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» babble   » walking the talk   » labour and consumption   » American Apparel - is it ethical?

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Author Topic: American Apparel - is it ethical?
FourteenRivers
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 9863

posted 23 November 2005 04:02 AM      Profile for FourteenRivers        Edit/Delete Post
We are discussing whether American Apparel is ethical or not. According to Buy Nothing Day activists:

quote:
American Apparel is not as friendly as you might think they are. While they might not use sweatshop labour in their production, which should be a given instead of a sellpoint, they have created a different kind of sweatshop in Downtown LA and around the world.

Their ads, touted as empowering and liberating, are actually playing on an old advertising standard that victimizes women. These attitudes are mirrored by CEO Dov Charney, who has been accused of sexual harassment at the workplace more than once and likes to masturbate in front of reporters..

Meanwhile, American Apparel has vigourously fought attempts to unionize its production faclility in downtown LA, even visiting workers at home and forcing them to attend anti-union rallies.

There can be no doubt that American Apparel is a product of Montreal. As proud Montrealers, it is our duty to let everyone know that this city does not stand for the exploitation of women, union busting or cloaking business-as-usual garment-industry capitalism with activist chic.


Links are provided, such as this one:

quote:
About a year ago we profiled Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel, the hipster T-shirt company. In the process you got to know him, well, intimately (read the full story below). Since then there has been a lot of discussion across the country about his business and personal antics and whether it demeans or empowers women. So we're taking a little poll.

MEET YOUR NEW BOSS
Thousands of pretty young women are obsessed with American Apparel's T-shirts. Some even make out with its idol-like founder. Claudine Ko tries to keep him out of her pants.

He says I seduced him when I told him I liked dirty stories. We were standing on a street corner in New York's Lower East Side after a long day of trudging from one of his retail stores to another. At first, between incessant interruptions from his cell phone, he talked manically about progressive labor issues, manifest destiny, sexism, feminism, the mercantile lives of his grandparents and selling home-bottled "spring" water in Hellmann's jars as a child in Montreal. Then he told me a story about humping a model from the nudie mag Perfect 10. And that is how I ended up back in a 10th-floor suite of the trendy Maritime Hotel around 11 p.m. with Dov Charney, the 35-year-old senior partner and founder of American Apparel, and one of his female employees, who happened to be in town. I asked him how he relaxed.

Oral sex, he says, settling into a chair behind a cloud of smoke. "I love it...I am a bit of a dirty guy, but people like that right now."


Thoughts? Opinions? Would you shop there?


From: Quebec | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
voice of the damned
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 6943

posted 23 November 2005 09:28 AM      Profile for voice of the damned     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Going by the article, I'd say that the company isn't much better or worse than any other fashion company out there. Okay, they don't like unions and use soft-core porn in their advertising. Pretty much par for the course in that industry, I'd say.

From the BND activists:

quote:
likes to masturbate in front of reporters.

This strikes me as an appeal to prudery(by the activists, that is). According to the article, Charney asked permission to masturbate in front of the reporter, and she presumably said yes(or at least didn't walk out). Given that Charney was likely getting off on being watched masturbating, I'd say that qualifies as a consensual sexual encounter.

However, that does raise an ethical question, though not about Charney. Since the reporter was involved in a sexual relationship with the person she was interviewing, we can probably wonder about her objectivity as a journalist, which might in turn call into question the credibility of her story. But of course if Jane Magazine doesn't mind publishing stuff by reporters who are involved sexually with their subjects, that's their business, and the rest of us can just read on with the obvious caveat in mind.

[ 23 November 2005: Message edited by: voice of the damned ]

[ 23 November 2005: Message edited by: voice of the damned ]


From: Asia | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
guilty-pleasure
Babbler # 3469

posted 23 November 2005 10:17 AM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I American Apparel is the very worst thing the BND adventurers can find to "protest" then I guess I'm not too worried about the state of the world. I guess next year they can have a scathing protest outside of the Body Shop for not using Union-made string for the handles of their bags, and then the year after that they can all stay home. Mission accomplished.

This is like trying to get everyone all worked up over jaywalking.


From: `,_,`,_,,_,, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
kuri
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Babbler # 4202

posted 23 November 2005 01:37 PM      Profile for kuri   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It was on this thread that I first learned that American Apparel is not a place that feminists or supporters of worker's rights should shop at. I had suggested them but changed by mind after learning of their controlling workplace conditions, especially for their female employees. Lagatta spoke a bit about them in this thread as well.

Which was why I was a little surprised to see that they are supplying the RPN boutique. Was that a conscious decision or just because they are such ubiquitous e-retailers?


From: an employer more progressive than rabble.ca | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged
FourteenRivers
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 9863

posted 23 November 2005 03:26 PM      Profile for FourteenRivers        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
This strikes me as an appeal to prudery(by the activists, that is). According to the article, Charney asked permission to masturbate in front of the reporter, and she presumably said yes(or at least didn't walk out). Given that Charney was likely getting off on being watched masturbating, I'd say that qualifies as a consensual sexual encounter.

I think some would argue that it constitutes sexual harassment, especially if he proposes similar wank to his employees.

