I had just finished the crossword and was skimming backward through Seven Days when I spied the batch of letters about the bare-assed American Apparel ad. Pretty entertaining, especially Jason Cooley’s. But then I closed the paper, only to be confronted with your front cover, which I assumed you paid someone to do [“Digital Apprehensions,” December 8]. It pictured a young woman in a butt-skimming, black party dress and fuck-me pumps, apparently dead. To the right, there’s a cop car, which appears to be driving out of her crotch, away from the scene of the crime. And it took me a minute to see the layer below — a fainter but still visible eye and eyebrow — clearly female. But is she dead or having the orgasm of her life? Not sure. My favorite was the cellphone with RIP written across the screen and a raven perching above it — surely the Gothic frosting on this pornographic little cupcake.
When I glanced back at the American Apparel ad, I had to laugh — the woman looks like an idiot. And what about that ski pole? Or is it a polo mallet? Surely this is not what so many young women who refuse to see themselves as feminists call “empowered female sexuality”?
Sex and advertising, and even journalism, can make us laugh, but violence against women just isn’t funny. And, yes, puritanism in any form has never helped women be safe or free. I understand your decision to print the American Apparel ad, but that doesn’t excuse the thoughtless association of sex, violence and a woman’s body that you chose to plaster all over Vermont [last] week. As a successful independent newspaper, you have the rare opportunity to control what you publish, and even make difficult decisions about advertisers. But there’s a line between a bare bottom and a dead woman, and I think you just crossed it.
Bravo Seven Days for reprinting Adrie Kusserow’s haunting and purposeful poem “Skull Trees, South Sudan” [December 8], which originally appeared in the Kenyon Review and then The Best American Poetry 2008. I’m overjoyed that Seven Days is finding the space to print poetry more often — until recently, I was always curious why Seven Days prints two music reviews per week from bands whose albums are self-released and not available in record stores, but rarely prints poems or book reviews from published local poets enjoying national acclaim. I was even considering buying ad space from you and filling it with poetry in order to make literature from local authors available to your many readers — but it seems I can save my money now. Keep up the good work!
Aleshire is editor of The Salon: A Journal of Poetry & Fiction.
Young Bucks on Bikes
How dull would be life without topics like biker behavior to — um — discuss [“How We Roll,” November 10]. And what calm, thoughtful, good-natured debates we have!
My own observations are that older cyclists hold to the rules of traffic, more or less. So do the disciplined ones in spandex, hunched over their handlebars. It’s the younger, freestyle townies who draw comment, the ones who see urban streets as a video game.
They rely on their judgment of speed, space and timing, and reflex, and they’re good at it. They’re not crazy; they’re testing their skill and, by golly, showing it to us, the excitement of youth in the free, open air, thumbing their noses at elder dullards who plod along like turtles following the leader. Ah, so did I once, although in a smaller town and thinner, slower traffic (and at a time when people didn’t write letters to the editor much).
Rely on it, though: The guys who speed downhill in mid-lane at rush hour (or skateboard, for that matter), or pop out into a 20-foot gap in traffic, or make lightning turns milliseconds from disaster, they know what they’re doing, and in fact are safe (pretty much).
What doesn’t occur to them is that they’re scaring the bejesus out of us in cars. If I watch them instead of the traffic, or brake or swerve suddenly, I can cause serious damage. Not to them, of course, but to others and maybe myself. Think of that, you guys. That’s the point of traffic rules.
Fred G. Hill
License to Charge More?
Clearly, the DMV is not charging enough for vanity plates [“Tapping the Vain,” December 8]: Our revenue-challenged legislature should consider a hefty price hike for the privilege of displaying one’s vacuous blips on a license plate. Perhaps they should be renamed “inanity” plates?
A Woman’s Place
Three weeks ago, she was half naked on the back page; last week she was a front-page crime victim in pumps.
It’s never one picture; it’s the cumulative landscape and toll.
American Apparel Wins
One more word on the flannel flap: I don’t care about the ad, so I suppose you can put me in the camp of those “for” the ad, but that’s a stronger stance than I’d like to take. I’m not against it, either — I’m not a parent, and all the issues people seem to have with it just don’t resonate with me. I suppose I agree with the editors’ position: If I may paraphrase, it’s just an ad, and it’s good money.
What nobody seems to be discussing is, as ever, the elephant in the room. American Apparel got three weeks of press from the ad, for the price of one! And those two freebie weeks are arguably of better “quality” than the original ad (no such thing as bad publicity, right?).
So was this reaction intended by the AA marketeers all along? Controversy gets attention, and, boy, did they get it. And we know it’s not the first time, and, especially now, it won’t be the last, either. I wonder how many other flannel flaps occurred across the nation in small papers like ours? So, bravo to AA marketing, for being good at their jobs.
To those of you who really want these ads to go away, just stop looking at them, and really stop talking about them.