Saturday, November 05, 2005

A group of female high school students have a message for A&F: Stop degrading us!

Why you ask? Because lately their attitude tees have a bit TOO much anti-girl attitude for our tastes.

Here are some lines from recent A&F tees...

"With These Who Needs Brains..."

"I hope you can make more then I can spend..."

"Last night I had a nightmare I was a brunette.."

We would never let anyone exploit us, so why are we exploiting ourselves? They’ll stop making these t-shirts if we stop buying them.

We, as young women and girls, do not need to create extra division and competition between our ranks. By girlcotting these shirts, we not only create unity for a single project or battle, we create unity within the female community as a whole,

As girls, we can spend our dollars on more empowering, less racist and less sexist street ware.

So join us in our national girlcott effort to encourage A&F to stop selling these rags and instead start selling some more girl empowering wear.

This girlcott is being launched by an independent group of girls - The Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers group - a diverse group of 23 girls from across the county. We represent different schools, neighborhoods, ethnic groups, religions, races, sexual orientation, athletic and academic interests - you name it - but what we have in common is an interest in making our world a better place for girls to grow and thrive.

Won't you join us?

We are asking girls throughout the country to do 3 things:

1) Stop shopping at A&F till they stop selling these tees and formally apologize to all of us for selling them in the first place.

2) Email a letter saying that you will be doing #1 to the A&F "Investor Relations" headquarters. Their email address is:

3) Spread the word to other groovy girls you know.

You can also host your own press conference, contact your local media, write letters to your local press, etc.

It's as easy as that.

Signed, The Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers


Fighting Fitch: Group Starts "Girlcott" Against A&F T-Shirts
Jimmy Greenfield

With a few words on their T-shirts, Abercrombie & Fitch lets young women send a message: "Who needs a brain when you have these?"

A group of female high school students have a message for A&F: Stop degrading us.

The Allegheny County (Pa.) Girls have started a boycott--or girlcott, as they're calling it--of the retailer. The campaign, conceived three weeks ago during the group's monthly meeting, went national Tuesday morning on NBC's "Today" show.

"We're telling [girls] to think about the fact that they're being degraded," Emma Blackman-Mathis, the 16-year-old co-chair of the group, told RedEye on Tuesday. "We're all going to come together in this one effort to fight this message that we're getting from pop culture."

Abercrombie has been a lightning rod for criticism. In 2003, a catalog containing photos of topless women and bare-bottomed men provoked so much outrage that the company pulled the publication.

Last year, after the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team failed to win a gold medal, the company sold T-shirts with the phrase "L is for loser" next to a picture of a gymnast on the rings. Those shirts were pulled from the racks after USA Gymastics called for a boycott.

While Abercrombie backed down in those cases, it show no signs of doing so this time.

"Our clothing appeals to a wide variety of customers. These particular T-shirts have been very popular among adult women to whom they are marketed," a company spokesman said in a statement.

News of the girlcott hadn't reached Tawana Clark, 20, who was applying for a job at the Abercrombie & Fitch store in Water Tower Place on Tuesday. But she doesn't think the protest will work.

"I think it's only older people that have a problem with it," she said. "Teenagers don't have a problem with it."

Clark sees the shirts as funny, not offensive.

"It's not to be taken seriously," she said.

Kristine Campbell, 20, of Lincoln Park won't wear the T-shirts. Although she's not offended by them, she doesn't think much of girls who wear them.

"It tells me that they're shallow and that's all they care about," said Campbell, who was also applying for a job at A&F on Tuesday.

"There's not much substance to that person if you have to wear something like that."

The aim of the girlcott is to convince people that the T-shirts are offensive, but young people don't care if they are, according to David Krafft, senior vice president of Chicago-based Graziano, Krafft and Zale Advertising.

"You figure they're appealing to a younger audience demographic and (young people) are going to want go for brands that are more cutting edge, or viewed as more cutting edge," Krafft said. "So it's just going to be a benefit anyway to Abercrombie & Fitch."

The attention from this boycott is likely to help Abercrombie's image, and its audience will be attracted to the controversy, said Steve Bassill, president of Libertyville-based QDI strategies, a marketing consulting firm.

"That's been their whole strategy, isn't it, to be radical?" Bassill asked. "I think that's what we've seen for quite a while from them."

Krafft says the "Today" show appearance was tantamount to free advertising.

According to Chicago-based media company Starcom USA, a 30-second commercial on "Today" costs approximately $58,000.

The girlcott girls were on for several minutes. The girlcott almost is "playing into their hands," Bassill said.

Heather Arnett, adviser for the girls' group, said it doesn't matter if Abercrombie gets free advertising. They're already a giant as far as she's concerned. What matters is empowering young women, she said, who in turn serve as examples to other young women.

"A week ago, Katie Couric knew who Abercrombie & Fitch was, but she didn't know who Emma Blackman-Mathis was," Arnett said. "A bunch of teenage girls are being interviewed by national media about what they think. And that is the news."

Blackman-Mathis admits that, at first glance, the T-shirts are a little funny.

But the more she looked at them, the less amusing they were. She's still stunned to have appeared on national TV and is hopeful the message will reach young girls.

"Worst-case scenario, I just want girls to at least think about everything that they buy," Blackman-Mathis said. "Think about the message that it conveys to themselves and other people when they wear it."

Her best-case scenario?

"They would stand up and say something for themselves and for girls."

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