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Commentary: Abercrombie & Fitch "Girl-cott"

By Fr. Dan Weir

Buffalo, NY – Perhaps it was because our older child is a girl, now in her final year of medical school, but always one with a mind of her own, always a force to be contended with. Or perhaps it was because her younger brother, during his college years, became an outspoken critic of songs with sexist lyrics. Whatever the reason, I was intrigued by the news that a group of young women in western Pennsylvania were organizing what came to be called a girlcott of Abercrombie & Fitch. These young women were offended by some of the t-shirts sold by the company, t-shirts that they judged to be demeaning to women, t-shirts with messages like this across the chest: "When you have these, who needs brains?"

Wanting more information about the girlcott, I searched the Internet and found a column from a paper in Pittsburgh. The columnist had a very negative opinion of the girlcott and said that it would accomplish nothing except increased publicity and sales for Abercrombie & Fitch. I e-mailed the columnist, telling him that I thought his criticism of the campaign was rather shallow and that I was glad that the girlcott organizers hadn't asked for his advice. We exchanged e-mails for a while, he holding to his position that the girlcott would fail and I to my position that, even if it did bring increased publicity to Abercrombie & Fitch, the girlcott was a good thing and that it just might succeed.

Two weeks later I heard the news on WBFO that Abercrombie & Fitch had decided to stop selling two of the offensive and demeaning t-shirts. I was in an "I told you so" mood when I heard the news and so I e-mailed the columnist right away. Much to my surprise, he didn't agree that getting two offensive t-shirts withdrawn from sale was an accomplishment for the girlcott. However, the young women who had organized the protest, according to one news report that I read, were pleased that they had won this small victory and hoped that others would be inspired to take similar action.

I hope these young women are right and that young women - and even some young men and some older folks like me - are moved to action when they see something in the world that needs changing. And to those who believe that the world is just fine they way that it is, I would extend this offer - let me take and smash your rose-colored glasses.

The anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. It's the only thing that has." In face of those who say that efforts like the girlcott of Abercrombie & Fitch can't succeed, we can remember Mead's wise words. We can decide that, however impossible a cause may seem to others, we will take the risk of failure and act to change the world. And even if we fail, or if our victories are only small ones, we can remember a saying of another wise woman, my mother. A single mother who raised three rather rowdy sons, she became a peace activist when I was in my teens. As she faced some daunting challenges as an activist, she used to say to me: "We may not be able to change the world, but we can make sure that the world doesn't change us."

Listener-Commentator Fr. Dan Weir is rector of St. Matthias Episcopal Church in East Aurora. Click the "listen" icon above to hear the commentary now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.