Abercrombie & Fitch: So Gay, Not So Pro-Gay
posted by December 6 at 15:50 PMon
Gay male consumers are, let’s be frank, total suckers. If a company shows us enough good-looking, half-naked young jocks wearing their products—or not wearing their products—we will buy their t-shirts, jeans, hoodies, socks, kitchen magnets, whatever. And so long as the company keeps marketing their products with boy tit (get Bruce Weber to shoot your ad campaign!), the gay shopping zombies will treat your company right.
You would think that boy-tit-flashing companies would recognize their dependance on the gay consumer and treat the gays right.
But somehow despite their thoroughly homoerotic—and thoroughly effective—boytittastic ad campaigns, Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t feel like it needs to treat the gays right. Human Rights Campaign, a GLBT rights group, assesses corporations for their friendliness to gay and lesbian employees and consumers, looking at things like anti-discrimination protections, domestic partner benefits, and advertising practices. And HRC gives A&F a dismal 50 out of a possible 100 in their annual “Buying for Equality” guide.
It can’t be that hard to get a perfect score from HRC: Gap, Levi Strauss, Nike, Nordstrom, and Sears—Sears!—all pulled in perfect 100 ratings.
As much as I wish it were not the case, I doubt the news that A&F treats its gay employees like shit will matter much to the kind of gay men who wear A&F.
The company markets to gay male consumers using the mystique of the impossibly beautiful, completely unattainable, likely hostile-to-homos straight boy. Internalized homophobia and thwarted longing infuses A&F’s marketing materials; some have featured “playful” and implied male-on-male gang rape. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that—so long the rape is just implied and, you know, playful and stuff.) But the guys in the ads are all exuberantly heterosexual—there’s usually a strategically placed girl, or a part of a girl, somewhere in the frame. (Let’s play spot the female!)
A&F boys (in ads) are comfortable naked around each other because the A&F boys (in ads) are not just equally and impossibly beautiful, they’re also equally and impossibly heterosexual. So they can romp naked in their locker rooms, lacrosse fields, and pastures—boxer shorts slung around their necks—without worry because no upsetting male-on-male desire exists in the A&F universe. These guys aren’t sex objects to each other. They’re buds, and they’re safe around each other—a little assgrabbing won’t be misunderstood, right?
Gay guys who wear A&F want to visit that care- and homo-free universe. (Many of us copped a few feels in it before we came out.) It’s not they want to live in a world without homos—they do not—but they want to look like they could live there. They want to believe that they, too, are impossibly beautiful enough and straight-acting enough to pass.
For these guys, I’m afraid, news of the A&F’s anti-gay business policies will only reinforce the appeal of the brand. HRC wants us all to know that no self-respecting gay guy would wear A&F.
But already know that, however, and that’s precisely why we wear A&F.