Seth Sandronsky on Abercrombie & Fitch
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
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
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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