Is the “Fitch the Homeless” Campaign a Good Idea?

English: The image of Abercrombie & Fitch today.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a new viral movement in response to comments and actions by Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries. I won’t get into the details about what he said, but if you Google his name you’ll have plenty to read. He’s made some very insensitive remarks about the type of market that his store targets (“cool” kids), and apparently A&F burns clothes rather than donating them in order to preserve their brand image (I’m not sure if this has been verified or not).

In response, a filmmaker named Greg Karber has suggested that we take all of our old A&F clothing and donate it to the homeless. He wants to make A&F the “official brand of the homeless”. He’s even created a video, which is quickly making its way around social media. So the homeless get new clothes, A&F gets their comeuppance, and everything works out, right?

I felt uneasy watching the video, but couldn’t quite articulate why. Was it the way that Karber was just throwing the clothes on top of people laying on the street? Was it the way that he decided to create an entire movement without asking the participants if they even wanted to be involved? After pondering it for a while, I found an easier way to explain my discomfort.

How would you feel if someone came up to you and told you to wear something because it would devalue the brand?

It doesn’t matter if you needed clothing or not, it would feel pretty shitty. Just because someone is sitting on a sidewalk doesn’t mean that they have no pride. Just because someone needs assistance doesn’t mean that they are obliged to cater to the whims of those that are providing it. I would feel a whole lot more comfortable with this campaign if it were initiated and perpetuated by members of the homeless community due to a perceived injustice on their part.

I understand that people are upset with Jeffries, but the best way to retaliate is to vote with your dollars. Just don’t shop there. Ask your friends not to shop there. Put him out of business. A brand whose entire value is based on image doesn’t have much to stand on. Make your voice heard on Twitter and Facebook and other social media that you don’t think that wearing A&F is a cool thing to do.

We don’t need to demoralize others to stand up for what we think is right. By doing so we are, in essence, reinforcing the idea of a caste system where more value is placed on those with privilege. That makes us no better than Jeffries. People’s hearts are in the right place to want to speak out against his bigotry, but I’m just not sure that this campaign is the right way to do it.

Boston

I’ve taken a couple of days to think of what to write in the wake of the horrible tragedy in Boston. I struggle when events like this happen. It’s hard for me to fathom that humankind has evolved to have such little empathy for each other that someone would purposely cause such devastation and destruction.

My heart aches for the families of those who were killed or injured, and for those who weren’t but had to witness such an atrocity. As a former runner, I think of the athletes who trained for years to attend the pinnacle of their running career, only to have the event marred by the tragedy. I think of my son, and the world that I brought him into. I worry about the things that he’s going to see and experience. I wonder how I’ll make sense of things like this for him when I don’t even understand it myself.

I’m a cynical person. I am easily overwhelmed by the amount of tragedy and despair in the world. Logically, I know that most people are helpful and good, and that events like this are the minority compared to the millions of good deeds that are done every day. But I get bogged down by the constant influx of bad news. How do I teach my son to not be the same way? How do I teach him empathy without making his heart heavy with despair?

My thoughts are with the people affected by this horrific event. I have no words for them except to say that I am sorry that something so senseless hurt so many people. I hope that the acts of kindness being carried out across the world will be the legacy of your loved ones, so we will all remember them too.