Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Looking up to Dov Charney?

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I posted on American Apparel last fall, where I talked about my difficulty reconciling the worker-friendly environment at the company and the way that Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel, exploits women's sexuality to sell his clothes. I didn't end up with a very favorable picture of Charney, whose marketing of women's sex appeal sometimes goes past simple advertising.

Gawker, a blog which seems to have a bit of an obsession with Charney, posted today about a 3rd-grader who wrote to Charney as the person she looked up to - saying that she'd heard about the working conditions in his factories and she hoped she could get a job there when she grew up.

Obviously, this is one child. And the thing is, Charney does have some of the most equitable working conditions around - if you buy a t-shirt from American Apparel, you can be assured that it was made in an air-conditioned factory in Los Angeles, by workers who were being paid a fair wage, instead of a sweatshop somewhere in Mexico or Asia. But just looking at the advertisements - and hearing Charney himself talk about his relationships with his female employees (talking to the lawyer for a woman who was suing Charney for sexual harassment, Charney admitted that he sometimes called his employees "sluts" and added that it could be a term of endearment, "something that you call your lover") - gives me the creeps in the same way that PETA's ads do - even though they're trying, ostensibly, to do something good. So why does respect for women fly out the window as soon as we start working for other causes?

What do you think? Should we admire Charney, and forgive his "lapses" toward his female employees? And how does this make you feel about buying American Apparel's clothes?


At March 22, 2009 at 10:12 PM , Anonymous Corita said...

I feel proud to say that my hatred of American Appael ads convinced my employer to stop purchasing their shirts for the company.

I guess you know where I stand: let your honorable message be unadulterated by your porny attitude toward women. (Because why ISN'T is ok to employ sweatshop workers? BEcause human beings deserve to be treated as more than pieces of machinery for your benefit.)


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