- The American Apparel ad (censored version)
We keep getting letters about the American Apparel ad that ran on the November 24 “backside” of Seven Days. Some are responding to our explanation in last week’s paper; others appear to be inspired by our original sin: permitting an advertisement for “flannel” that showed a bottomless woman photographed from the side. Readers have weighed in on the prop, too. We thought the model was holding a ski pole, but in fact it was a polo mallet.
Paula Routly & Pamela Polston
I enjoy Seven Days on a weekly basis and am a big fan of both the print version and the Seven Days website. I would like to say that I have never taken any issue with any ad you have published in the weekly. The responses you received in reply to the publication of the full-page American Apparel ad that was run the week of Thanksgiving seem quite extreme. I can only think these people have too much time on their hands if they feel so emotionally charged as to feel “betrayed” by the running of an AA advertisement. I believe these readers are in great need of a chill pill. I find it sad that people often find time to criticize instead of praise. Seven Days has always been an entertaining and intelligent publication for the many years I’ve been reading it, and I hope to continue to, irritable notes to the editor, American Apparel ads and all.
I honestly had thought more of you than to disregard your readership with such a lame excuse. I am referring to your explanatory letter why you are still printing American Apparel ads, although it seems that the majority of your readers are deeply appalled by them, such as I am. Live up to your responsibilities as you yourself have proclaimed to represent the greater community of Vermont. Don’t use dumb excuses and think that the people will buy into them. Vermonters are not stupid!
Editor’s note: No one proclaimed to “represent the greater community of Vermont.” We wrote that Seven Days is a “reflection of the community it serves.” Big difference.
I wish to thank Paula Routly and Pamela Polston, the courageous Seven Days editors, for standing up to the puritan mob. With the immensity of suffering and cruelty in the world, it is remarkable that some people evidently reserve their outrage for photographs of non-enslaved, presumably well-paid, scantily clad adult women. I am not a shill for American Apparel, and don’t care about their ads or products, but I understand that their clothes are made in the U.S. Thanks to 200 years of organizing and struggle, American workers enjoy better working conditions and pay than those in the countries where most of our clothes are made. The majority of sweatshop workers in China, Indonesia, etc., are women and girls, working longer hours, in more dangerous factories, for far less pay than would be permitted here. Are the offended letter writers bothered by this real violence against women? Have they ever read the labels on their clothes and considered the lives of the people who made them, or is nudity the only thing that moves them to protest? These letters exemplify the hypocrisy and pseudo-morality of a society that condemns its leaders for having extramarital sex but not for committing mass murder.
I was very pleased to read letters commenting on the American Apparel flannel ad. I was disappointed in your response. I am disappointed you felt you could not say no to this kind of pre-porn ad. Even if it is run across the country, so what? It is hard to believe you think the Vermont store needs this ad. If the company is unwilling to change it, I say, “Take a hike.” Why are you willing to back down? Why not take a stand? Why let this big company control you and what you print? A bad apple can destroy a barrel of apples. Yes, Vermont is unlike other states and you say that is why you live here, so how come you are willing to compromise our way of life? I see you changing something good about VT by running this ad. How can you disappoint your readers? I am sure there are others who agree with me. It is legal, but does that mean anything and everything goes?
I find all the fuss about the American Apparel ad to be overblown and ridiculous. The majority of the reader response seems to be from female or female-identified readers. As a man, I am eager to know if the outrage would have been the same if the advertiser used a male model — same pose, no genitals exposed, etc. As for the model being bound, I only see her holding a polo mallet. Am I to assume there is a polo horse off to the side smoking a cigarette? For the parents out there, I recall a similar incident from my youth in which my mother simply answered my inquiry as follows: “It’s how ladies look without their jeans.” As a gay man, I am more disturbed by those awful drapes in the ad. Let’s lighten up and focus on big issues.
Seven Days was once a paper I admired and aspired to one day write for — a real community-based gathering of creative imagery, stories and social staples. However, that admiration and desire vanished, much like the clothing on the American Apparel models. What the ad is really selling is quite apparent. The model is completely bare from the waist down, lips parted, with an empty stare. All American Apparel ads depict their female models in this sexually vulnerable and highly derogatory way. Sexual violence, low self-esteem, child pornography, gender inequality and hate crimes are all direct extensions of images and messages such as those projected by American Apparel. As a lifelong resident of the state of Vermont and a passionate community Burlingtonian, it disappoints and disgusts me to no end that Seven Days would support a company such as American Apparel in exchange for financial support. Does the American dollar hold more power than respect for the community and the readers affected by the messages you choose to display and therefore support? Isn’t Seven Days also the same paper that advertises for and supports Mardi Gras, an event that generates thousands of dollars for the Women’s Rape Crisis Center? Put your pants back on, Seven Days, and show the community some real class.
