Local young women refuse to be objectified
?Who needs brains when you have these??
That?s the slogan on one of two T-shirts Abercrombie & Fitch will no longer sell after the retailer conceded to a group of western Pennsylvania high school students. The students? ?girl-cott? sent the message: We won?t stand for this.
National television media jumped on the story ? some of the girls were interviewed on CNN and the Today Show, and others across the country took up the protest. The media?s interest in the story undoubtedly played a major role in the boycott?s success.
The young women, 23 members of the Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers program, should be applauded. They were assertive in standing up against a national corporation that had promulgated what they perceived to be ?anti-girl? and divisive messages.
?We would never let anyone exploit us, so why are we exploiting ourselves?? the girls asked in their press release. ?So join us in our national girl-cott effort to encourage A&F to stop selling these rags and instead start selling some more girl-empowering wear.?
But the editorial pages of some college and regional newspapers have been cool ? and in some cases even cold ? toward the outspoken girls.
In a highfalutin editorial published on November 9, the staff of The Harvard Crimson chided the girl-cotters, writing, ?[Their] demand that Abercrombie discontinue producing these T-shirts was contrary to the spirit of free enterprise.? Untrue: The girl-cotters were working entirely within its framework. There were no pleas for legislative intervention, though at least one conservative congressman tried to jump on the bandwagon. Their protest hinges on the crux of a consumer society: If you don?t like it, don?t buy it. The market determines what?s successful. Accusations that the girl-cotters are acting contrary to that spirit verges on GOP-like spin.
Furthermore, The Harvard Crimson?s editorial stated that the protest is proof that some Americans incorrectly ?believe that women?s equality has not yet progressed ... enough to permit young women to express themselves freely.? What, exactly, were the girl-cotters doing if not expressing themselves freely? They certainly weren?t preventing anyone else?s free expression.
The Pitt News belittled the girls? efforts, too. Their November 7 editorial offered a qualified commendation, claiming that their efforts could have been directed toward more pertinent issues. Yes, there are innumerable important issues that women face, but these girls took an issue immediately relevant to their lives and made positive change.
Young women are capable of deciding for themselves what they choose to wear; the girl-cotters have proven that to be the case. But they should keep in mind that, while a battle has been won, companies like Abercrombie will continue to capitalize on controvresy. That has yet to be defeated.