Girl power prevails as the hip retailer puts more affirming messages on its T-shirts for teens.
By SUSAN ASCHOFF
St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Three months after a group of teenage girls demanded that too-cool-to-care retailer Abercrombie & Fitch stop selling T-shirts with demeaning slogans, the company has not only pulled the targeted tees but has added a few as well.
Then: I had a nightmare I was a brunette.
Now: Brunettes have brains.
Then: Who needs brains when you have these?
Now: Cute and classy.
The two dozen 13- to 16-year-old girls who launched the "girlcott" in November discovered the new attitude tees in January on the retailer's Web site, www.abercrombie.com The possibility that Abercrombie may have changed its corporate attitude, not just its attitude tees, is the latest peak in the girl group's roller-coaster introduction to consumer power.
Its first success came quickly. The Allegheny County Girls As Grantmakers, a group of Pennsylvania teenagers who empower women by awarding grants, decided that some of Abercrombie's T-shirt slogans were offensive to their wearers and to other girls. Organizers Emma Blackman-Mathis and Jettie Fields chatted with Katie Couric on the Today Show Nov. 1, urging a girlcott. Three days later, Abercrombie announced that it was pulling several styles.
In December, the Grantmakers group met with executives at corporate headquarters in Ohio to pitch its own slogan ideas.
No, thank you, the company decided.
The girls, grateful for face time, were disappointed their slogans were rejected.
But the ride wasn't over. By January, the tone of many of the tees in stores and on the Web site had changed. The slogans were more affirming, less tawdry. And though they were created by Abercrombie, the girls believe they made the difference.
"It's a major, major accomplishment. In the meeting, I didn't feel like they were actually inspired to do it at all," says Grantmakers member Maya Savage, 15. "You never know."
The teenagers brought about "some cultural shift on the corporate level," says Heather Arnet, executive director of the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, one of the girl group's nonprofit sponsors.
"It's pretty incredible."
Abercrombie & Fitch did not return phone calls seeking comment. In a press release Nov. 4 announcing that it would pull some of the slogans, the company said, "We recognize that the shirts in question, while meant to be humorous, might be troubling to some."
Girlcott organizers say their peers need to stop acting like bimbos and inviting others to treat them that way.
Just a shirt, you say?
No. Just some girls. With attitude.
Here are some samples of Abercrombie's current attitude tees and those suggested by Grantmakers at the December meeting. The girls group hopes to have its own tees for sale at www.girl2girlgrants.com by mid February:
Hard to get
Blonde with a brain
Brunettes are so hot
Don't ask Don't tell
Bitchy is my middle name
All this and brains to match
That's Madame President to you
Your future boss
I'll show you my SAT score if you'll show me yours
36 other countries have had women presidents. I'm going to make it 37.