americanexploitation

This is an image of an American Apparel advertisement that had previously said “Made in Bangladesh.” It was ‘adjusted’ by the folks at 18millionrising.org. I wrote a piece at The Aerogram how I too am #MadeInBangladesh: http://theaerogram.com/im-made-bangladesh/

“American Apparel is a known American-made clothing company that prides itself on being sweatshop-free and paying “fair” wages (albeit with questionable sexual harassment allegations against CEO Dov Charney). They are selling their clothing. Thus, we can ascertain that the message in the photo implicitly rejects the notion of buying Bangladesh made “objects.” The implication is that Bangladesh is bad, and American is good. Burka-ed Muslim women are bad, and bare-breasted “former” Muslims with newly found American freedoms are good. Right?”

“But you’re fine with that rejection, right Maks? Because in the press release you state that in high school you distanced yourself from your Islamic upbringing. That you don’t identify as Bengali or American, and you don’t fit into conventional narratives, and that’s why you are essential to Los Angeles.”

“The thing is I’m Bengali, American, a Muslim, a non-hijabi woman, and I’m also an Angeleno. I work constantly to break the mainstream conventional narrative I’m constantly placed in. And I don’t think that makes me any less important to the mosaic that is LA. In fact, LA is littered with women like this, like me. My Los Angeles embraces this diversity and my mosaic is beautiful. Whereas the LA in this marketing campaign is tinged with Islamophobia and xenophobia….”

American Apparel’s “Made in Bangladesh” ad campaign objectifies a Bangladeshi American woman while doing absolutely nothing for the garment workers their PR team has been wringing their hands over.

Isn’t it time American Apparel put their money where their mouth is? We’re asking them to do more than just apologize: meet with South Asian women activists and make a meaningful contribution to building power, autonomy, and quality of life for Bangladeshi garment workers.

But it’s a fine line between self-expressive and being exotified and commodified. You think you chose to be creative — but in actuality you were plucked by your employer to sell an object. I believe the object you are selling is high-waisted pants, but it’s unclear from the photo. They are rolled down so suggestively. What American Apparel is selling is sex, and in this case, by having “Made in Bangladesh” across your bare breasts, you are selling fetishized sex. One where the brown woman is objectified.

-Taz Ahmed, “I Am Made in Bangladesh Too,” The Aerogram