Do you see that picture? That’s a real T shirt for sale at Urban Outfitters. No, I’m not kidding. In a country where 43 million people suffer from eating disorders and 20% of those will die due to complications, Urban Outfitters thinks this is a funny joke. Or, their uber-hip humor de jour, ironic.
Shelby Knox has started a campaign to boycott (or girlcott as it’s called) Urban Outfitters. And it’s not just this one t shirt, which has been taken from the website but is still for sale in stores. Here is a list of reasons why you should join the boycott:
- UO offers a game called “Ghettopoly” in which, among other stereotypically racist elements, you get game cards saying things like this: “You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50.” Racist, check. Making light of a terrible addiction, check. Funny? No check.
- They previously offered a costume called “Chinese Man,” which I unfortunately could not find a picture of, but the Harvard Crimson described it as such: ”The costume includes a Fu-Manchu style mustache, a pigtail, glasses and a cap” and UT Austin professor Richard Lee called “depict[ing] a whole group (i.e. all Chinese men) as looking like this person and…it is based on a racist image of Asian Americans that dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.” Lee organized an Asian-American boycott which led to the pulling of the costume.
- They also offered this T-shirt, which is, yes, a Palestinian child solder carrying a gun. While you might think the word “victimization” at the bottom makes this some kind of social commentary… Seriously? Putting a victim of any kind on a T shirt…just say no.
- There’s the lovely “Poverty Sucks” shirt… Again, do some volunteer work. Don’t spend $30 on over priced T shirt that you think makes you look ironic or hipster or whatever.
- A few years ago they offered a tee reading “everybody loves a Jewish girl” featuring dollar signs and shopping bags.
- The “Fathers, it’s up to you to preserve your daughter’s virginity!” tee. It’s a men’s tee. Also, you just might find it offensive if you’ve ever been a victim of this totally real cultural idea. We could also probably spend hours analyzing the Uncle Sam-and-dying-woman graphic (am I the only one who is reminded of the Rape of Lucretia?).
- President Richard Hayne just adores homophobic politician Rick Santorum, and donates money to him and his hateful causes.
So, it’s really come to the point where these people need to stop getting our money. And it’s not because I think that will make a huge impact on their profits, or simply the “principle” of it. When you shop at Urban Outfitters (and don’t think I’m pointing the finger at anyone…I have done my fair share of queer hipster-wannabe UO shopping) you are placing yourself in a cultural locale where economically privileged (largely white) people can be affirmed by a hipster sub-culture that they aren’t their parents: not suburban, not unaware of global problems, radically political, ironic, edgy, etc. But this is a facade. It’s fake. Not only does a t-shirt not make you political, you reveal your big fat economic privilege by choosing fashion over cultural awareness.
There is also the fact that Urban Outfitters is not stupid. They know these shirts are going to cause a fuss, bringing them controversial publicity. They keep making new ones even after protests cause them to pull previous offenses. They know and don’t care that these shirts are offensive, and not ironic. They are counting on their customers’ ignorance and self-congratulatory gullibility to make these controversies profitable. Don’t think the guy who donates to Rick Santorum is having a little politically-radical chuckle over this shit. He’s signing off on it because he knows it will be profitable and will not contribute substantially to any kind of liberal movement.
Actually, you know, the “Eat Less” shirt is ironic. It’s ironic because Urban Outfitter’s models are of the wasted and distressed variety who appear to be living off of cigarettes and heroin. The continuity of this slip-of-a-prepubescent-girl look adds up to the underlining aesthetic of Urban Outfitters as a brand: the fashion of a weak female body. So, yes, the joke is on you, UO.
Sigh. Where are we queers going to get our over-priced clothes?? American Apparel is not much better. The hipsters will have to go back to the thrift stores and the less elite brands. Just maybe this will create an opening for a truly ethical fashion oasis: one that is affordable, does not see racism as a joke, embraces making clothing for people of all sizes, etc. But that’s just a dream.
What you can do:
- Sign the petition
- Apparently there is a Facebook page, but I can’t find it.
- Share/Reblog this post!
- And, obviously, boycott Urban Outfitters.