Abercrombie & Fitch Pulls T-Shirts from store shelves!
April 18, 2002 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Abercrombie & Fitch Pulls T-Shirts from store shelves! A bunch of "Wong Brothers" and "Wok-n-Bowl" shirts offended some Asians, so they are now off the shelves. The Asians are holding a protest tonight in San Fransico if any mefi members would like to attend. Anyone get one of these before they were pulled? If you did I dare you to wear it to this protest. This geocities site has pictures of all the shirts. I mirrored the site here because of geocities bandwith limits.
posted by Keen (58 comments total)
 
You couldn't just add this link to the thread about 10 posts down?
posted by BlueTrain at 3:17 PM on April 18, 2002


You have got to be kidding me. Those shirts are offensive? And why are the offended parties holding a protest after the store has removed the shirts? God, I wish I had that kind of extra time on my hands.
posted by Optamystic at 3:18 PM on April 18, 2002


I myself am offended by the bad design and just plain ugly typography.
posted by luriete at 3:31 PM on April 18, 2002


Here in Vancouver, BC there is a very large asian population.

It is not uncommon for banks and other businesses to display english and mandarin. You can enjoy some of the best sushi outside of tokyo. You can read the home-grown magazine publication Banana, and you can buy T-Shirts from Chink Design.

Is it a racial joke? No. It is the product of designer Albert Liao.

And you thought those Abercrombie T's were controversial?
posted by futureproof at 3:35 PM on April 18, 2002


The Asians are holding a protest tonight in San Fransico

ALL of them? That's gonna be one crowded street...
posted by jonmc at 3:36 PM on April 18, 2002


very poor taste and I'm sure offensive to anyone of Asian desent (and anyone with good taste)

just another great case of a big company being completely out of touch with reality- I bet they put the blame on the designer (s)...

personally, I find all of their clothing offensive- who would want to look like yet another A&F sheep? maybe it's just me (I can afford their over-priced cookie cutter clothes no problem- it's not sour grapes...)

hopefully they will go out of business...
posted by ayukna at 3:37 PM on April 18, 2002


It is you(r opinion). I like their clothes.
posted by tomorama at 3:41 PM on April 18, 2002


My comment above could have possibly been a new topic all together. I don't think it will get much discussion here.
posted by futureproof at 3:47 PM on April 18, 2002


Opps. I'm sorry. I used IE to search the front page for "racist shirts" thinking that would pick it up. Of course if I'd have searched for abercrombie it would have been picked up... but hey, at least I found pictures!

The first thread is located here if you are blind and didn't see it like me.
posted by Keen at 3:50 PM on April 18, 2002


I haven't really seen much clothing disparaging italian Americans, so I can't really relate.

Is this just cheesy sloganeering or casual racism? I think people are being oversensitive.

Oh, and don't get me wrong, I hate Abercrombie and Fitch, as is my duty as an angry semi-loner.
posted by insomnyuk at 3:56 PM on April 18, 2002


Plus, this thread is different as it references a protest, etc.
posted by insomnyuk at 4:01 PM on April 18, 2002


Oversensitive? How should people react to seeing a racial slur which targets them being worn as a t-shirt slogan, especially when the target market for those t-shirts is not their race? Giggle and say "Oh, those crazy A&F kids, look at those nutty shirts!"
posted by Dreama at 4:03 PM on April 18, 2002


Oversensitive? What's next...the African-American theme, featuring watermelon, fried chicken, and a crack pipe? Maybe these A&F guys (obviously lily-white) need to get out more.
posted by troybob at 4:19 PM on April 18, 2002


I agree it's stupid, I wasn't saying that it wasn't, but maybe a protest is, I don't know, unneccessary? Oversensitive, even.
posted by insomnyuk at 4:22 PM on April 18, 2002


Well, at least the shirts are not brown, or black. No one that i knew of protested the 'Adolph Hitler- World Tour' T-shirt.
posted by clavdivs at 4:28 PM on April 18, 2002


I agree it's stupid, I wasn't saying that it wasn't, but maybe a protest is, I don't know, unneccessary? Oversensitive, even.

