A woman from Tucson has a lot to say about the way Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries runs his company, and she's getting it across with several photos meant to look like ads.
Jeffries ruffled a lot of feathers a few years back when he spoke about the reasons his company doesn't offer XL sizes and above to women. The quote was repeated in a new book recently, which re-stoked the fire.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely….”That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that,” Jeffries told Salon in 2006.
Jeffries' comments had a huge effect all over the country, with one filmmaker even making it his mission recently to buy up every piece of A&F clothing he could find at Goodwill stores and donate them to the homeless.
Now, a Tucson blogger named Jes Baker is making it clear that she's going to take his negativity and turn it into an opportunity to change social awareness.
In an open letter to Jeffries, Baker writes:
I know you've been flooded with mail regarding your comments on sizeism, but I wanted to take a second to write you about a project I've been working on.
As a preface: Your opinion isn't shocking; millions share the same sentiment. You've used your wealth and public platform to echo what many already say. However, it’s important you know that regardless of the numbers on your tax forms, your comments don't stop anyone from being who they are; the world is progressing in inclusive ways whether you deem it cool or not. The only thing you've done through your comments (about thin being beautiful and only offering XL and XXL in your stores for men) is reinforce the unoriginal concept that fat women are social failures, valueless, and undesirable. Your apology doesn't change this.
Well, actually, that's not all you have done. You have also created an incredible opportunity for social change.
Never in our culture do we see sexy photo shoots that pair short, fat, unconventional models with not short, not fat, professional models. To put it in your words: "unpopular kids" with "cool kids". It's socially acceptable for same to be paired with same, but never are contrasting bodies positively mixed in the world of advertisement. The juxtaposition of uncommonly paired bodies is visually jarring, and, even though I wish it didn’t, it causes viewers to feel uncomfortable. This is largely attributed to companies like yours that perpetuate the thought that fat women are not beautiful. This is inaccurate, but if someone were to look through your infamous catalog, they wouldn't believe me.
I've enclosed some images for your consideration. Please let me know what you think.
A note: I didn't take these pictures to show that the male model found me attractive, or that the photographer found me photogenic, or to prove that you're an ostentatious dick. Rather, I was inspired by the opportunity to show that I am secure in my skin and to flaunt this by using the controversial platform that you created. I challenge the separation of attractive and fat, and I assert that they are compatible regardless of what you believe. Not only do I know that I'm sexy, but I also have the confidence to pose nude in ways you don’t dare. You are more than welcome to prove me wrong by posing shirtless with a hot fat chick; it would thrill me to see such a shoot.
I'm sure you didn't intend for this to be the outcome, but in many ways you're kind of brilliant. Not only are you a marketing genius (brand exclusivity really is a profitable move) but you also accidentally created an opportunity to challenge our current social construct. My hope is that the combination of these contrasting bodies will someday be as ubiquitous as the socially accepted ideal.
Ever so sincerely,
P.S. If you would like to offer me a "substantial amount" to stop wearing your brand so my association won't "cause significant damage to your image", don't hesitate to email me. I respect you as a business man, and my agent and I would be happy to contribute in furthering your established success.
P.P.S. You should know your Large t-shirt comfortably fits a size 22. You might want to work on that.
Baker said recently that she's not interested in Jeffries' reaction; she didn't do this for him, after all.
"I don't really care what Abercrombie really truly thinks about this, to be honest with you. I don't have the energy to dislike Mike Jeffries," she said. "There's so much negativity in the world, it doesn't need to be perpetuated."
You can check out more photos on Baker's blog, The Militant Baker.
Images: Liora K Photography