In any case, here's the article from La Presse


From: Quebec | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged
MartinArendt
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posted 23 November 2005 04:11 PM      Profile for MartinArendt     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Ok, granted...I've been a little skeptical about American Apparel being a truly activist company, but GIVE ME A BREAK!

Where do you buy your clothes from, for crying out loud? Do you make them at home, with cotton you grow in your own backyard, that you pay yourself adequately to pick (plus benefits, of course)?!?

Good heavens! American Apparel is debatable, sure, but it's a hell of a lot better than its competitors, and it is a business model that has proven that you can not use sweatshop labour and still make money. That's a big deal. And they make great clothes. And they use different looking people in their ads. Granted, their ads can be seen as kind of exploitive...but that's a debate as well, I think. I've had discussions with friends who are nice, feminist women, wherein I suggested the ads seemed kind of sexist, and they exclaimed "no they're not! They're cool! They're different! They're empowering!" This is anecdotal evidence, of course, but to me it indicates that, at the very least, the jury is still out on this one.

I'm glad we're having this debate on Babble, but at the same time...like, really. If American Apparel were the worst clothing company in the world, I'd be pretty ok with that.


From: Toronto | Registered: Jun 2005  |  IP: Logged
lagatta
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2534

posted 23 November 2005 04:21 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Martin, I don't think the point is American Apparel being the worst company in the world, but their misleading advertising based on their "no sweat" cred, when actually the company has been involved in union busting.

I find their porn-aesthetic ads VERY creepy (especially the copy), but then I'm not the demographic they are pitching to. (Odd that nobody IS pitching to my demographic though - there are millions of boomer-age women who might like to buy clothes that don't target their daughters, their mothers or the most conservative and corporate among our cohort). But far more creepy still is the way the corporate exec seems to be abusing his position of power to get some kind of sexual kicks, and pretending this is cool and emancipated.


From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
MartinArendt
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 9723

posted 23 November 2005 04:31 PM      Profile for MartinArendt     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, sure...it sounds like the head of the company is a bit of a creepoid. But I have yet to meet a fella in any corporation who isn't. And remember, a lot of these stories are hearsay.

The advertisements aren't geared to your demographic at all, that's true (not that you seem, you know, to be in an older demographic to me, or anything. I mean...I swear, you don't look much older than the 27-33 year old, 35-40 thousand per annum, Colgate and Tide middle-year test subject group to me!).

My main point is that American Apparel is doing what they said they'd be doing: they're selling sweatshop free clothes. It's a good quality product, meaning it will last longer, meaning people won't have to go out and buy more clothes. If there are problems, they should be criticized, but we shouldn't immediately go for the throat as soon as we hear rumours of union-busting (and, from what I can tell, most of these reports so far are unsubstantiated rumours).

Like...saying that "...American Apparel is not a place that feminists or supporters of worker's rights should shop at..." is kind of absurd to me. Boycott American Apparel? Really? Are they that bad? Are they worse than other clothing companies? If you ask me, they're just about the best game out there, short of shopping vintage or making your own clothes.


From: Toronto | Registered: Jun 2005  |  IP: Logged
lagatta
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Babbler # 2534

posted 23 November 2005 04:53 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Martin, if you read the other threads about AA, you'll find information that indicates the allegations of union busting are rather more than rumour.

That said, it is not a specific reason to target AA, unless there is an ongoing union organising drive to support as they don't seem any more villainous than the next company, and I really don't feel like making my own clothes.

And I certainly admit to being a bit older and a lot poorer than that target demographic!


From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
MartinArendt
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 9723

posted 23 November 2005 04:58 PM      Profile for MartinArendt     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, I'll go and read that other thread. I guess I'm just kind of annoyed, generally, today, and felt like a debate. I mean, American Apparel's not perfect, by any means.

At the same time, I do find it problematic that unless a business is a one-store, Anarchist used bookstore, it always ends up taking flak from the activist community for something. I think it's reasonable to be critical, but why can't we find ways to be critical and supportive at the same time?

"Hey American Apparel, great work on the clothes, and I'm so glad you're sweatshop free. But, you know...what's up with the union busting, dude? Let's talk about it, over some fair trade lattes"


From: Toronto | Registered: Jun 2005  |  IP: Logged
swirrlygrrl
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Babbler # 2170

posted 23 November 2005 05:02 PM      Profile for swirrlygrrl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Um, I'm a 26-year old progressive woman. American Apparel's hyperseuxualization of women, wannabe porn ads offend me (and have inspired many an outraged comment and conversation amongst similar, progressive women in my age and social group).

Essentially, I don't think that companies that exploit women are progressive, and I find it offensive that so many people apparently don't see the contradiction between their labour practices (let's face it, women are those who face the greatest exploitation and abuse in sweatshops, so therefore the major winners when non-sweatshop conditions are used - though I wonder about the gender split among their factory workers), and their advertising practices, or who don't care. Again, sexism is a major blind spot for otherwise progressive people in many cases. And I refuse to let people act like that's not a big deal.

On their website, they list some of their "recent" and "provocative" ads.


From: the bushes outside your house | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Michelle
Moderator
Babbler # 560

posted 23 November 2005 05:09 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Maybe we should continue this discussion in this earlier thread on the same subject.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged

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