By now you’ve probably heard that Abercrombie & Fitch is an exceedingly offensive company that aims to create clothes exclusively for the young people that CEO Mike Jeffries deems “cool.” But did you know that A&F has a long history of sexism, too? As The Huffington Post explains, back in 2005, activist Heather Arnet of the independent advocacy group, The Women and Girls Foundation, escorted 16 teenage girls to Abercrombie’s headquarters to protest a line of — surprise! – offensive T-shirts. The girls had decided to stage a boycott, affectionately named “girlcott,” of T-shirts which pit women against each other, baring phrases such as “I had a nightmare I was a brunette,” “Blondes are adored, brunettes are ignored,” and “Do I make you look fat?”
Surprise, surprise, A&F’s corporate headquarters also has a long history of not really caring. The girls went to the company to express their disapproval of the shirts and request that the shirts be removed from stores. Upon arriving at the headquarters, however, it became clear to Arnet that sexism was so deeply engrained in the company’s culture that it was unlikely their “girlcott” would have any real affect on Abercrombie’s practices. She was right, the Huffington Post explains. By the end of the meeting, in which only two, mostly silent, female executives were present, Abercrombie told the girls that female empowerment just didn’t fit the brand.
Eventually A&F pulled the T-shirts reading “Gentlemen Prefer Tig Old Bitties” and “With These, Who Needs Brains?”, according to MTV. But they also indicated they still didn’t get it: in a possibly more offensive attempt at appeasement, the company later released a T-shirt which said “Brunettes have brains” (which might be a nice sentiment if it didn’t imply the tired notion of the “dumb blonde”).
Overall, Arnet and the “girlcott”’s attempts not only failed to evoke any real response from Abercrombie & Fitch, but they also revealed the deeply entrenched sexism in the company. These days, the company is under fire for its exclusionary, insulting treatment of those who don’t fit into its vision, as CEO Jeffries said in 2006, of an “attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends.” But let’s not forget that Abercrombie also encourages girls to put each other down, too.