What is your image?
For paper 2, I want to explore the clothing company American Apparel Inc. The casual clothing organization often described as hip, artsy a, cool, also wears another adjective: contradictory. American Apparel stands as a paradox, wearing two contrasting masks at once. One organization face shows the company as a friend to all employees, promoting the “sweatshop free” movement, only U.S.A.-Made, as well as legalizing gay marriage, and supporting its workers, whom are mostly Latino immigrants by paying significantly above minimum wage ($12-$13 per hour) and providing medical benefits. The other face is one of scandal, over-sexualized advertisement, which is sometimes referred to as “soft core pornography”, and an outlandish CEO, Dov Charney, who dabbles in T-shirts and sexual harassment lawsuits. Rob Walker describes the organization from a bird’s eye-view in an article entitled Sex vs. Ethics.
Walker states “the company had transitioned to an image soaked in youth and sex. This was apparent in its stores-where the decor often included things such as Penthouse covers-and in its print ads. Yes, some of these ads mentioned quality and the sweatshop-free angle, but usually in small type, under a photograph of a half-naked young woman.”
I am curious as to how these two polar opposite organizational constructs can co-exist within the same company (and work!) Charney responds to the ethical question: “It’s not that he cares less about treating his workers ethically… it’s that he doesn’t think trumpeting work conditions will help him compete. Sure, he hoped quality or social consciousness or a distaste for logos would each attract some consumers. But he also hoped that selling a sexed-up version of youth culture to young people would attract others, and hopefully in greater numbers. If ethics draws in some consumers, great. But for others who respond to different rationales, he’ll provide those, too.”
I plan on assessing the organization through utilitarian and feminist ethics lenses. Which face outweighs the other, and to what extent are woman being degraded to make American Apparel/Charney money?