Platforms for Dialogue

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?

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2 thoughts on “Platforms for Dialogue

  1. Thanks for tackling this topic and creating a space for honest discussion. It’s interesting that so many situations are never clear cut and can be lots of nuances so I appreciate you breaking some of these down and clarifying.

  2. I completely agree that American Apparel’s past is either irrelevant or could be publicized by the success of the shirts. When it comes to the rejection of natural aspects of life, such as menstruation and pubic hair, I believe the sheer circulation of the images could aid the cultural rejection. Your post made me wonder: if our culture had more images like this circulating would the outrage against Petra Collins pubic hair have been so severe?
    Thanks for sharing

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