Back to School: Branding Yourself

 Welcome back readers! It’s that time of year again for back to school shopping. There has been a plethora of back to school clothing sales from various companies trying their best to stand out. American Apparel’s recent ad has made quite an impression this season, but not necessarily in a good way. For their fall campaign, the company chose a risqué shot of one of their young models in a mini skirt from an angle that was revealing. Although American Apparel has never been known as a conservative brand and this isn’t their first scandalous ad, this raised much controversy and The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) demanded them to take it down for “sexualizing schoolgirls”.  

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According to Griffin (2011), Muted Group Theory is the idea that women or other minorities are being silenced in their opinions and the way that they are being represented. The theory speaks of how women in the mass media are used as sex symbols, even in ads marketed to their own gender. This ad shows young women in a suggestive position and at an angle that can be interpreted as voyeuristic. Although the ad is marketed to young girls, the company is run by an older white male named Allen Myer.

We all know that going back to school is an important time of year where you want to look your best and impress fellow students and friends. However, just like corporations, you have to create a brand for yourself that will reflect a positive image amongst your peers that acts in your own best self interest. Do you think that American Apparel’s choice of subjecting women in their ads in order to cultivate a scandalous brand image is worth the negative attention?

-Hannah Zeskind, Connor Gold, Kierstin Geary, Margaret Cafasso, and Olivia Sadler



2 thoughts on “Back to School: Branding Yourself

  1. Interesting example. The “pornification” of culture is in full swing and this is yet another example. There is a wealth of scholarship on how pornography is hijacking our basic understanding of sexuality. The photo is exploitive and does engage in “sexualizing schoolgirls” yet there is a level in which girls and women begin to participate in their own sexualization because it has become normative. That’s why your selection of muted group offers insights that other theories may miss. Previous standards of “modesty” or even “fashion” are now “prudish” or “geeky” or “old fashioned” or “old lady” and the anticipation of such reactions makes it easier to choose a very short plaid skirt that plays right into the fetishizing of “naughty school girl” fantasies. And as you note with muted group, much of this can take place without saying a word.

    • Dr. Olsen,
      Thank you for your comment. Our group also spoke about how although the girl’s voice is taken away in this picture, at the same time we honestly don’t know the model’s opinion on the subject. As you said due to the “pornification” of our culture and our changing moral standards as a society ads like this are becoming more common.

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