I have a number feminist friends who have, on multiple occasions, called me a feminist. And when we get together and discuss various topics one of the biggest hot-button discussions has to do with American Apparel‘s ads.

American Apparel ad for Jeans

Now, there are two sides to these discussions; how the ads look, and how the models are treated. Even though I passionately believe everyone should be treated equally and environments of employment should never be levied for unprofessional reasons, I steer clear of the model treatment discussion.

This is for two reasons; one is that I’ve done no research of the many many photo shoots done for these ads, and I’m not about to start making wild unfounded accusations. The second reason is that these conversations often devolve into “well, these girls don’t know what they’ve agreed to” or “they’re too naive to understand.” I can never stomach these arguments. I mean, yes, in all professions there are individuals who get in over their heads, and there are always singular situations where something unfortunate happens. But to mass assume women don’t understand something is pretty much the opposite of feminism, isn’t it?

American Apparel ad

That leaves the material of the ads themselves. I have to be honest…I don’t have an issue with them. Yes, some poses and wording leaves one to wonder just what the hell they are advertising (poses and positioning in ads is an entirely different discussion), but when it is clear what they’re selling I couldn’t be happier with the ads.

Take, for example, the jeans ad up at the top. Here we have an attractive woman who is not undernourished, isn’t air brushed, and isn’t doing anything absurd or emotionally manipulative. I don’t walk away feeling like if I wore those pants I’d be swept up into some sort of strange revolution, or be felt up inappropriately at a club, neither of which are inherent properties of the jeans themselves. The ad could not be more honest; “Wear these jeans and you could look good in them.” That’s it.

And it makes perfect sense to use a woman most people would find attractive (yes, it’s an issue I’ve actually heard raised). After all, no one ever bought clothes they thought would make them look ugly, right? So why advertise them as such?

American Apparel ad for...crotches?

More and more I’ve been feeling like clothing and make-up ads need to be held to the same standards as medicine ads, i.e. they shouldn’t contain anything that the clothes or make-up can’t actually do for you, or haven’t actually done. It just make sense to me. You don’t advertise that viagra treats acid reflux, you don’t advertise that a Ford F-150 can fly, and you don’t advertise cosmetics without actually using them in the ad. It just makes good, honest, sense. The sparse nature of the American Apparel ads strip out this extraneous manipulative noise and leaves you with what their product can actually do; enhance how a particular body part looks. What happens after that is left for you to fill in.

American Apparel ad for Hosiery

So, I give American Apparel a break. So far I’ve yet to see an ad that promises anything the product can’t deliver, or even one that puts a woman in a submissive position to a man. But, as I’ve learned, as a man myself my opinion is always subject to suspicion and dismissal, so certainly feel free to sound off if you think I’m wrong…or right, I guess.