? It's 2011 - sprinkling token minorities into the background, and grouping them together doesn't exactly count. That's like saying "No, there are TOTALLY black people in the film 'Steel Magnolias', they play the help and they don't have any lines." At least in the case of Steel Magnolias ithas the justification of being a very specific story about a very specific Southern White Experience. A&F? What's their excuse?

You can almost hear the voice of the Assistant Director saying "Wait! bring a black guy closer to the front! No, no not THAT close to the front!.... Just closER....yeah, ok good. Now put one more white boy in front of him. Ok, yeah. that's good. Now make sure those Asians in the back STAY in the back! Whew."

Concepts of beauty are Societal. They're not innate. Abercrombie & Fitch continue their legacy of worshipping Whiteness and telling people that White is what is beautiful. And not just white, a very specific square-jawed superbuffed version of white. Am I saying it's wrong to like white square-jawed adonis-built men? No. Not at all. I'm sayingit's more than a little disconcerting to see a sea of bonafide clones and then the most condescendingly sprinkled pockets of "colour" in the mass of cracker.

This sends out very specific messages: this is how you have to look to be beautiful. Incredibly muscled, square-jawed, and white. WHITE. A few of you non-whites might slip through the cracks and find yourself considered beautiful as long as you gym-buff that body to such a degree that you can effectively make one forget your ethnicity and focus instead on your body-fascist approved physique.

*le even bigger sigh*

This is the reason that people don't understand why their racial/ethnic preferences have a societal root and not an innate one. All the images of beauty and power and sexiness that we are culturally sold worship the Altar of Whiteness. And even when they get called out on it, repeatedly over the decades, they see no reason to change their ways. Why should they? They're not losing any money and money is all that matters. Right? To some, I suppose.

In a world where diversity is the only Universal Constant, and in 2011, it's just beyond depressing to see that not only is Beauty one thing (and one thing only) to a great many people, but the companies responsible for promoting that idea and concept have no intention whatsoever in actually being inclusive to diversity in their marketing. Not only do they not care about marketing to non-whites, they don't care about what their white-focused marketing does to everyone, white or otherwise, in our culture.

If I could ask Abercrombie & Fitch a favour it would be this - Can you please be more inclusive and celebratory of actual diversity in your advertising, your energy and your outlook? You are looked at by young people, you are indeed shaping the way that they see themselves and others. Be aware of that, and be responsible with this power. Beauty comes in many colours, shapes, sizes and demeanors.

Just released is this photo from Abercrombie & Fitch Singapore. Yeah, Singapore. And yet they still find a way to favour whiteness. *sigh*


Chunks said...

Jeez, don't go to any non-western countries and look at their advertising then, your head will explode with outrage over the lack of diversity... oh hold on, exclusion of those evil WHITE people by other ethnicities or races doesn't count in the precious PC universe. Sorry, forgot.

TomTom said...

I'm glad you are on a crusade against the bigotry that plagues the gay community. Yesterday a friend linked me to a PBS special about a Teacher's experiment with her 3rd grade class on racism.

Her method for teaching it was quite interesting. She used eye color for separating her classroom. Blue eyes vs Brown Eyes. For a day each, she made the Blue eyed children on top, giving them more rights than the brown eyed children. Then the next day she swapped the positions. The lesson they learned was a lot more profound than talking about it. I honestly think this should be taught to ALL children at an early age. It even showed the kids all grown up 14 years later. Every single one of them was glad to have been in her class and learned that lesson.

I'd love to see a blog entry with your views on it! Here is the link!:

Anonymous said...

As is so often the case, Kiwi, you leave me with nothing to say except Amen, Right-on, and Hear fuckin' hear.

Armyguy Raul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Armyguy Raul said...