You'd prefer they bend over and allow stereotypes to create negative images of races? Or better yet, give up their rights of free speech because of the remote possibility that people would consider this oversensitive?

Come on insomnyuk, you've already admitted you've never experienced racism. What position are you in to tell Asians that they are being oversensitive? Racism will only end when idiotic messages like these are eliminated. The fact that a corporation conveyed this drives to the heart of America: racism is rampant within covert situations. We can't say chink/slant/etc., but apparently we're still thinking it.
posted by BlueTrain at 4:32 PM on April 18, 2002


i'm chinese, and while i think the shirts are kinda stupid the only one i find offensive is the laundry one. but then again, i'm not buddhist.

i'm also pretty sure the etymology of the word 'dojo' is japanese
and i think it's a bit of a stretch to call the guy on the pizza shirt a buddha given that he's not obese/half-naked.

correction: i'm now upset by the last one as well. just noticed it says 1892.
posted by juv3nal at 5:02 PM on April 18, 2002


come to think of it, i've not seen many instances of asian humor....or what asians think is funny. surely they see some things as humorous.
posted by billybob at 5:04 PM on April 18, 2002


you'd have to be pretty dim to wear a shirt for a business that doesn't exist anyway.
posted by mcsweetie at 5:11 PM on April 18, 2002


Geez, isn't there *something* more important in this world for people to get pissed off about?
posted by davidmsc at 5:15 PM on April 18, 2002


I think racism and stereotypes are pretty decent topics, davidmsc. If you don't, you obviously haven't experience either one.
posted by gramcracker at 5:19 PM on April 18, 2002


come to think of it, i've not seen many instances of asian humor....or what asians think is funny. surely they see some things as humorous.

what exactly is asian humor? i'm pretty sure the stuff i find funny (david sedaris & ab fab) is the same kind of stuff lots of people find funny.

this however is not funny.
posted by soundslikequiet at 5:25 PM on April 18, 2002


do you really think 1892 is a reference to that? that would be fairly horrible if so... it's bothersome that people don't see anything wrong with a bunch of frat-type white people wearing shirts that promote racial stereotypes of others. not that i'm sure a&f's demographic would actually enjoy the product, but that is who the shirts are marketed to.

and margaret cho is freaking hilarious. so it looks like at least one person from asia has a sense of humor... don't go assuming they all do though, i mean who the fuck knows what those people think is funny, if anything! i'm joking
posted by rhyax at 5:47 PM on April 18, 2002


asian humor?

your mother so fat, when she sits around the bahay kubo.... she really sits around the bahay kubo!



*gong*

that's a variation of a margaret cho joke... if i lived in sf though, i'd try to make it there, just for the car show...
posted by lotsofno at 5:53 PM on April 18, 2002


...so they are now off the shelves. The Asians are holding a protest tonight in San Fransico...

Are they protesting the shirts or that the shirts are being pulled from the shelves?
posted by jkottke at 6:01 PM on April 18, 2002


When the Ch'in fell, books fell out of the walls. When A&F fell, shirts came off the wall...ohh, see the kops are at Robert Blakes house....
posted by clavdivs at 6:07 PM on April 18, 2002


1892 is when A&F was originally founded, as a high-end sporting goods/safari adventure type store in NYC. They supplied a lot of famous people with equipment. I'm not really sure who, but I want to say Teddy Roosevelt and Hemingway for starters. That business went bankrupt a while ago and someone else bought the brand name in the eighties or nineties and started their whole "lifestyle brand" concept that sells well to people who want to buy a lifestyle.
posted by stopgap at 6:28 PM on April 18, 2002


Are they protesting the shirts or that the shirts are being pulled from the shelves?

