News that notable creep, American Apparel founder and CEO Dov Charney, was ousted from his very own company spread like wildfire this morning. And it was predictably greeted with major glee among most of my feminist friends, who've had enough with this guy's gag-inducing sexist marketing campaigns, as well as his own personal conduct with employees.
You can include me in the list of people happy that this guy is finally getting his proper comeuppance. But American Apparel isn't getting a free pass from me. I stopped purchasing anything from them years ago and this announcement changes nothing. I still have no intention of ever purchasing anything from them in the future.
"We take no joy in this, but the board felt it was the right thing to do," said Allan Mayer, one of the two co-chairman appointed to replace Charney.
No, the right thing to do, Allan Mayer, would have been to fire his ass four-five years ago when multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment started surfacing.
The right thing to do would have been to question why and how someone who had so many lawsuits pending would be allowed to continue personally shooting those questionable, highly sexual ads, displaying employee models barely out of their teens. I mean, how many naked women do you need to sell ugly knee-high socks? Strike that question. I think I just answered it myself.
The right thing to do would have been to send him packing when he decided to host a meeting wearing only a sock -- and not on his foot.
The right thing to do would have been to limit the damage right then and there. And if this company relied so heavily on his advertising vision (as many have stated), keep him in the boardroom but away from the stores stocked with pretty young things, and as far away as possible from being able to parade around in nothing but his boxer shorts on the factory floor.
The right thing to do would have been to call a board meeting and find a way to get rid of this public embarrassment when rumours started flirting that he had oral sex with an employee in the presence of a journalist.
This is a man who flaunted the fact that he could get away with sexually harassing women and no one would do a damn thing. Often, including the women who were being harassed.
And I don't want to hear one more person question the motives and the ethics of the many, many women who have come forward and filed lawsuits; many of which have settled and walked away.
This isn't about harmless quirkiness or eccentricity. This is about harassment and unequal power dynamics. It's about young women without a full handle on their sexuality and sex appeal being wooed and taken advantage of by someone who signs their paycheck. All "standing your ground and holding your own" feminist manifestos aside, sometimes you're just a 19-year-old kid with no knowledge of your legal rights, with bills to pay, in desperate need of a job, and your boss just happens to be a dirty old pervert.
The right thing to do for American Apparel would have been to get rid of him years ago, but they didn't.
The right thing for them to do was to keep making money. And while Charney was making money for the company and its shareholders, no one cared or bothered to do anything about the allegations.
As long as the company was making over $200M in revenue in 2005, he was safe.
As long as he was named Man of the Year by both the Fashion Industry Guild and Apparel Magazine for his design work, AA kept backing him up.
As long as The Guardian named American Apparel label of the year in 2008, and in 2009, he was a finalist for Time magazine's 100 most influential people of the world, Charney wasn't going anywhere.
But things are different now.
The company is tanking. At one point, AA went so far as to warn that it might default on loans and close up shop. Increasing discontent with the sexist imagery has turned off consumers. Financial losses occurred because of production problems that arose after almost 2,000 workers had to be let go after a government investigation in 2009 found they were in the country illegally. The company's stock price fell a whopping 84 per cent over the last five years.
So, yeah. Ousting Dov Charney may have been the right decision to make, American Apparel executive board members, but that's not why you finally got rid of him.
You got rid of the goose that laid the golden egg because the negatives finally outweighed the benefits. Only then did you care about all the questionable decisions being made time and time again by your CEO. Only then did you take action.
American Apparel stocks rose by 16 per cent this morning upon the news of Charneys' firing, but I don't expect they will rebound all that much.
Too little, too late.
I stopped buying your overpriced, over-hyped, dripping-in-sexism-and-misogyny clothes a long time ago. I know others have as well.
Nice try, though.
This blog originally appeared on Toula's personal website: www.headspacepress.comMORE ON HUFFPOST:
American Apparel CEO Dov Charney has faced multiple accusations of unwanted sexual conduct, including accusations that he forced an employee to perform oral sex and kept one employee as a sex slave. According to American Apparel spokesman Peter Schey, Charney is currently involved with four sexual harassment suits that the company believes "have no merit." Charney told CNBC that such lawsuits are "a testimony to my success."
American Apparel was sued in 2010 for allegedly terminating an employee who was undergoing cancer treatment, CBS Los Angeles reports. The company settled the lawsuit for $60,000 in 2011, according to Daily News. Spokesman Peter Schey told HuffPost that American Apparel "agreed to intensify its training about the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act" following the the settlement, and now "has a policy that goes above and beyond what the law requires with regards to accommodating people with disabilities."
American Apparel hires workers only after taking a full-body photograph of them and has faced accusations that it only hires the best looking candidates, Gawker reports. Likewise, CEO Dov Charney reportedly personally went through photos of store employees and requested that any "ugly people" be let go, according to one store manager. For its part, American Apparel says its policy is to hire workers who are knowledgable about its products.
In 2011, garment worker Tuan Phan was killed by a circular knitting machine at one of American Apparel's factories. Calling the incident a "freak accident," American Apparel spokesman Peter Schey said "the company immediately took steps to avoid this type of terrible accident ever happening again," adding it is "fully committed to worker health and safety."
American Apparel paid out over $300,000 in damages after a worker sued for being called "n****r" by his superior repeatedly, Gawker reports. The company has also been accused of profiling customers, running racist ads and making racially insensitive products. "Under no circumstances does the company think racial slurs are appropriate," Peter Schey told HuffPost.
American Apparel's racy ads have been banned repeatedly for showing nudity, supposedly being exploitative and sexualizing child models.
American Apparel has been flirting with bankruptcy since 2010, coming especially close in the spring of 2011 after losing around $86 million. Despite calls for the company to outsource production due to the financial strife, it remained committed to "domestic production, fair wages [and] positive working conditions," according to American Apparel's Peter Schey. An $80 million credit infusion from billionaire George Soros in 2012, however, appears to have put the clothing company on more solid financial footing.
A 2012 lawsuit brought by former employee Michael Bumblis accused CEO Dov Charney of throwing dirt at a store manager and calling him a "fag" and a "wanna be Jew," The Huffington Post reports. "Dov Charney and witnesses deny that Charney ever assaulted or rubbed dirt in Mr. Bumblis's face," spokesman Peter Schey told HuffPost. "Mr. Bumblis sued only after being terminated for cause (after numerous warnings about his conduct before and after the alleged dirt-throwing incident)."
In 2011, America Apparel ran a contest called "The Next Big Thing," which sought a plus-size model for its new larger line of clothing. Nancy Upton's collection of ironic photos for the contest was the popular winner but American Apparel chose not to give her the top prize because of her "attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge," a spokesperson wrote at the time.
American Apparel was forced to fire 1,800 employees after a federal audit unveiled irregularities in the documents immigrant workers provided American Apparel in order to get hired, The New York Times reports. "We interviewed every worker one by one to ensure that we were absolutely certain that we didn't terminate anyone who had a right to be here," American Apparel's Peter Schey told HuffPost.
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