Oh man, so I agree with a lot of what your saying. A bit extreme? Yes it is. Meaning that me actually putting time and effort into figuring out there advertising scheme and actually caring, would be extreme for me hahah/ I do wear the clothes for what you said? Being a Jock, and Privileged White kids? Yes. Do I play sports, Not football or basketball. But Cheer and Gymnastics, yes. Im also ina fraternity where 79% of us wear similar styles. Am I gay? Yes. Do i know it makes me look even more gay? Yes. A handsome cute stud and the clothing looks good on me. I can't shop at H&M and look good and a lot of other stores. I admit that I love the facade it gives off. I grew up poor, then fell into some money and during middle school I was scared for life when I was the only kid in the neighborhood who still shopped at Target. So it was my goal to fill my insecurities with material belongs, one being Abercrombie. I after that weekend of finding out bought one of everything in the store. Even disgusting enough to have had my room painted "Dusk Blue". I was addicted. But I was no longer the kid without, and it has stuck with me. I can afford it so no fowl no harm. Half my group I hangout with wears it, my half makes fun of it but I stand strong and tall in my 14 story high Abercrombie Worded shirt and I love my friends and they understand I enjoy what I wear. Im a prep at heart. I have stock in Abercrombie for God's sake. If people feel less then bc of the advertising then that is their issue, dont buy it, and leave the clothes for us who dont need to be bothered with negative nancies. I in no way think this was negative(yoru post) bc some people truely are digusted and upset about it, thats when I say OPEN YOURS EYES!! Its called Advertising, its call Reality, its called LIFE and High Fashion, it happens it wont change. So create your own line of clothing or just let it be and love those who wear whatever or whatever they want to wear. But for this blog, I really enjoyed it and I really appreciate a different perspective.

Drewcifer said...

I used to work at American Eagle which, despite have a pretty similar style of clothing, had a much more inclusive marketing program. Big posters of a diverse group of young adults, giant ceiling to floor poster of a cute asian guy, etc. The staff at our store was also way more diverse than what I ever saw at Abercrombie (although like 50% of the staff was gay... not sure if that's typical or unusual for this kind of retail).
In college I had a black friend who worked at Abercrombie and he would always talk about how he honestly felt like he was the "token black guy" and it made him really uncomfortable.

I guess I'm just trying to point out that there are other companies with similar products who are doing just fine. I think Abercrombie needs to take a chill pill.

Anonymous said...

Would you see an entire staff of Caucasian men working in a Victoria's Secret, chances, A&F has a predominately "white" market-base so they gear towards that demographic. Chill dude.

Little Kiwi said...

Oh, "Chunks"

We're not being PC. You're just racist.


ruralguy said...

Always loved your commentary on towleroad, and just started reading your blog. Was especially glad to see it's all coming from a fellow Canadian! Hello from the East Coast.

Jeff K. said...

Damn, I have more hair follicles on my chest and torso than all those boys put together.

darkorient said...

As a Southeast Asian myself, I am very glad that there are white gay men like you out there. More power to you!

John Flanagan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Little Kiwi said...

Alas, Joe, the very nature of advertising is much more than you think - it's not just about "marketing to their base" - but selling a very specific image. And maintaining a status quo FOR that image. And the reason that I care about this specific thing is because I was raised not only in a multicultural city environment, but by parents who educated me about my own white privilege. The realities of it. And in my experiences in life so far, the White Preference is a galling ugliness. White is King - and that message trickles down to not just affect other white people, but non-white people; how they feel about themselves, and others.

The trouble is - there is no "you do it your way and i do it mine and we're both ok" when what we're dealing with is the continued promoting of a white-worshipping culture in media.

So, why this image more than others? Because white people in 2012 in North America should freakin' know better by now. And, alas, it seems most don't.

Anonymous said...

Why should white people "know better" ? We're the ones who invented the computer and internet and...etc you could be expressing this guilt over your white privilege online here. Must be your living in white Canada with those dingy academic parents that makes you lose touch with reality. You all need a gay
family excursion to sub-Saharan Africa for enlightenment.

Little Kiwi said...

Hey "Anonymous", do you know what an IP address is?

basically, in case you don't, it's the unique stamp on your personal computer.

thank you for commenting on my blog a few times. your IP address is recorded by this blog. With it, I can hone in to your location.

Would you like me to publish, on my blog, your home address? I can do it, you know. Glory of the internet.

Feel free to comment again. I'll make sure your location is attached to your next comment.

Anonymous said...

I found him!

Little Kiwi Loves Bauhaus

Little Kiwi Loves Bauhaus
Good Dog!