American Apparel — the “sweatshop free” clothing store that often courts controversy in its advertising — has a new campaign that has some worried about the sexual exploitation of young girls, according to The Daily Mail.
The campaign is called “School Days,” The Daily Mail reports, and one of the ads features a girl in a miniskirt, bending over a car window so that her underwear is visible. Other pictures show girls posing in school settings while wearing short leather skirts and “Lolita” crop tops, likely a nod to Vladimir Nabokov’s novel of the same name that features a grown man’s obsession with a 12-year-old girl.
Because the market audience for this campaign is teenage girls, there has been an angry backlash from several different directions.
“It’s something we find abhorrent,” Peter Bradley of the children’s charity Kidscape told The Daily Mail. “It’s about using underage pornography to sell products and the sexualization of children, which cannot ever be justified.”
CBS interviewed several mothers in California, asking them what they thought of American Apparel’s ads.
“I think they’re selling sex,” Natalie Delsindico told CBS. “I don’t think that’s OK for that age group.”
Others have expressed their dislike of the ads but think the clothes are worth it, regardless.
“Its weird because I shop here at times, but often I don’t agree with a lot of the ads,” Beth Jones said. “I feel like I’m not following along with my own moral compass.”
However, Tim Teeman of the Daily Beast believes that it wasn’t American Apparel but American culture that shaped the ads.
“The American Apparel adverts are deemed tacky and offensive because they dramatize, brazenly, the sex-drenched time we live in,” he wrote. Teeman argued that American Apparel is only capitalizing on what we want in this era; specifically, he writes that we are obsessed with having the appearance of youth.
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“When I see those American Apparel advertisements, in the saddest, most depressing way possible, they speak of a culture that wants all things from its young people,” he wrote. “American Apparel is a useful conduit for our distaste, but the real offense is socially pervasive: Our culture — we — have perverted the notion of childhood.”
We are to blame for the sexualization of youth, according to Teeman. Our current culture, he wrote, “dictates (that children must) grow up faster and faster.”
Bethan Owen is a writer for the Deseret News Moneywise and Opinion sections. Twitter: BethanO2