Why would they be protesting because the shirts were pulled?
posted by brittney at 6:45 PM on April 18, 2002


Well, when they pulled the shirts, they yanked the catalog entries that the first post linked to, so a lot of us didn't see them. Keen provided those, and mirrored them.

The Russian judge gives this post 6.0 for execution, 6.0 for technical merit.
posted by swell at 6:48 PM on April 18, 2002


Actually, come to think of it, I have experienced racism, but I've never adopted an activist or victim mentality.

How about American stereotypes of Italians as greasy mafiosos. The Sopranos, the Godfather, and lots of late night TV sketches. There are also positive stereotypes, with the Olive Garden TV ads which portray the Italian love of family and eating. Not necessarily negative, but still a stereotype.
posted by insomnyuk at 6:53 PM on April 18, 2002


re: 1892
founding date sounds much more likely; my bad.
posted by juv3nal at 7:07 PM on April 18, 2002


Should I take mine to the cleaners before I return them??

o<
posted by Settle at 7:17 PM on April 18, 2002


Well, as another mentioned, the Designer was asian, not 'lilly white'. The Laundry one did seem pretty bad, but I'd hesitate to call the others racist. They were probably intending to sell these to the AzN pRyDe market anyway.

I myself am offended by the bad design and just plain ugly typography.

Me too.
posted by delmoi at 7:28 PM on April 18, 2002


Oh, and there is a lot of asian humor. www.asianhumor.com believe it or not. My favorite (my roommate didn't think it was very funny):

What's the capital of South Korea? 
About three dollars.
posted by Settle at 7:29 PM on April 18, 2002


and margaret cho is freaking hilarious. so it looks like at least one person from asia has a sense of humor...
Margaret Cho is funny but she's from San Francisco, not Asia. Maybe you're thinking of her parents who were born in Korea?
posted by rdr at 8:20 PM on April 18, 2002


i'm asian, and i'm not so much loving the little slanty eyes and the coolie hats.

i wouldn't be so much loving the idea of a protest, either, except that some of the responses in this thread are reminding me exactly why there ought to be one. if you don't get why this ain't funny--imagine A&F making a line of t-shirts with pictures of big-schnozzed jews in skullcaps haggling over pennies. or troybob's example of a racist african-american theme above.

but for whatever reason, negative stereotypes of asian americans are tolerated--even celebrated--in american society, and even otherwise liberal, openminded individuals don't seem to have much of a problem with them.

oh, and a big hearty "fuck you" if you who think that i don't have a sense of humor because i'm not amused by these t-shirts.
posted by shylock at 8:55 PM on April 18, 2002


negative stereotypes of asian americans are tolerated

Stereotypes of anything are tolerated, because they're funny. If you can't laugh at yourself a little, then there's something wrong. Do you think no one has ever made fun of the lazy white American? What do you think Homer Simpson is? Stereotypes are how comedians make a living and there's nothing wrong with poking fun at them once in a while.
posted by jaden at 9:22 PM on April 18, 2002


delmoi: who/where is it mentioned that the designer is asian?
posted by juv3nal at 9:28 PM on April 18, 2002


I think they're tasteless, and I think it's perceived that Asians are "okay" to make fun of because they're stereotyped as smart, uptight, rigid, not athletic... basically everything that the average American joe hates. Am I the only one imagining two guy sat a kegger with the A&F shirts on?

Frat Dude #1: "Dude... shit man... dude... look at my shirt... get it... little Asians kids... dude.... like that kid that I sit next to in Soc. 101!"

Frat Dude #2: "Yeah dude, and mine has a Buddha? That fat little weird religion. How fast do you I gould rock the casbath with that chick?"

And imsonyuk has a point about Italians being made fun of. If you're Italian everyone thinks that 1.) Your mom cooks really well, 2.) You or someone you know has mob connections, 3.) You're always angy.
posted by geoff. at 9:32 PM on April 18, 2002


And imsonyuk has a point about Italians being made fun of.

