American Apparel's bankruptcy signals change in female advertising

By Jessie Webster

The American clothing manufacturer American Apparel recently filed for bankruptcy amidst crippling debts, plunging sales, disgruntled employees and an ongoing legal battle with the retailer’s ousted founder, Dov Charney.

Good riddance, American Apparel. Don’t let the door hit your neon, spandex bodysuit on the way out.

Although the retailer struck a deal with most of it’s secured lenders to reduce the company’s debt and allow its manufacturing operations in Los Angeles and 130 stores nationwide to remain open, American Apparel’s struggles should serve as a warning to similar companies who rely entirely on sex to sell their clothing.

And not just any type of sex.

American Apparel has built a name for themselves using perverted, provocative, borderline pedophilic advertisements to lure customers into thinking that wearing their clothing somehow makes them edgy or controversial.

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    I’m not naïve enough to believe that sex appeal does not play a role in almost all levels of the clothing industry, or advertising in general.

    From Calvin Klein underwear to Burger King Whoppers, everything is more appealing when an attractive person is showing some skin. For better or worse, that’s just a part of human nature.

    That being said, while taking on the sexualization of the entire advertising industry may seem like an overwhelming task, American Apparel is a good place to start.

    For one thing, American Apparel has repeatedly come under for featuring models in their campaigns that look pre-pubescent.

    In 2007, American Apparel ran a series of ads in lower Manhattan, one of which featured a model bent over, butt in the air, wearing nothing but American Apparel tights and photographed from behind.

    It is American Apparel’s insistence on portraying everyday situatio ns in an overly sexualized fashion that has consumers feeling increasingly uneasy.

    The company’s ad campaign relies on shock value and over-sexualization of everyday situations. The ads seem to imply that no matter what situation women are in, even something as simple as getting dressed in the morning, they must be sexy and physically flawless.

    In other luxury clothing brand ad campaigns, models are portrayed in fantasy situations that most normal women would never experience. But American Apparel strikes at the core of a woman’s everyday life and purports that even then, these women must be ready for a sexual encounter at any moment.

    Unfortunately, for many young women, being exposed to the effects of sexualization in such advertisements goes far beyond making them uncomfortable: It can have dire consequences on a woman’s mental and physical health.

    According to a study by the American Psychological Association, research “links exposure to sexualized female ideals with lower self-esteem, negative mood and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and women.”

    Whether it is online or on TV, in movies or in music, teenage girls and women are exposed to the sexualization of the female body every day. Encouraging American Apparel and other companies to stop creating perversely sexual advertisements is a good way to start breaking the cycle.

    Luckily for women everywhere, consumers are starting to wise up.

    According to an article in the New York Times, American Apparel has lost more than $340 million over the last five years, including $45 million this year alone.

    And earlier this month, Playboy magazine shocked the world when founder—and University graduate—Hugh Hefner agreed with a proposal to stop publishing pictures of fully naked women in the iconic magazine.

    According to the Alliance for Audited Media, Playboy’s circulation has dropped from 5.6 million in 1975 to about 800,000 now, meaning a substantial number of people are clearly no longer enticed by Playboy’s fascinating written content that once drew so many to read the magazine.

    Unfortunately, the reason for Playboy’s decline probably has little to do with a newfound respect for women and a lot more to do with the fact that any possible sexual situation is now available online for free, which only furthers the inescapable objectification of women.

    The effects of the sexualization of women in online pornography opens a completely new can of worms, because it’s exceedingly more difficult to monitor and control.

    But there are ways in which women are being sexualized that are easier to combat, and one of those ways is advertising.

    We cannot allow future generations of women to grow up in a society where women’s bodies are used to sell clothing or other products based solely on their sex appeal.

    American Apparel and Playboy have learned that the hard way. Lets see who’s next.

    Jessie is a junior in Media.?

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