Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Please Don't #FitchTheHomeless: Abercrombie & Fitch and the Value of Human Life

Greetings, Coffee Talkers!

Anyone who has seen a store or an advertisement for the clothing brand Abercrombie & Fitch knows that the company caters to the young, popular, thin, and beautiful. This is hardly a secret. In fact, I remember at first being surprised in college when I had somehow been added to the Abercrombie & Fitch mailing list. And I was not added in a generic way; the glossy ads were sent to me by name. Soon, though, I realized what they were up to -- I had not been added as a joke by a friend, but by some marketing rep from the company itself because I was serving as student body president that year. Apparently, I was being targeted because I must be 'popular.' That really made me have even less desire to shop there than I already had, which hardly seems possible as I had never stepped foot in a store. But I digress.

Some may have seen the recent 'news' that Abercrombie & Fitch CEO said that he only markets to cool people. As it turns out, this wasn't news at all, but rather a seven-year-old resurrected quote-turned-internet-meme that just verified, in candid terms, what the company has been up to all along. But it was so candid that it has become politically incorrect, with so many thousands of people circulating the quote with accompanying indignation that Mike himself recently issued a half-hearted apology.

Pre-apology, however, another meme-ster by the name of Greg Karber came up with a campaign to clothe the homeless with Abercrombie & Fitch apparel so that, "together, we can make Abercrombie & Fitch the world's No. 1 brand of homeless apparel." Naturally, this caught on like wildfire among those indignant with a CEO who would make such remarks, and was frequently re-posted on social media sites with the hashtag "FitchTheHomeless" and accompanied by phrases like, "Let's do this!" and "Right on!"

Only, it's not right on. In fact, it's really off. Because in an effort to address the injustice done by a company who seems to have disregarded the inherent dignity of the human person, regardless of size, age, class, or appearance, somehow this #FitchTheHomeless movement intends to right this wrong by further wronging the right. In other words, by giving out A&F clothes to "the homeless" for reasons of changing the brand's marketing appeal, Karber and crew have just taken part in perpetuating what they were allegedly trying to combat -- the objectification of individual people, who have worth outside of their appearance or status in this world. The message here seems not to be "Let's truly care for each homeless individual because they are worthy of care, and of the dignity associated with nice clothing," but rather, "Joke's on you, Abercrombie & Fitch, for wanting to have your clothes only worn by cool and popular people. Because now we gave those clothes to the largest, unnamed group of un-beautiful and un-popular people we could find: 'the homeless'."

Set on trying to destroy a brand's image, the #FitchTheHomeless movement is also an affront to another type of much more important image.

"They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to [Jesus] to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, 'Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone's opinion. You do not regard a person's status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?' Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, 'Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.' They brought one to him and he said to them, 'Whose image and inscription is this?' They replied to him, 'Caesar's.' So Jesus said to them, 'Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.' They were utterly amazed at him." (Mark 12:13-17)
More than an endorsement of paying taxes,  Jesus points out something very important to the Pharisees and Herodians. He tells them to repay to Caesar what is Caesar's, and they know what is Caesar's because it was crafted in his image. When Jesus then tells the men to repay to God what is God's, we see that to know what is God's, we must also look to what has been made in God's image. "God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27) Give Caesar his money; give God your very self, your whole life.

From this, we can better see what the problem really is with the statements of the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO -- not that he was too exclusive, but that he seemed to not respect the dignity of every person, made in the image and likeness of God. And this is the same problem of #FitchTheHomeless -- the inherent God-given dignity of each human person is not being respected.

Instead of boycotting a brand or 'Fitching' the homeless, let us each consider our own dignity regardless of size or status, and reach out to every person, from our own families and neighbors to those marginalized by marketing efforts and societal norms around the world, to truly build bridges of peace and justice.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers,

No comments:

Post a Comment