Skip to comments.“Field Guide” Bye-Bye: Abercrombie and Fitch stops selling porn.
Posted on 12/01/2003 1:10:03 PM PST by nickcarraway
In matters of foreign policy, Teddy Roosevelt advised, one should speak softly and carry a big stick. Last month tens of thousands of Americans applied that advice to a vexing domestic matter. Their "big stick" was the threat of a nationwide boycott of one of Roosevelt's favorite stores, Abercrombie and Fitch.
The threat worked. Four days before the official start of the Christmas shopping season Abercrombie, known for overpriced clothes and underdressed models ordered its 651 stores to stop selling "The Christmas Field Guide," the latest edition of the company's pornographic quarterly magazine. It's evidently the start of a permanent ban on selling the quarterly in stores, and it's evidence that when enough people get mad and take action even the most libertine companies will sometimes back down.
Abercrombie's quarterly has long angered parents and others concerned about cultural decay. The 2003 Christmas issue features dozens of naked young men and women in various sexual poses, including group sex. The pictures are accompanied by a column from a "sexpert" who, among other lewd advice, suggests readers engage in oral sex in movie theaters "so long as you do not disturb those around you."
Earlier editions featured pictures of Santa in sadomasochistic poses with his elves, drinking tips, advice on seducing everyone from teachers to nuns, and a recommendation that students "negotiate a special group rate at a local motel, which your entire quad can take advantage of." A&F recently outraged parents by marketing, to seven-year-old girls, thong-style panties featuring slogans like "Eye Candy" and "Wink Wink."
I visited an A&F store at the Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland last Wednesday. I was planning to write a story about the quarterly, and wanted to see a copy for myself. But when I got to the counter, the sales associate told me they were no longer selling the Christmas issue. This was confirmed by store manager Matt Willard, who said all A&F stores were ordered to stop selling the quarterly last Tuesday. Store managers were given no explanation for the decision, he said.
I called Abercrombie's national headquarters in New Albany, Ohio to confirm this. CEO Mike Jeffries and his staff were not available, but an employee who gave his name as "Brennan" said the company had been, over the last two weeks, received 300 calls per hour from people announcing they were boycotting A&F stores until the clothier stopped selling the quarterly. The decision to yank the Christmas issue from stores was made at the beginning of Thanksgiving week, he added.
Who was behind the boycotts?
"Ever hear of Dr. Dobson?" Brennan asked.
James Dobson of Focus on the Family recently spent a radio program and an appearance on MSNBC's Scarborough Country urging listeners to boycott Abercrombie until it stopped publishing the quarterly.
Dobson was joined in his efforts by former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, Chuck Colson, the American Decency Association (ADA), the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, and others.
Pressure on A&F may also have come from another source: Corporations that own other stores. Bill Johnson, says that his group had come up with a unique new strategy for getting a Grand Rapids, Michigan A&F to not only stop selling its raunchy quarterly, but also to get rid of the huge photographs of naked models that decorate the walls of every A&F store.
Discussions with Abercrombie and the manager of the Rivertown Crossings Mall in Grand Rapids had gone nowhere. So Johnson sent a letter to the managers of all 120 mall stores expressing concerns about what children visiting the mall were being exposed to. He enclosed several photos from A&F's quarterly. Police yourselves, he warned, or we'll urge people to boycott the entire mall right at the start of the Christmas shopping season.
Johnson immediately heard from two stores, including the manager of one of the mall's largest department stores. In the last two weeks there have been, Johnson says, "significant discussions" between the corporation that owns the department store and Abercrombie, leading the ADA to agree to agree to delay the boycott.
The mainstreaming of porn is nothing new. What outrages many parents is that Abercrombie is deliberately aiming its porn and damaging lifestyle advice, not at dirty old men, but at kids.
The best news is the lasting Christmas gift Abercrombie is giving to America. When I tried to order a "Field Guide" by telephone, an A&F employee told me the company's decision to keep the quarterly out of stores is permanent. She, too, blamed the boycotts. The only people who will have access to the quarterly in future, she added, are those who already have a subscription. It's a huge step forward.
A&F's CEO Mike Jeffries has for years sneered at those who complained about his quarterly's filth. Asking him softly to clean up his act didn't work, but big stick evidently did.
- Anne Morse is a freelance writer in Virginia.
Jeffries has been exceedingly arrogant and smug on this matter. I'd like to return to A & F as a customer, but haven't been able to for years. Time to compliment A & F for their better judgement and corporate responsibility.
Ahem: ...and current team owner of 2 recent NASCAR champions.
Gibbs has built his reputation on toughness and unflinching public dedication to his morals, ethics, and religion. His position as a NASCAR powerbroker makes him not just another idealogue, but a major player in the world of advertising and corporate sponsorship and image.
Does this mean they won't sell more subscriptions, as well as not selling individual copies? As long as it's available at all, they're still a pornography retailer. And I noticed the store in the mall on Saturday. If the pictures were "toned down," I'd hate to see how they looked to start with!
Yep. Usually two token girls surrounded by 12 guys, who didn't seem to be paying attention to the girls.
Ask any gay in New York about the "Abercrombie Boys" and you will see that they don't exactly make most of their money from modeling...
I would respectfully disagree. I will not buy merchandise from A&F, and I suggest that a boycott continue. Here's why:
The corporate "culture" that thought it was a reasonable business practice to sell underage sex (or at least the appearance of underage sex) has not changed, the only difference between today and yesterday is that today, the A&F command structure understands that they cannot publish questionable material and call it a "Catalog". The same people who OKed this decision are still in charge and will be making decisions for A&F in the future. There has been no accountability for the depravity of A&F's marketing campaign. I believe that economic pressure should be placed upon A&F until the stockholders vote out the pedophiles who actually thought there would be a consequence-free environment for peddling smut. One can only imagine the corporate thought process -
"What's the worst that can happen? A couple thousand right-wing religious wackos get bent out of shape. If enough of them call, we'll just stop selling the thing, but in the meantime, Oh boy! The publicity!"
I have never believed it is a corporation's responsibility to be behave morally or ethically. But I will only support those companies whose leaders are demostrably moral or ethical; or, at the very worst, don't bank on pornography to sell either catalogs or that company's image.
Let's not stop kicking the wanna-be child pornographers now that they're down.
I'll never pay for porn when you can get it for free.
I respectfully disagree. Just as I expect corporate America to be responsible not to dump raw sewage in the local river, I expect them not to add dump on the culture either. Just as I expect coporations to follow GAAP, SEC rules, etc......
A corporation is nothing more than a piece of paper, real assets, and its employees. It's the employees as individuals that I expect to behave ethically. Through that moral behaviour as a person comes a moral direction and behaviour for the company. A corporation, as a statutory entity, should be expected to behave legally, hence the need for, as you rightly suggest, anti-dumping statutes, the SEC, et al.
I say it mirrors some constitutional questions because of the tension the government is constantly under to behave either in a way that is consistent with our Constitution (generally believed to be an enduring document - nevermind this "penumbra"/"aura"/"borealis" or whatever liberals are calling it these days), or in a way that is consistent with an ethical viewpoint. That poses a danger to society when the "ethical" viewpoint turns out to be something like "A woman's right to choose to abort her child is paramount, even when that child is moments away from being born."
That is not to say that both cannot be one and the same sometimes, but then sometimes they're not.
Just a thought...
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