This aint your grandma’s clothing company
By RBM Columnist Laura Webster:
Calling all hipsters and their ethical consciences (or what’s left of them). Please take a moment from sipping your whiskey from your mason jars and take a look into the douche bag mastermind behind your latest deep v-neck and/or your new pair of striped tube socks.
Dov Charney, CEO of the LA based, sweatshop free, mega hipster, clothing company American Apparel, has been slapped with yet another lawsuit involving sexual harassment. This is his fourth lawsuit in the past four years involving sexual harassment charges and this time, he has the bonus allegation of attempting to defraud his investors.
A former American Apparel IT support worker, Roberto Hernandez, filed charges last week in the LA County Superior Court claiming that he was fired after refusing to change the numbers in inventory records, which Charney hoped would encourage potential investors to put up capital to inflate American Apparel’s inventory. In an article by InformationWeek.com, Hernandez said that Charney “subjected Mr. Hernandez and his co-workers to a hostile work environment based on sex.”
Hernandez also stated that Charney conducted business meetings at his home while naked, kept nude pictures of female employees on his computer, brought workers to strip clubs and walked around American Apparel’s offices wearing nothing but underwear, an accusation that has also surfaced through the past lawsuits.
So does a sweatshop free environment even out the fraud, sexual harassment, and exploitation of women that has been permeating American Apparel as a company from the get go?
This is not the first time that Charney has been accused of sustaining a work environment based on sex. Charney has argued that sex comes with the creative process. He even managed to find himself a bit of immunity by writing his own twisted rules into the employee handbook. The handbook states that employees working in creative areas of the company “will come into contact with sexually charged language and visual images. This is part of the job…and is not deemed to be harassment by American Apparel.”
American Apparel is supposedly appealing to the socially conscious consumer but there’s more than manufacturing when it comes to clothing. The sexually charged creative process is blatantly apparent through American Apparel’s amateur looking, hyper sexualized advertisements of young girls posed spread eagle in leotards or curled up in nothing but knee-highs, usually taken in Charney’s apartment.
So how does an employee fight against sexual harassment when it’s already written into the rules as a part of the everyday work environment? Not easily. Especially when Charney continues to run around the office in his underwear and use the words “slut” and “cunt” freely, without any worry of offending anyone. Not surprisingly, Charney finds these words endearing.
In a deposition tape having to do with the allegation filed by former employee Mary Nelson, that Charney asked her to masturbate with him, Charney defends why he occasionally refers to his employees as sluts saying, “You know, there are some of us that love sluts… it could be also be an endearing term.”
Charney reeks of misogyny from his daily living to the way he runs his company. According to Women’s Wear Daily a former American Apparel recruiter recalled Charney advising her to hire “young attractive women to engage in sex” with him. Whether his lewd comments are meant to be jokes or not, his constant disrespect and degradation of women is disgusting and must be acknowledged.
The underground urban hipster culture that American Apparel is targeting should be informed. Sweatshop free labor is a step in the right direction for any company but American Apparel won’t even allow their workers to unionize. In 2003 American Apparel fought a union-organizing drive that their workers attempted to start and have not been allowed to pursue since.
If American Apparel’s audience is the twenty-something who is representing the emerging fashion and culture, then their decisions should be informed ones. With an overwhelming number of hipsters practicing veganism, you would think that someone who gives a shit about the politics of meat might also care about the sexual politics of a company that they are supporting.
American Apparel’s popular logo-less clothing has become the way to identify an American Apparel garment. The company is thriving according to reports on Monday that said their third-quarter net sales increased 45% year over year to $154.8 million. Net income, including stock compensation expenses came in at $2.3 million.
We recognize the brand, we are becoming more and more desensitized by the advertisements and we are informed on the misogynistic tendencies that the company applauds. So stop using “sweatshop free” as an excuse to continue buying and wearing clothes made by a company that is dehumanizing women and laughing at you all the while in their underwear.