Seth Sandronsky on Abercrombie & Fitch

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 14 06:52:42 MDT 2003


Published on Saturday, May 25, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
Not One of My Favorite Things
by Seth Sandronsky

I was returning home from a park with my daughter on a sunny day in late 
May. She’s 12 years old, bright but with the emotional maturity of a 
child half her age.

“Do you know what thongs are?” she said.

“Sure,” I replied, confident in my ability to answer accurately. “Thongs 
are things that you wear on your feet.”

“No they’re not,” she countered, telling me about thong underwear. 
There’s not much to them, I Iearned.

“That’s not good,” I said. My daughter agreed.

Later, I discovered that Abercrombie & Fitch is a firm that makes and 
markets thong underwear to 12-year-old girls such as my daughter in all 
50 states. Is there no shame in today’s market economy?

Not for Abercrombie & Fitch. If the clothier let shame guide its 
business plan, how could it create and capitalize on an untapped market 
for adolescent female sexuality?

Now, my wife and I make every effort to ban as much commercial 
advertising as possible in our home. Much harder to control are the ads 
that reach our daughter when she steps out the front door into the world 
of school, etc. Parents understand this.

Society wasn’t always this way. In an earlier time, markets were part of 
society. Now, society is part of the market, as author Ellen Meiksins 
Wood has observed.

Today, thong underwear are a commodity for sale on the market. 
Commodities are made by a person to satisfy a human need other than the 
worker's, who has produced them for exchange. As a commodity, thong 
underwear have exchange-value when they are bought with money.

Commodity production precedes commodity circulation. Sexuality is a 
natural part of humanity. But in a market society, sexuality becomes a 
commodity, a means by which companies sell their commodities such as 
thong underwear.

Madison Avenue has long used sex to sell commodities. All the more so 
now with the market economy literally on top of the world. Some leaders 
say there is no alternative.

Producing and advertising a commodity are different sides of the same 
coin. Commodities for exchange exist for one reason—to create wealth for 
those who own the forces of production—natural resources and 
labor-power. This isn’t always easy to see on the surface of the world 
we live in, but it’s there.

To be sure, a market economy that in part produces thong underwear for 
young girls developed historically. The causes of this specific form of 
socio-economic organization have definite consequences that affect a 
growing number of people now. One consequence is companies such as 
Abercrombie & Fitch enticing girls ages 10 to 14 to dress like grownups 
and perhaps be treated in a like manner by adult men (a scary thought).

In response, people are challenging the power and prerogatives of the 
market economy in many ways. For example, before the clothier’s line of 
thong underwear for young girls, Abercrombie & Fitch faced protests over 
its t-shirts that cast Asians in a racist stereotype. As a result, the 
company was forced to pull this product from its shelves, a victory for 
democracy.

In this protest against a company’s commodity, people’s unity was a key. 
We’ll need more, much more of such activism to transform the market 
economy into one that meets humanity’s basic needs for education, health 
care, housing and nutrition. The power of saying “no” to the current 
form of socio-economic organization is a big first step in that 
transformation to create a more civilized world.

Seth Sandronsky is an editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento's 
progressive newspaper. Email: ssandron at hotmail.com
-- 

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