A point that is completely irrelevent to this thread. The only reason he brought his Italian heritage into the thread was because of my comment accusing his of not knowing racism. If, insomnyuk, you actually have experienced racism, you should completely understand the outrage of the Asian community and why they decided to protest.

This is not a matter of oversensitivity. This type of "humor" reminds me of when we painted Native Americans as blood thirsty killers in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. These characterizations are blatantly insensitive and are a means of covert racism.
posted by BlueTrain at 9:49 PM on April 18, 2002


A black girl(fellow highschooler a few years ago) once screamed at me and called me a slave owner because of my polite disagreement with her over affirmative action. Interesting, since I wasn't born in this country, but I believe her accusation was a racist one. Just because she didn't call me a 'wop' doesn't mean I haven't experienced racism in some form. That event still bothers me. My point was, while some Americans (of Italian descent) have experienced racism, they are in general not interested in taking to the streets in protest.

Also, I think there should be a difference in dealing with covert and overt racism. They both require protest, but is this method proper? They have already got the shirts recalled, but the threat of a protest merely increases the attention of these racial slurs. And isn't that what part of racism is? Just inflaming others, and getting their attention, at which point you are playing their game for them?

Just a few thoughts. And how is this any worse than those t-shirts the Indian basketball players made parodying white people? A t-shirt offending Buddhism is bad, but would a t-shirt offending Christianity be met with the same response? No, because each group is not interested in opposing defamation in general, they are just interested in opposing it when it happens to them.

My brother is adopted Korean, and those shirts really did bother me on a personal level, but I think people make a mistake when they allow this emotional 'fuck you' attitude to trump any sort of rational response.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:07 PM on April 18, 2002


Frankly, I fail to see the outrage. While I'm white, I've lived in Dorchester, Mass., which is certainly not a primarily white neighborhood. Racism does exist.

This is not it.

If you think "Eat In or Wok Out" made to resemble an old store (as much of A&F's shirts are) is offensive, you truly haven't experienced racism. Racism is being kicked out of housing because of your skin color. Racism is being denied promotions or even a job.

And personally, the only people I know who would wear these are my Asian friends, for the same reason that they probably wouldn't wear a shirt that said "Mic's Potatoes: Fresh So There's Not Another Famine" which I would find hilarious.
posted by Kevs at 10:11 PM on April 18, 2002


My point was, while some Americans (of Italian descent) have experienced racism, they are in general not interested in taking to the streets in protest.

While I agree that anti-Italian sentiment exists, it hardly compares to the assaults felt by Asians, Blacks, Latinos, or Native Americans. I'm not trying to downplay your point; I'm merely stating that this specific thread is not the forum.

The reason Italians aren't going to the streets is because they're white and blend into the WASP genre better than any of the above-mentioned races. Sorry, but it's true. When people see Blacks, Asians, Latinos, etc...they immediately notice a different race. OTOH, Italians have a better chance of blending into an already white society.

They have already got the shirts recalled, but the threat of a protest merely increases the attention of these racial slurs. And isn't that what part of racism is?

So what you're suggesting is that we completely ignore the problem and hope it goes away, correct? Don't publicize stereotypes because more people will be likely to use them? That's ridiculous. The basic problem of racism stems from ignorance. If we feed ignorance, we merely add to the current dilemma. On the other hand, if we face our stereotypes and challenge racist beliefs, we stand a better chance of educating the public.

but I think people make a mistake when they allow this emotional 'fuck you' attitude to trump any sort of rational response.

And what exactly is a rational response? Bending over? People fight for equality. People fight just for a chance at being ignored instead of being persecuted. Minorities don't want to create attention. They want to live peacefully in this society, in any society. But to do so, they must first be treated as equals.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:23 PM on April 18, 2002


So what you're suggesting is that we completely ignore the problem and hope it goes away, correct?