Whenever you guys at Seven Days print a risqué American Apparel ad, I look forward to the hilarious letters that will arrive the following week. Last week’s letters did not disappoint. The main impression I got was (a) people really do see what they want to see, and (b) they are literally complaining about actually having to be a good parent. Really? You’re annoyed that because you didn’t bother to check the contents of what you’re letting your kid look at, now you have to take a few minutes to explain to them what buttocks are? That’s just lazy parenting, plain and simple. It’s not even a hard lesson, like death, sex, masturbation, etc. You could end their confusion with one sentence: “It’s a butt, and we all have one.” End of story.
What happens when you’re a tourist in New York City? Do you make your kids wear blinds over their eyes and plugs in their ears? There are gigantic asses plastered everywhere on huge billboards! Nobody in NYC seems to mind. You know why? Because they’re not so politically correct that they can’t realize we all have asses. Even animals! Snakes have them, for God’s sake! Another thing: That woman isn’t anorexic, bound or even anything negative. She looks pretty happy and pleased with her fully formed body, and her cute butt that you can barely see. As a parent, I would look at this situation in a sort of chicken-pox way: It has to happen (or else your kid gets it at an older age and dies from it), and you should be glad that you finally got the “We all have a butt” conversation out of the way. If your kids end up being adults afraid of vague nudity, you fucked up, Mommy.
P.S. I just found out how much it costs to advertise on that back page. Deal with the ass, shut the fuck up, and enjoy your free Seven Days.
Let me join the chorus that broke out in response to the American Apparel ad. I, too, found it appalling, the opposite of “lively and truth telling,” and a complete throwback to the stunted mentality of Playboy centerfolds. The editors’ contorted efforts to pretend otherwise are oddly similar to Bob Kiss’ insistence that BT is a sound economic enterprise. Are you guys drinking the same water?
Kudos to Paula Routly and Pamela Polston for their public response to all the complaining letter writers about the recent American Apparel back-page ad. It was refreshing to see the coeditors of Seven Days present their thinking on the controversy in a mature, well-reasoned manner that made sense. Unfortunately, that is increasingly rare in most journalism-media circles these days. If it takes the occasional “racy” ad to keep your newspaper financially sound and able to present in-depth, quality stories and features every week for free, well, so be it.
It’s too late to teach Paula Routly and Pamela Polston anything about sex, so now every young woman and mother of such must suffer from their lack of reverence for women. Isn’t it like boxing for young males? If you don’t see how the “sport” of boxing is filthy with irreverence, it’s hopeless to argue. In America, boxing and visual sexual abuse of women are legal, and we have to live with them. That is, until everyone’s upbringing includes learning reverence as a guiding moral virtue.
Editors’ note: “Too late” to teach us anything about sex? Are we that old?
I can understand why many of your readers did not like the American Apparel ad that ran on November 24. I was surprised, however, to read how many of the people who wrote to complain were specifically upset because they did not know how to explain the image to children. I would like to suggest that adults could use an image like this, or any image that passionately upsets them, as an opportunity to have a conversation with the children in their lives about their personal values. It is not realistic to shelter children from the junk values that pervade our culture and the media. Children benefit from these kinds of talks from a young age. Explaining to a child what bothers you can help clarify the core of your values for yourself as well. I, for one, am grateful to have such a quality local source for news and analysis, and a forum for discussions like Seven Days. A truly local paper is a dying breed. Thank you!
This is not meant to sound sarcastic or mean spirited. It’s just another perspective that did occur to me when I read that “American Apparel isn’t willing to adjust [its] ads for more puritanical markets…” I was reminded of the 1800s when abolitionists must have been characterized as puritanical or purists who were out of touch with the economic realities of plantation owners in the South. These Southerners just needed to keep blacks subservient in order to support the market. Today women are kept in their place by the exploitation of their bodies to support the more prurient markets. I regret that Paula Routly and Pamela Polston had to submit to American Apparel’s “Run it as is.”
Roddy O’Neil Cleary