Sunday, 6 September 2009

Want to be a hipster girlfriend? Look like a child.

It's probably not that surprising that an American Apparel advert has been banned. For the last few years they've consistently produced adverts featuring young women spread-eagled in their boyfriend's underwear, on all fours in hot-pants or topless in gym wear. It's not clever or interesting, just quite grim when you consider that the CEO, Dov Charney, has been accused of sexual harassment and once masturbated in front of a female journalist.

The reason it's been banned is that the woman looks as if she is under sixteen, and also because it is said to resemble an 'amateur-style photo shoot'. I'm not sure if I think the model looks THAT young, but the latter part is true. American Apparel have claimed the ad demonstrated that the hoodie is "soft to the touch" and that the model was not supposed to be viewed as"a sex object or in a negative or derogatory light". (Ta, Guardian) I'm sure I'm not alone in finding that hard to believe. After all, these photographs show a young woman gradually gradually revealing that she's topless under a hoodie whilst wearing teeny tiny shorts.

But it's not the most controversial of their adverts that I've seen. Check out this. I wonder if they would also claim that this was not sexual? When I first heard about this story, I really thought (hoped) it would be this one that had been banned. I'm sure that none of the models are actually under age, Ryan from the banned advert is 23, but they point is that they look young and vulnerable which is unsettling to say the least.

They've also tried to justify the ad by saying that because it ran in Vice magazine, it was unlikely to cause offense. I would agree that the ad won't have been the most sexist, offensive part of Vice. In fact, using very young looking women wearing very little in their photo shoots is something that the magazine is pretty obsessed with. A recent issue featured an extremely young and ill looking woman in a little blue swimming costume, playing about like a child. Ew. There's certainly a weird Lolita-esque thing going on in hipster lifestyle catalogues these days. The models appear as children, but are posed so as to that suggest they would be crazy in bed. Again, ew.

American Apparel has been lauded for the ethical way it treats it's LA base labour force, and this is certainly commendable. However, the way the women on its workforce are constantly simultaneously sexualised and infantilsed in its advertising is reprehensible. I guess it's understandable in a society that still wants women to be subservient and pure, but also up for having sex all the time. These American Apparel adverts are nothing more than pictorial representations of this tension and they deserve a collective 'YUCK' from the women they want to sell to.


  1. I think I agree that she doesn't look under 16 (though the modelling industry fetishizes young-prepubescent looking models, it would be a step in the wrong direction to deny models work appropriate to their real age, because of the age they appear). It's the facial expression in conjunction with the content that gets me - it displays a kind of vulnerability. That might be a factor in why people think she looks young, perhaps).
    By contrast I find the other ad campaign to be more outright unsettling but the facial expressions less so. Less pathetic, more predatory? Well, maybe it could be read that way if it was an art project or co-ord by women, but I doubt that's the case here!

  2. dude, they are actually using porn stars too now, like sasha grey among many others. And thet have this one racist ad that makes me so angry....


    some of these ads are unbelievable; and of course deemed 'sexy' by the men that are hooked on this fantasy.