No, if you read my entire post carefully, you would notice that I recognized action had already been taken. Militancy is often treated with distrust by most Americans, racist, or ignorant, or none of those things. 'Fighting' for what you believe can mean a lot of different things, from peaceful Ghandi like protests, to flying airplanes into buildings. Fighting is not in and of itself a virtue.

The basic problem of racism stems from ignorance.

Actually, I disagree. I think education is the solution, but that also includes moral education. Education is no panacea, however. Pre World War II Germany was at the time regarded as the most educated nation in the world. And if racism is only a matter of ignorance, does that make racism morally wrong, or simply a misunderstanding? If all things which you deem to be wrong are merely due to a lack of education, isn't that a deterministic way of freeing people from accepting responsibility for their actions? If that is the case, why is racism bad, if the person can't help it? Maybe racism is a genetic defect. How would you reconcile that with the notion that racism is morally abhorrent?

People fight for equality.

Equality does not necessarily mean respect. Just because people are equal in condition does not mean that people will be equal in their hearts and minds, that is an impossibility. Is racism according to your definition simply unequal treatment? If it's more than that, then racism can exist easily in the midst of equality.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:44 PM on April 18, 2002


Didn't notice this thread 'til a couple minutes ago.

I'd have to say that the protests may be something of a more irrational response. Initially, I felt like some active action needed to be taken, and the T-shirts were taken off the shelves. The protests are merely emotions that people still have; primal responses to the shirts.

Going along with that, Asian Americans and other minorities should "fight" for equality in a more passive way. Take up jobs in various fields. Asians are still stereotyped as math-science engineers, but in future generations, we'll start to see more diversity.

For the longest time, I've always thought that the only way to change things was by actively fighting against it, but I've came to realize that there are more subtle ways like teaching. However, I also realize that the majority of HS teachers out there don't have time to teach philosophy while addressing the course curriculum... 'specially given our current acceleration with everything.
posted by hobbes at 11:11 PM on April 18, 2002


Not that this is an original thought that hasn't been stated before in this thread, but to say it flatly and clearly for those of you who think this is merely an issue of people not being able to take a joke, I think a big part of the reason people are so offended by this is because of what Abercrombie & Fitch normally gets away with representing. Like every clothing brand, like the vast majority of elements of popular culture, Abercrombie perpetuates an image of coolness. But their presentation of coolness is uniquely founded on exclusivity; their ads aren't interested in showing you what you can aspire to be as much as what you can never truly be (see comments in the article I linked by employees where they discuss not wearing clothes for sale in the store). Part of this approach is the "Abercrombie look," which almost explicitly requires that the bearer be white, with a certain type of hairstyle, with a certain muscle structure, with several common facial features. "Classically preppy," the FM article calls it.

It's the white thing that's a problem for most people; Abercrombie is shamelessly exclusive of racial minorities. The random black person that makes it into one out of every fifty A&F photos is marginalized; his body is clearly not the attraction here. Unlike Tommy Hilfiger, Abercrombie doesn't even feel the need to market its products to minorities. If you're not white, you're not Abercrombie cool. Period.

Minorities don't generally grumble too loudly about Abercrombie's propagation of a near-Aryan ideal, because they are marginalized from the entire situation. Abercrombie chooses its employees on the basis of looks; there's most definitely racial discrimination going on there, but it's accepted; I don't see any lawsuits flying around. Abercrombie targets and sells its clothing/magazine to white kids. It's the FUBU of white America. But Abercrombie's current presumption in imagining that it's ok for them not only to slight ethnic minorities, but to make fun of them, is absolutely ridiculous.

