Culture Jam

This is an American Apparel advertisement. It clearly features a shirtless woman wearing American Apparel jeans which are barely visible because the focal point is the woman’s breasts and the words that pretend to cover them. The words ‘Made in Bangladesh,’ are supposedly intended to refer to the model, who was born in Bangladesh. After facing major backlash for the advertisement, the company responded that they intended the apparent double meaning and were trying to increase awareness about exploitation of factory workers in Bangladesh hired by other companies, because American Apparel pays its employees fair wages. Even if they did intend the double meaning, the advertisement is tasteless and offensive. To insinuate that you are initiating human rights action by using a half-naked Bangladeshi woman on an advertisement for your own clothing is capitalism at its very worst.

The advertisement backfires on American Apparel in two ways. The first being that many people don’t realize that they intended a double meaning (if, in fact, they actually did,) and the second being that it is an incredibly insensitive way to discuss a sensitive topic while shamelessly self-promoting. American Apparel tries to promote themselves as a sort of savior who has hired a Bangladeshi model while demonizing their competitors who use Bangladeshi workers in factories. It’s notable that this is the only advertisement of its kind from the company and they haven’t represented any other countries in the same way, whether they may have exploitation issues or not, despite the fact that the ad was supposedly supposed to be supporting a model’s nationality. It seems that if this were true, they would have other ads with models with different nationalities represented in the same way.

Immediately when I saw this advertisement, I was curious how much Bangladeshi factory workers are paid. I found that, on average, they are only paid 30 cents an hour. I ‘jammed’ the advertisement to say ‘Made in Bangladesh for 30 cents an hour.’ Had American Apparel actually wanted to begin a human rights campaign, not just make their competitors look bad, they may have done something more like this. I decided to leave the nudity as it is because I believe that it is a key component of the advertisement. It appears that American Apparel is using it to represent exploitation in Bangladesh in the way that it exposes a Bangladeshi woman. However, American Apparel is known for using sexually provocative and nude images in a tasteless manner. While they act as though it is a pointed act to diminish their competitors, it is actually just their typical advertising scheme of using sex appeal to sell product. They know, as a company, that the simple naked breasts on the advertisement are of far more use to them than any words that they put on a page. Their exploitation of this individual Bangladeshi woman is incredibly ironic in the context of them claiming to be exposing other companies for exploiting Bangladeshis. By inserting ‘for 30 cents an hour’ over the original ad, I hope to point out that if American Apparel was actually trying to make a political statement rather than be provocative, sexually exploitative, and capitalist, the ad would be very different.