Whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying
On a recent road trip, my family and I got to see how much of the rest of the country lives. We sampled their hotels, restaurants and beaches; we listened to their radio stations and shopped at their boutiques; we baked in the hot sun in the Mojave, and enjoyed the cool sea breezes of San Diego. And, more than once along the well-traveled roads, we observed the much-larger-than-life billboards of a naked man, thanks to clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch.OK, it was just his naked torso, sans head, and it delicately tapered off just before he exposed himself to passersby. But enlarged to roughly the size of a barn, there was no mistaking what was going on below his unbuckled belt. To tell the truth, I’m not exactly sure what the billboard was selling, but I can tell you this: I’m not buying. I may be a mother and approaching an age where hip young teens might consider me old, but I think most of my friends would agree with the pubescent audience of Abercrombie and Fitch – the guy on the billboard was hot. At least from the neck down. Then again, “hot” is not something I want to see when I’m stuck in traffic with three kids in tow. “Hot” is not something I want to explain to my eight-year-old daughter who wants to know why there’s a naked man on a billboard, and “hot” is not something to which I want my sons to aspire.During the same road trip, we made a pit stop in Las Vegas and marveled at the sights of Sin City, kids in tow. Here we expected to see photos of half-naked women and advertisements for R-rated shows. We were prepared for it; we even talked about the wild adult-nature of the town itself. But a billboard marketing sex to kids through a national chain store? I was as grossed out as my eleven year-old.The Abercrombie and Fitch company line, if you care to take a gander at their tasteless Web site, is that they tout themselves as a “lifestyle retailer” and the ads are meant as attention-grabbers. The glossy black and white shot of a topless young girl laying astride an equally topless and buff young man certainly grabbed me. And if you click the link marked “skinny jeans for girls” you’ll get a racy video that’s sure to get the attention of every teenage boy, though he may forget he ever wanted to purchase a pair of jeans to begin with. My disgust faded as we continued to traverse the country, until I came across fellow columnist Marybeth Hicks from Washington, D.C., who coincidentally had penned her own column of loathing aimed at the low-brow advertising of Abercrombie and Fitch. Clearly I am not alone in the belief that retailers like this one are corrupting childhood innocence by selling sex to our kids in pursuit of the Almighty Dollar. So, armed with the encouragement of fellow parents who find these kinds of ads tacky and inappropriate to say the least, I contacted the customer service department of Abercrombie and Fitch to have my say. Not surprisingly, I reached the voice mail of a man who, I assume, works fully clothed behind his desk and probably disregards the comments of a disgruntled mom.I guess the next logical step for parents who aren’t buying the lifestyle Abercrombie is trying to sell is simply to shut our wallets. It’s only money, but it might just be the kind of attention-grabbing stunt the company is so fond of.
Charla Belinski writes about parenting and family life in a variety of publications and teaches the positive parenting course Redirecting Children’s Behavior. Her columns appear every other Sunday in the Post Independent. Contact her at Belinskis@comcast.net
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