Basically, telling people they should learn to laugh at themselves or get a life is rather insulting, when Abercrombie itself is a perpetual reminder of racial distinctions that still configure 'white' as better, as cool, and 'other' as ... not. And because that attitude, however covert, is still celebrated in mainstream American culture, I think Abercrombie had this coming.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:45 PM on April 18, 2002 [1 favorite]


Thank you, grrarrgh00. Well spoken.
posted by vacapinta at 11:53 PM on April 18, 2002


It's all about context. Here in Korea, if I saw Korean kids wearing those on the street, I'd think it was pretty hip, po-mo, self-referential yadda yadda.

I wouldn't be caught dead in one, though. Not here, not in North America.

But then, I'd be happy to wear a t-shirt here that pokes fun at 4-burger-eating, cola-swilling, trailertrash greaseball American stereotypes, which are an endless source of amusement in Asia. And I'm part of the visible minority group that such stereotypes seek to represent.

Slippery, ain't it?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:37 AM on April 19, 2002


Stereotypes of anything are tolerated, because they're funny. If you can't laugh at yourself a little

Jaden, as with all things revolving around race, it's critical to know just who's making the statement. For example, whether Margaret Cho was born in the US or not, her background is Korean and her world view has developed around that (I know you didn't make this connection, Jaden). I take her comments (and humor) as coming from that pov. A white standup comedian making the same jokes would probably never work at the Improv or other first rate clubs.

The problem usually arises with two different world views collide. I usually like to look at the context of the originator before making a decision as to racist intent. In this case, I'd say it certainly looks that way.

My philosophy is is that we're all racists (that is, we are all formed by racist attitudes). How could we not all be as we live in a racist society? Starting from that point helps me deal with racism.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:49 AM on April 19, 2002


wow, grrarrgh00, great link. absolutely disgusting. thanks very much---now I know exactly why to hate A&F.
posted by Sapphireblue at 10:16 AM on April 19, 2002


grrarrgh00, I think you're misinterpreting what was meant by "wearing clothes that were on sale". Notice that she says *on*, not for. The vast majority of the clothes an A&F employee wears are for sale in the store. Sometimes they'll wear prototype stuff that isn't available; that's not to make people feel like they can't attain something, but to see how people respond to the clothes.

I read the article and didn't see anything particularly damning. They hire attractive people who are cool/kick-back -- that's a bad thing? And FWIW, one of my old roommates from college who was Pakistani [and quite obviously so] worked at an A&F in Chicago.
posted by JasonSch at 11:19 AM on April 19, 2002


As seen on eBay.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:06 PM on April 19, 2002


yes, but did your old roommie have to spend the day folding ugly and insulting t-shirts in the back room, or did he/she get to stand in the Pretty People Cage?
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:07 PM on April 19, 2002


Asian Americans should "fight" for equality in a more passive way

Please, I cannot find the punch line. Are you serious?
posted by sudama at 12:28 PM on April 19, 2002


hobbes is obviously of the racial majority or else he wouldn't say such silly things in public...
posted by gen at 1:35 PM on April 19, 2002


It is an act of almost comical arrogance for caucasian Americans to attempt to dictate to Asian Americans what they should or should not find racially insensitive.
posted by shylock at 6:58 PM on April 19, 2002


Useful related reading: Howard University Law School professor Frank Wu's Washington Post discussion on his new book "Yellow."
posted by allaboutgeorge at 12:39 AM on April 20, 2002


gen, actually both my parents are from the island of Formosa, and I have experienced racism ever since returning to the States, and have gotten into petty fights with kids over my heritage. I don't blame people for jumping into protesting 'cause it is the immediate thought that comes to mind, but it's not the more rational.

sudama, sorry for the use of the word "passive," but I meant something not as radical is needed. Admittedly I don't know too much 'bout Buddhism, but one of the ideas is to be yourself and hope for others follow your lead.

I wasn't saying that we should all just lay there and hope that everything'll get better, but if you want change, I suggest that people do things on a more personal and educational level. Becoming a teacher would probably make the strongest impact on future generations.
posted by hobbes at 1:57 AM on April 20, 2002


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