I blogged yesterday about the tendency of quelling celebration after activism victories because there is more to be done. Today I want to talk about what happened was the response to an article I wrote for iVillage about the two bullshit “apologies” that Abercrombie and Fitch have offered regarding their CEO’s comment regarding their lack of plus-sized clothes saying “We go after the attractive all-American kid… A lot of people don’t belong, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary, absolutely.”
Both apologizes are tributes to political doublespeak and obfuscation including this absolute gem from the CEO himself: “I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense” Right, I feel so much better right now (sarcasm meter- 1o out of 10)
In discussing the situation several people said something to the effect that even if A&F started making plus sized clothes they would never, ever buy anything from them because they didn’t want to make plus-sizes in the first place. A similar thing happened when I talked about trying out Southwest Airline’s new policy. and people suggested that no matter what their new policy is, their previous poor treatment of fat passengers was so egregious that we should never patronize them again.
I absolutely understand this, I struggled with it when I was considering flying Southwest, and it was really difficult for me to pay Southwest money. Ultimately the reason I did was that I felt like we had asked them to make things better for fat flyers and in response they made things better for fat flyers. If my response to that was “sorry but it will never be enough to make up for what you did and I will never buy your product” then what incentive do companies have to respond to my requests/demands/activism?
I think that this is tricky and I’m not suggesting that everyone has to go out and buy things from companies they find despicable (and lord knows that A&F have more issues than just their poor treatment of fat folk,) I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do at all, but I do think this is worth discussion. If a company hears our concerns/request/demands and responds to them by making the changes we asked for, and is then told that because of what they did in the past we will never patronize them regardless, then it seems that we may be training activism targets to ignore us or even be more aggressively hostile, and that it might have been better just to try to put them out of business instead of asking them to change.
If, for example, a petition or e-mail campaign results in desired changes, it seems to me that it would be a good idea to have a second quick campaign thanking the company for making the changes. Even if we think it’s something that they should have done all along, from an outcome-based standpoint a little thank you can mean that we get the changes and gain an ally instead of a begrudging change and bitter possible future adversary.
So if we make requests of a company, the company makes the changes, and then we give them a second chance and our business, maybe we train businesses that there are rewards for responding to our requests? As usual I don’t have all the answers, but I think it’s an interesting question.
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