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Elaine Williams Headshot

Wake the F- Up America!

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I love this country. I love 96 percent of the people I come in contact with when I speak or perform or travel; but we have GOT to wake up, people.

What the Hell is going on with American Apparel? How did the CEO get to keep his job as long as he did? Does anyone else think it's funny that he is from Canada but his company is called American Apparel?

There were complaints about him for YEARS. His add campaigns were horrifying. He was known in the fashion industry for sleeping with women younger than 18 and for sleeping with employees and abusing his "power".

I am not into fashion. I do not enjoy shopping, in fact, my closest friends have learned to come with me when I shop. (less fashion disasters) So I was not really aware of American Apparel until a few years ago.

I speak about Alcohol Awareness and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response most of the time, but from time to time I am asked to speak about Eating Disorders and Body Image. Bulimia was my first addiction, and like many assault victims, I grew up suffering from body dysmorphia. This happens when you look in the mirror and you see yourself heavier or thinner than you actually are...

Anyway, a couple of years ago, I was asked to speak at Ohio State at Kent during their SEX Week. They do an entire week of education and empowerment stuff. They even had a Condom Couture Fashion Show, which was amazing.

Then I came in with my Body Image and the Media Talk. As I prepared for my event, I became more and more disturbed by my research. I enlisted my friend and Professor, Rebecca Helmsley, to help me find images, and boy did we!

Dolce and Gabbana's adds were sexually violent, but so were Calvin's, Abercrombie's and others. However, the adds that kept me up at night the most, were the American Apparel Adds. I kept saying: I am glad I am not a Mother, because I might lose it on whoever designed and approved of these adds.

One girl who looked like she was 14 had long socks on and her legs were spread wide open while lying on her back, with the only thing between her and the camera was a thin pair of panties.

Another girl, had several small, tight close ups of just her face, and she looked like she was in the rapture of an orgasm. She looked like she was 14 and that she had no clothes on. After the three shots of just her face, a fourth and larger photo has the camera pulled further away to reveal her clutching her knees into her bare chest while wearing tube socks and nothing else.
It looked like porn to me.

I am not a prude. I enjoy telling dirty jokes, when it is appropriate. I think we need to talk about sex a lot more, so we can educate and help stop bad behaviors and repressed weirdness about sex in this country.

I don't understand why a clothing company is suggesting that if young girls buy and wear their socks, they will be sexy or have orgasms too. I don't understand how any mom would even allow their daughters to walk into a store like that.

What kind of messages are we giving our young women? Why is this not regulated? How can we have a conservative rating system for our movies but not for our print adds? Every time I see an American Apparel Add, I am horrified.

I put these pictures in my power point when I talk about Body Images and the Media. I beg my audiences to vote with their dollars and choose NOT to shop in that store.

I feel like our culture is putting profit over everything else. They are using any method they can to sell socks, panties and t-shirts. They say they are creating jobs here in America, but at what cost?

Sex is so powerful. It is a driving, amazing force. It is no wonder that advertisers use SEX to sell everything in this country. I understand that markets are competitive. And I believe that competition and economics help create innovation and evolution, but there has to be boundaries too.

Two days after my experience at Ohio State, I went to a fund-raiser in NYC; where I happened to meet one of the top designers for (I won't say the name, but the letters might match D K). She was a mom with another one on the way. I told her about what I did, and I asked her: Can you explain how these add campaigns got so out of hand? How did this exploitation of younger and younger girls become acceptable?

She said: Well, Calvin did it first.

I had to bite my tongue so I wouldn't laugh in her face.

She continued: Everything is so saturated these days. We'd rather make a bad impression than no impression at all.

OK, so there you have it. It's about cutting through the other "noise" or "brands" at any cost. And it is costing us as a culture.

I hope that we can help each other to wake up. I want to buy brands that I am aligned with. I think that women can be sexy and powerful without feeling cheap or disposable.

I am familiar with addictions. I've had several and I come from a family full of addiction. I think that the former CEO, Dov Charney, is probably a sex addict.
I'd like to think that the board would have fired him, whether the stocks were down or not.

But regardless, I choose NOT to shop at that store. I believe that the sexualization of teenagers only adds to the "rape culture" we have in this country. The message we get too often are that the rules don't apply to Ivy Leagues, Sports Heroes, or the financially successful. Stay tuned for my next blog where I tell the story of one coach, who is sending a powerful and positive message.