By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
On August 7, a Back To School ad campaign by American clothing company American Apparel was launched to a viral uproar. The campaign was banned from Britain as of September 2, as an image from the campaign, shared by social media user Emilie Lawrence, brought attention to an up-skirt shot of a woman in a plaid skirt.
American Apparel has a reputation for sporting hyper-sexualized images of women when promoting their clothing line. The ads are criticized for featuring women who often appear (but rarely actually are) young, and who suggestively pose in ads exposing their breasts, their rears, and occasionally their genitalia. In contrast, American Apparel’s clothing ads for men do not feature any nudity or suggestive poses, even for their underwear ads.
Most of these ads are found on American Apparel’s website. Store and billboard ads, however, while presenting women in more clothing, still see women posing suggestively, or are focussed on specific female body parts.
This Back To School or School Days campaign has been particularly controversial, as it seems to be targeting underage women while also hyper-sexualizing them. Photos from the campaign were slammed by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, which told the Daily Mail, “We considered the images imitated voyeuristic ‘up-skirt’ shots which had been taken without the subject’s consent or knowledge which, in the context of an ad for a skirt marketed to young women, we considered had the potential to normalize a predatory sexual behaviour.”
Social media users have also called the ads out on issues ranging from being pornographic to blatantly sexist to having pedophiliac implications.
Lawrence, who brought attention to the ads, spoke to i100 (a subsidy of the Independent) about her views on American Apparel.
“The way in which American Apparel objectify and sexualize female bodices is damaging and rooted in patriarchal notions about a woman’s worth,” said Lawrence. “Adverts like this reduce women down to little more than body parts to be claimed, and reinforce ideas that our primary purpose is to be appealing to men.”
In addition to American Apparel’s image regarding their advertising, ex-CEO Dov Charney was fired from the company back in June—but has since been rehired to a smaller role. Charney was charged with misconduct after allowing nude photos of former employee Irene Morales to be released online. In 2011, Morales alleged that Charney sexually assaulted her for years following her 18th birthday in 2008 before eventually quitting her job. Charney has a long history regarding allegations of sexual harassment of female staff.