I’ve been reading a lot about the recent Abercrombie & Fitch (“A&F”) publicity — largely decrying the organizations alleged hiring preferences towards bland, er, blonde and blue eyed frat boy types — and I have mixed feelings about the issue.
First, for those who don’t know me, I’m hardly the sort of guy A&F would hire. In the tall, dark, and handsome test, I just pass one of the three (hint: I’m a short guy who doesn’t get outside all that much :D).
However, even though I know A&F hiring managers would apparently chop off their index fingers before hiring me, that’s alright. I’m not exactly their target customer; I actually have this weird preference about buying clothes based upon how they fit and whether they accentuate the good aspects of my face and body. Just because some sleek and artificially body-hairless frat guy or unpleasantly-anorexic girl happens to wear a particular brand of clothing does not make me any more apt to patronize that brand. I do realize, for better or worse, though, that I’m in the minority on this apparently.
But I digress. What about the alleged discrimination? What about the seemingly apparent fact that A&F hires tall white guys with intelligence levels exceeded by moldy bread, along with the girls that date them?
My take? Let ’em do so.
I heartily welcome all others (Asians, women with unfashionable glasses, people with funny sounding last names like Garcia, and so on) to boycott A&F. I encourage people to patronize brands that show more respect for the majority of the human populace, or, heck, even START new brands that actually exist to sell quality clothing instead of an “experience” or “sexuality” or any such thing that isn’t really what a pair of pants has to offer anyway.
But lawsuits? Sheesh… do we need yet more proof in America that people will sue anyone for anything?
What about strip clubs? Should they be required to hire unattractive (by their standards, or their perceived customers’ standards) strippers? Obviously that’d be rather silly. I don’t patronize strip clubs (hey, I’m broke :D), but if I did, I’d likely want to see tall, leggy, athletic looking women instead of women with copious amounts of cellulite. And as a white man, I (genetically or otherwise) also happen to have an attraction-preference for white women. Does that make me shallow in this context? Absolutely. Racist? Er, I’d hope not. Does this make the strip club evil or racist? I don’t believe so. They’re in it to make a buck, and their products are, quite simply, Attractiveness and Sexuality.
What about buxom blacks? Or non-triathelete women? Aren’t they being discriminated against? Well, sure. And as a short guy, I’m never going to make the NBA. Nor, as an average-to-slightly-above-average fit guy am I going to be a star weightlifter. I’m not going to be a runway model, either.
The question, then, becomes one of how closely related a company’s hiring practices are to what they’re selling, and in this case, the courts seem to aligned more closely with those against the discrimination. For instance, in a case a while back against Southwest Airlines, the court ruled that Southwest could not exclusively hire attractive women, despite the airline’s (likely honest and accurate) claim that the majority of its business at the time consisted of good-ol’ boys from Texas who flew Southwest largely because of the nice sightlines. And I’m not referring to the delightful view out the windows, either. 😉
In the Southwest case, I feel that the court decided wrongly. However, I also am indeed uncomfortably aware of the slippery-slope issues inherent in supporting discrimination in cases of corporate-argued ‘customer preferences.’ For instance, couldn’t many restaurants argue that attractive waitresses are likely to serve as more of a drawing card than pock-marked overweight waitresses? And aren’t attractive receptionists more pleasing to visiting clients? Big and sexy-looking bouncers are more likely to attract bar patrons, too, aren’t they?
Where do you draw the line? I’m not sure. I do know, though, that such discrimination likely takes place more often than not in nearly all industries in which employees are seen by customers and potential customers, and folks who are perceived as less-attractive, too short, too “foreign looking,” or even “too black” are likely to get the short end of the stick. This isn’t pleasant by any means, at least for those of us who don’t fit the desired Aryan stereotype.
So with that, I suppose it may seem strange that I disagree with those suing A&F. My reasoning is based upon my belief that A&F is undeniably selling Attractiveness and Sexuality, and indeed relying upon these aspects as key differentiators for its brand. Without such competitive advantages, A&F becomes just another run-of-the-mill clothier who uses sweatshops and inferior materials.
My argument against the lawsuits, however, does not mean that I find A&F respectable or worthy of support in any way. As suggested earlier in this entry, I hope people wise up and — whether publicly or just personally — firmly boycott obnoxiously “trendy” and vapid companies such as A&F.
Alas, I can’t imagine that ever happening in a substantive and long-term way, however. After all, we collective morons still buy Happy Experiences and Sex from a beer can… Large Penises and Dates from hot cars… and so on.
On the whole, excepting us equally-obnoxious-but-more-rational-geeks, we’re all about buying Experiences rather than actual goods and services. And I don’t ever see that changing in my lifetime.
I just wish we’d take blame for our own intellectual ineptitude instead of angrily suing the companies that simply provide what we’re all-too-willing to pay for.