On Monday, May 13, 2013, dozens of teenagers and parents will protest at the Abercrombie & Fitch store in Chicago (835 N. Michigan) at 4 p.m. The protest is in response to Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO Mike Jeffries statement that his company doesn't make clothes for fat women because they're not cool.
17-year-old Cali Lindstrom of Illinois took offense to Mr. Jeffries' inflammatory statements, saying:
I'm absolutely appalled, but not shocked at the Abercrombie and Fitch statements that came out. I've been against this company since 4th grade when other girls at school made fun of me for not wearing Abercrombie while their entire outfits were complete of Abercrombie jeans and shirts. The CEO Michael Jeffries clearly has a warped view of what beautiful is if his company doesn't sell to plus sizes.
Cali was offended enough that she teamed up with the clinical director of Rago and Associates, Dr. Maria Rago, to plan the Abercrombie & Fitch protest. Maria, the 2008 Health Hero for Prevention Magazine is a prominent activist in the Chicago area and has been fighting for the rights of teenage girls for years. To announce the protest, Dr. Rago posted on her Facebook page, "If you think ALL KIDS ARE COOL, and want to END CONCEPTS THAT FEED INTO BULLYING such as this one, then let's show CEO Mike Jeffries that his comments are wrong because all races, all sizes, all abilities, all kids, are cool."
Dozens of teenagers and mothers signed up to attend the protest. Dr. Rago said the day after Mother's Day was planned because we want these companies to understand the following message:
Parents fully support the healthy emotional growth of our children and will take a stand against any company that tries to devalue our children. It's hard enough for a teenager to navigate through a culture full of unrealistic advertisements which amounts to self-esteem warfare without, Abercrombie & Fitch telling them, they're "not cool," if they're fat. That is absolutely offensive and it's hard to believe that a businessman would alienate an audience like that.
Body acceptance activist Ragen Chastain said:
What they are actually saying is that they expect the people who buy their clothes to want to be a part of the ridiculous concept that you're not cool if you're fat... I imagine that somewhere they've got a business planning document that says "Our ideal client is a person who meets the cultural stereotype of beauty and believes that to feel good about themselves, they should keep other people down. We are also looking for women size 10 and below who believe that people larger than they are shouldn't have the same things that they do!" I think a boycott by people who can shop there would be amazing because it would say that conflating cool and popular with thin is not ok, and reinforcing a stereotype of beauty like this when eating disorders are on the rise and appearance-based bullying is the most common kind is not what consumers want.
Several of the teens attending the protest said "they will never, ever in their natural life wear Abercrombie & Fitch clothes again." The ironic part is that many of the teens swearing off A&F clothing just so happen to be in the size 2, 4 and 6 size range that Mike Jeffries covets. "Even though I'm the size that he caters to, I will never wear A&F clothes again because the clothes are no longer cool, they represent discrimination and that's so not cool," said 18-year-old Julie.
To compound the damage, CEO Jeffries said,
In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," he said in an interview. "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.
In response to this statement, Cali said
I'm hoping that if enough attention is brought to what Abercrombie is doing that it'll affect the company negatively. Body discrimination is a clear cause for eating disorders and extreme diets, especially when people are told their body is wrong. No body shape should ever be considered wrong, we are beautiful and unique despite size and weight. I'm going to make brochures to pass out! If we get the word out of the wrongdoings of this company, we can make a difference.
If you're in the Chicago area Monday at 4 p.m., join Cali, Dr. Rago and dozens of other teens and moms at the Water Tower Abercrombie & Fitch store (835 N. Michigan Ave.) at 4pm to march.
I think I'm going to stop by and march with them. I so love it when teens are empowered!