After reading Meg’s post about Petra Collins’ collaboration with American Apparel, I’ve been thinking a lot about when it is okay to sacrifice certain standards in order to get your message across. The controversy with The Ardorous x American Apparel collaboration is that a company that has been on the offending side of several sexual harassment accusations, as well as being a consistent promoter of body-shaming in its advertisements (and even in its campaigns that supposedly combat fat-shaming), is now selling t-shirts with body positive images. It is ironic that a company that idealizes and sexualizes very specific body types (that are perfectly shaved, just by the way) is now selling t-shirts that put hairy, menstruating vaginas on a pedestal, but is that irony enough to discount the message that is being sent?
The shirts are graphic and have been causing a lot of controversy throughout the media, but the messages they send about unveiling the female body are very powerful and important. It’s sad to think that the idea of pubic hair and menstruation is so outrageous and these shirts are acknowledging these very real and natural parts of women’s lives that are considered to be completely taboo.
By using one of the most popular brands in the U.S., The Ardorous made sure that the most people possible would see the shirt, and maybe American Apparel’s controversial past actually helped publicize it even more. I understand why it is problematic that American Apparel is distributing and profiting from this image, but isn’t it better that at least someone is willing to put them out there for the public to see? I don’t doubt that a big part of American Apparel’s involvement in this campaign is the obvious shock factor, but does that take away from the statement the t-shirts make outside of their company’s context?